Are You An Introvert Or An Asshole?

Yes, and you’re also a hero.

Photo: ReflectedSerendipity

Kj Dell’Antonia had a piece in this weekend’s Times wondering if we (meaning, more or less, the people who read the Times on the weekend) are using the growing acceptance of “introversion” as an excuse to skip out on the unpleasant parts of everyday existence. The answer is yes, and it’s apparently a bad thing.

When I skip big gatherings of strangers, I’m not just being a little rude to the individual people around me, I’m being uncivil in a larger sense. The more we isolate ourselves from new people, the more isolated and segregated our society is likely to become. Those casual interactions in dog runs and at kids’ hockey games are the ones that are most likely to cross social and economic barriers. They expand my little world as well as the overlapping bubbles that create a society.

This is a good point, but here is another point: Have you ever actually talked to people? Like, sat down and had a conversation with them? It’s agony. However monotonous you are, your monotony is at least a settled quantity in your own mind: What’s astounding about other people is the dynamic variety with which they are able to express their own tedious thoughts and expressions. Any average person you stop at random will have at least three different ways of being mind-bendingly boring, each of which will be unexpected and only recognizable when it is too late for you to make a polite exit.

We give a lot of shit to the kids these days for their inability to make eye contact and their aversion to conversations that aren’t mediated through technology, but the more I think about it the more I have to believe they are on to something. Each time you talk to someone you die a little inside, particularly if the conversation is at the surface level on which most of our quotidian chats take place. Dell’Antonia suggests that our unwillingness to subject ourselves to these tiny tortures represents some sort of severance of the social contract, but a better way to look at it is that if you choose not to participate in one of these stilted dialogues you are actually saving your conversational partner the discomfort of dealing with your own dullness. The worst thing you can do to another person is make them spend even a second being aware of the ennui and emptiness at the core of your being; by choosing to spare them that glimpse into the void you are, in a way, offering up the greatest token of respect — respect for someone’s time, well-being, and sense of who they are surrounded by as they go about their day — that one human can give to another. If that means you’re a dick, so be it. Would that more dicks had as much dignity and consideration for the rest of us as you do, introvert. You just stay home and keep quiet. We are all in your debt.