As an introvert, I enjoy the quiet places. Where time doesn’t exist for a while and you can think through things before jumping to rash conclusions. But it’s tempting to become an extrovert in these noisy times.
Despite my introversion, I jibber jabber with random people. I find it easier sometimes to talk to a perfect stranger than when I’m among a large group of friends. I’m not alone. But when I am, and I’m talking to someone new, my instincts always tell me to steer clear of politics and religion. Nothing like ruining a chance to enjoy somebody’s company than with your opinion of the constitutional basis for why Rand Paul has decided to sue the president over NSA tradecraft. There are times however when it’s completely worth settling down your local hothead at the bar who likes to rattle off Fox News’s daily editorial talking points because she actually means it. It’s not going to change her mind though and further discussion will probably only deepen the rooted political mindset and the rage she harbors against the other party.
But in a world of digital influencers and thought leaders, and people with Klout scores over 50, you think that we’d be closer to understanding people. We all enjoy the smell of the morning napalm that Twitter spews on the daily public. Blowing off steam is one thing, but I think there are more constructive ways to spend time than making noise about Kim Kardashian’s new hair color. Although I do enjoy when celebs read their hater’s worst twitter vitriol on video.
“Quiet” by Susan Cain is great way to spend a couple days reading if you have the time. Simply titled, it’s beautifully written and she provides the reader with a history of the extrovert ideal in America (among many other things). According to Cain, introverts are thinkers and listeners. What I find is ironic is 1) how many writers are introverts, because 2) they seem to be expressing themselves verbally via the interweb more and more, 3) but it’s the thoughtless, crude, funny stuff that grabs people’s attention more than the serious problems people face. I mean twenty years ago, I wouldn’t be writing an article about communicating in a digital world.
We live in an age of hyper-extroversion, especially here in America. But Cain tells us that there is hope for the introverted type and why this personality has managed to survive as we’ve evolved. It has qualities that make it indispensable to human interactions. I wonder if that’ll hold true in the next few decades. Twitter is young and fun. Will it survive as we evolve with it? Or will it be gobbled up, swallowed and then regurgitated like much of the content that flows on its feed?
For me, nothing beats a cup of coffee with a friend that likes talking. Even letting your old college friend with the gregarious personality dominate the conversation can be enjoyable. But I think more people should recognize the simplicity of calm conversation over the 140 character soundbyte.
I’d like to think that we’re in a social media stage of life. Like my nephews and nieces that say the first thing comes into head. “Uncle Stephen’s not too fat. Ok maybe a little.” Maybe it doesn’t survive, but it’s definitely going to evolve. And so are we, I just hope we manage to make it out of the next decade before people get so turned off that we lose the opportunity to connect.
Despite it all, I’ll continue to indulge in Tweets, Facebook shares and blogs about Rand Paul’s latest political diversion. I’m still seeking out the shiny, diamonds in the rough that will transport me away for just a few minutes, until I’m ready to leave this quiet place.