OPINION: Beneath the quiet

Jessica Sommerville | Staff Writer

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Introversion is portrayed as a disease. I troll Pinterest to find nonsensical blurbs — “How to Care for Introverts” and “What is introversion?” Colored charts follow: watered-down medical diagnoses tailored for easy understanding.

But introversion is not an illness, though it is portrayed that way even by those who appreciate it, including author Susan Cain. Upon strolling through Barnes and Noble, my mother spotted a book — Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. She said it looked like me, and though I am an ardent introvert, I disagreed. The back cover told me of Cain’s belief in the “extrovert ideal” — a societal preference of the outgoing and assumed inferiority of introverts — against which we are battling.

I recognize that ideal in our digital age. We are consumed by that fallacious Pinterest diagram, Twitter feeds, and YouTube parodies. The dings and buzzes of our phones enrapture us until anyone needing to be heard has to shout. Extroverts adapted well to this change; their steady chatter harmonizes with the buzzing of our cell phones.

Introverts didn’t join that buzz. That doesn’t make us socially awkward or bind us to the Forever Alone meme that targets those who stay home and have no friends. Introverts go to parties, introverts talk to people, but we recharge inside ourselves.

That’s key — the aloneness. We’re not at war with the “extrovert ideal” as Susan Cain believes. Many people have forgotten how to be alone without collapsing into boredom, but introverts remember there are infinite possibilities in our heads — we have no right to be bored, not ever.

Extroverts talk, and introverts listen. We collect the world around us to fuel our own imaginations, our own fantasies, and we hoard it until it explodes out of us — as all the talent buried beneath the quiet.