In the Loop

Being a loner can be exhausting

Posted at 12:00 PM on July 12, 2007 by Sanden Totten (8 Comments)

I often find parties exhausting. Does that ever happen to you? You're at a shindig. There's a ton of people talking, laughing, smiling and after about five minutes you just want to curl up in a corner and nap?

If so, you may be a closet introvert.

Psychology Today (my new favorite pop-sci mag) published an article on the neurological differences between introverts and extroverts. In it they point out that introverts aren't just shy people waiting for their chance to shine . . . introverts process the world in a fundamentally different way than a social butterfly does.

From the article: "While outgoing people savor the nuances of social interaction, loners tend to focus more on their own ideas—and on stimuli that don't register in the minds of others. Social engagement drains them, while quiet time gives them an energy boost."

In fact, past research suggests that wallflowers get pleasure from their own internal life of the mind, much like extroverts do from working large crowds. So it's not that introverts are afraid to engage with people. It's more that they don't need as much going on in their life to keep them occupied. They get pleasure from small details many extroverts would overlook. But when they are thrown into a busy environment, like a party, they are totally overstimulated by all the small cues and end up feeling wiped out. Nap time anyone?

The article speculates though, that loners can make good friends in times of need, since they are good at reading subtle details about how a pal is doing.

So what do you think? Do you know any notorious loners that seem to fit this description? Does any of this ring true for you?

Comments (8)

I remember learning that introverts actually run at a higher 'level' (Level of what? I don't know -- I majored in English.) than extroverts, so the same dose of social stimulation will 'top up' an introvert more quickly. I think that can happily sit side by side with what the article claims.

I was surprised to read that 75% of people are extroverts, though. It makes sense, but for some reason I expected it to be a bit more evenly split.

Posted by Anna | July 13, 2007 5:10 PM

75%? Wow, that surprises me too. I wonder if that balance is tipping though, now that more people are growing up getting their social interactions from secondary mediums like computers? Is an extrovert in a chat room the same as an extrovert at a party?

Posted by Sanden Totten | July 16, 2007 10:35 AM

Cool, Sanden. Now I know why I'm so tired all the time -- it's all these damn people all around me. Go away!

Posted by Jeff Horwich | July 17, 2007 2:16 PM

This is true!!!

I found Matsuoka's case example intriguing, being an artist myself.

I know the "wiped-out" feeling happens to me, even in socially-positive settings.

I always walk away with feeling like I was forcing myself to be there. Often, in retrospect, I think to myself that conversations or interactions could have gone better. (although I'm sure this isn't UNusual). But I often get the impression that I'm not fully "part" of the party, an outsider. It fuels that constant, neurotic feeling that "I'm screwing it up". It makes me tired, and I look forward to the party getting done with. I hate to be the first guy who says (ok, it's been an hour-and-a-half, I'm done!!). But I think it!

I'm suprised at thr 75% statistic too. I know I don't get as introverted depending who I'm with (usually, if its other introverts!)

I'm sure everybody has times they feels like they're on the outide.

Posted by Rob III | July 20, 2007 1:44 PM

I think there is some truth to that article. I find also that with me, social situations with groups of my friends are much less tiring because there is not so much of that labor-intensive layer of new-people-crap to maintain. While I love meeting new people, with groups that are mostly strangers there is a LOT of work to do. Reading cues so you don't offend anyone, thinking up topics for small talk, minding your manners, etc. It is this extra layer that is so tiring for me. With established friends, you don't have to do all that stuff, or at least you don't have to work hard at it because you know most of it intuitively because of the time you've spend with them. The only remedy i've found for eliminating the extra work is beer. That's why it is called a social lubricant, it does all the work for you! Maybe doesn't do it very well, but hey, beggars can't be choosers.

Posted by Elizabeth | July 24, 2007 10:06 PM

right now i fit this profile, let me tell you why. i lone out because people generally drive me crazy. i dwell in my thoughts ,carefully, and plan for the future. it gives me energy to know that i am on a differnt path than 90 percent of the people i know. parties piss me off, though i go sometimes.i do not drink or smoke, enjoy a pop, and have hard times finding intelligent good looking women. i'm a good looking blonde 6'1 inch male, 24 but the majority of women out there drink and do not send correct signals of attraction. i have only run into a couple, this is over a life span so far, that even sound interesting. most are all day to day people, broke and depress the hell out me. i'm looked at as a weird guy, true i say weird sh**, but most the people i'm around dont understand that i would take a bullet for them even if we are not close. its frustrating, people do not want to know each other, hang out, do stuff, make money, help themselves, or increase any form of gray matter. even these extroverts get burned out, they go to sleep to. its contagious, but intreverts have an advantage over the rest. we know who we all are. we are super easy to spot. but come on women, i'm about to explode. i see myself as a rare catch, fit as hell, if you walk around with your underwear up your a** all day it must get frustrating. I will be there to pull it out and stick it on your head. and aaa.. who knows. arizona is better than the snow, ask your momma

Posted by Nolat | August 11, 2007 6:26 PM

I totally agree with the comments that nolat made. I feel exhausted if I am around people for to long. Especially when they are talking about pointless and trite crap. I feel that i cut off relationships with people and try to not let people in my life because i simply don't trust them. Why be an extrovert when you know all of these people will never be there for you and when you do need them you are left standing like an idiot. I think parties are overrated. I end up feeling like an idiot because I feel that people feel bad for me because i am standing there by myself and they do go and try talk to me. So i just ending feeling like an idiot and end up leaving feeling like an ass.

Posted by ricky | August 20, 2007 6:53 PM

This is a very interesting topic. I am also an introvert, but I have found that some of the best ways to overcome is to learn to let go of the small details and to look at the larger picture. I used to get incredibly anxious in social settings, but now I have learned to relax more by intentionally exposing myself to it and realizing that it's the majority that's gonna have its way in the end! Therefore, if you can't beat them, join them. Oh, and to my 6'1 introvert friend here, if you get this in time...or ever, I think you should really find yourself a hotty little book worm and stop being so crude. Sure, they usually aren't as exciting as some partying call girl, or the girl next door, but we all have passions. If you're that smart, talk about books you like to read, and BE witty, and funny. From my past experience that's more attractive than brains anyway... they're just so ..gray.. and mushy. Good luck buddy

Posted by Dave | November 28, 2007 1:14 PM

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