November 27, 2020
by Tina Arnoldi
The common perception is that introverts are thriving from the pandemic lockdown from the pandemic. No longer are they required to go to events and regularly interact with other people since distancing is now required. But a recent study of 2,000 Americans found that introverts experienced more loneliness than extraverts during this time and do not take the initiative to interact with others.
This finding makes sense to David Bennett, a personal coach and author. He said “Many introverts had no choice but to get some regular, real-world, interaction before the pandemic started, because most things were done in person. This provided a structure to socialize, meet people, and expand social networks. Now, if an introvert won't take initiative to interact, there might be few, if any, opportunities to get social interaction because many of these opportunities are gone. And lockdowns and restrictions play into an introvert's tendencies, so many proudly resist social gatherings. This contributes to loneliness and unhappiness since the balance that used to exist naturally for introverts isn't there.”
While introverts love alone time and may resist social gatherings, they want it to be their choice. Author Karen Southall Watts said, “No one enjoys being forced into a set of rules for how you can meet, greet, and socialize. Since introverts spend so much time in their heads anyway, a global emergency can trigger a lot of over-thinking and a tendency to dwell on things that cannot be controlled.”
And it’s not that all introverts dislike social interaction. “Introverts need more time to recharge after socializing, but they definitely enjoy being with and talking to people just like any other human,” said David Cusick ,Chief Strategy Officer of House Method.
Cusick can see why some introverts were relieved by the switch to remote work at the beginning of the pandemic, but also believes they now realize how it took away a social setting they didn’t know they relied on. “Extroverts can adapt and have more avenues for socialization already available,” said Cusick. “Some introverts have struggled more to establish these channels in a time of social distancing. They’re not as good at replacing what was lost when it comes to interaction. Many social contacts happened naturally in the elevator or the workplace kitchen. “In the current situation, many introverts find it challenging to go beyond their comfort zones when interacting with others and speaking up during virtual meetings,” added Jessica Lim, HR Manager at LiveCareer notes. These natural interactions are now gone.
But not all introverts view the restrictions around the pandemic as a negative thing. For James Pearson, CEO of eVenturing Enterprises, he sees it as an opportunity to spend time with family, to learn, and for self-development. Pearson said, “Outside my remote work, I have invested my time mostly in my kids and my wife. I also took an online class to sharpen my skills and bring new ideas for my business. I’ve read countless books to stimulate my mind. These things have been helpful to me in coping with the crisis. That’s why I’ve never felt anxiety because of social isolation. Another habit that helped me through all of this is social media detoxification. As much as possible, I don’t dwell too much on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.”
Magda Zurawska, HR Manager of ResumeLab, is a big believer of self-reflection and inner work, but finds spending too much time alone has adverse effects. She took the pandemic restrictions as an opportunity to mix things up. “I’ve always wanted to try jump roping,” said Zurawska. “Likewise with cooking, which I’ve always avoided. The former worked out wonderfully, the latter not so much, but it’s the experience and finding out what you like that counts.”
Once people identify any negative patterns or habits they’ve fallen into, such as isolating too much, that’s when they can change their behavior. “I'm happy to see that teams started to meet for virtual lunches or coffee,” said Lim. “One of our teams plays board games as a part of their Friday Beer O’clock. Regardless of our personality type, we need to actively cherish our social life to stay happy and healthy during the pandemic.”