Some studies are suggesting that introverts don’t know what’s good for them, and that by acting like extroverts, they will be happier. From the Wall Street Journal:
“Introverts kind of underestimate how much fun it will be to act extroverted,” said Dr. [John] Zelenski. “You don’t think you want to go to a party and then go and have a great time.” Dr. Zelenski and other researchers also considered whether people acting in a way that goes against their natural disposition might wear themselves out. . . .
“We didn’t find a lot of evidence for…the idea that acting like an extrovert would wear out introverts,” said Dr. Zelenski.
Hey, back the fuck off, Zelinski. Yeah, perhaps specific, successful extroverted excursions can have their payoffs. Even for a grumpy misanthrope like myself, I can still muster pleasure from very particular social interactions with a limited selection of other humans. But my personal experience otherwise contradicts this on the whole — but of course, I am only one guy.
Let’s get this back to familiar ground:
Brian Little, a psychology professor at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom, believes that acting out of character can take a physiological toll on the nervous and immune systems. . . . “I’m quite confident that we can show that going against your traits is going to use up resources,” such as glucose, he said. “Anything that requires concentration is going to deplete glucose resources,” he said.
Of course it depletes resources.
I am currently at a conference that my organization puts on for student activists, and, much to my surprise, I’m doing rather well. I’m enjoying chatting with folks, I’m enjoying meeting new people or connecting in person with folks I only knew online, and I’m generally having fun.
But even when it’s good and rewarding, good god it’s exhausting. Even in the most pleasant of social situations, I can feel my fuel level dropping, my reserves of energy palpably draining as I work to be engaged and charming. Both can be true: I can be worn out by being around other humans but also find it worth that cost.
But I also manage it. The vast majority of the attendees continue their socializing well into the night after the day’s events have ended. I have endeavored to stop torturing myself over the decision to join them, night after night, and instead simply declare a blanket opting-out. I’m just not going to go. I might have fun, I might not, but I know for certain I’d like to rest, recharge, and unwind alone, so I have something left to for when I come back the next day.
In other words, though, social interaction for an introvert doesn’t have to be bad to be draining.