This particular entry in headwounds is not exactly about pop culture, but I thought I will just weigh in on the topic anyway. Apart from my usual interests involving music, movie and games, I also have a fascination with new ideas and their impact on culture and technology. Every now and then, I would check out the TED talks to get a glimpse of whatever new schools of thoughts that may be available. Sometimes, the talks are insightful. Sometimes, they are downright blatant attempts at self-promotion. Nevertheless, the talks are often interesting, and it is how I first came across Susan Cain’s presentation on introversion.
Having seen Susan Cain’s presentation and recognizing some introversion traits in myself, I was motivated to pick up her book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”. Susan Cain’s value proposition is that the world (or at least, America) is socially conditioned to place an unfair premium on extrovertion traits. Her theory is that while being extroverted undoubtedly has its virtues, the rise of charismatic extroverts like Tony Robbins and general celebration of extroverts in pop culture (or on a broader palette, all aspects of life whether it be business management, sports or politics) has led to the ostracization of introverts for the past two or three decades. For instance, schools have developed a merit system centered around extroversion while extroverted personalities generally are better rewarded in the office.
I really do applaud Susan Cain for defending the obvious – that introversion is very much human nature for some and not a flaw that should be scrubbed away to make room for an artificial veneer just for the sake of social advancement. Cain also pointed out that significant contributions in history were made by none other than introverts such as Dr Seuss, Chopin and Steve Wozniak, the other pioneer of Apple that is often overlooked. She called for more integrative revisions to the schools, offices and public forums so that introverts do not view what is second nature to them as a weakness that has to be beaten out of their systems.
However, on the flip side, as one friend correctly observed, admitting that one is an introvert is so trendy these days, many are overusing the “introversion shield” to justify their borderline assholic anti-social behavior. (On second thought, this article may be about pop culture after all). There is this condescending douchebag I worked with who called himself an introvert. However, said douchebag is obviously in love with his own voice and theories which he seemingly pulled out of his ass, often drowning out more legitimate opinions just because he can. Yet, when it came to work-based socialization, the aforementioned fucker would just gladly excuse himself, likely because his ignorance would be very apparent to business partners and clients once he let loose his verbal diarrhea.
In reality, no one person would lie on either extreme end of the introversion-extroversion spectrum. Most people would fall somewhere in between. You may like to read, dislike rowdy parties, but still enjoy extreme sports and the occasional drinking sessions with some acquaintances. Championing one end of the spectrum at the expense of the other end does no one any real favor. An extreme introvert, if left to his or her own devices, may just evolve into a social hermit with little relevance in modern life. An extreme extrovert can be equally destructive in his or her bid for self-promotion. To be fair, Susan Cain has a relatively balanced perspective when looking at both sides of the personality spectrum. Although, from a cursory looks at forums and youtube remarks, it is disturbing to note how many introverts are vindicated by her presentation and take to insulting their extroverted “oppressors” who “have tormented” them with their “diabolical social norms”. Like I said, haters gonna hate. An extroverted asshole will shout in your face while the introverted asshole will just post hate-fuelled vitriol on all his or her favourite online outlets.