The New Introvert
Alexander Gordon Jahans
The time was that an introvert was defined by being indoors or being the man out in public with his eyes on a screen. How is autism defined in Neurotribes? The great pandemic of children who don’t make eye contact? Except that’s not really true anymore is it?
Oh Baby Boomers and Gen Xers likely have a bias towards the old forms of interaction but the information age defines us Millenials. We are the Screenagers. The generation raised on iPhones, Facebook and Youtube. Even our most introverted and autistic members have more casual awareness and interaction with other people than the most out going Baby Boomer in their prime. We grow up with a casual awareness of enough people to fill stadiums and that’s if we’re conservative about who we add. I mean I’m an obnoxious neurotic introvert driven mad by paranoia so I only add people to my facebook I’ve met and considered friends in real liffe with very few exceptions and I have a good 200 facebook friends that I am just casually aware of. I even knew of one guy so autistic and terrified of people that he couldn’t leave the house and seemed almost pathologically incapable of engaging in face to face conversation. Yet he ran a server catering to regular users and hundreds of guests that he regularly interacted with. Compare that to the tales of woe in Steve Silberman’s Neurotribes. To the gaunt victims of a society that refused to integrate them.
So in a time and generation where the social thing to do is to always have your eyes on a screen what does a modern introvert do? They unplug. The modern introvert will be out in town listening to podcasts, audiobooks or music as they engage with the world on a slow one to one level. They’ll use self check out tills or purchase goods with with one ear still listening to their distraction of choice. The modern introvert will eat outside in the sun, will take pride in collecting physical books and reading them out and about. They will write in cafes, read in libraries and feel bizarrely at home in the quiet of the unplugged world.
You see I used to fear going out because going out meant people and people meant hard work. Nowadays even the social people I meet up with in person specifically to do stuff with will have their eyes and hands permanently on screens. I can walk about town freed from fear because the media zombie fixed on screens or wearing headphones is so common place that you are not likely to be approached. Though this is itself an example of my privilege as a white man. The person who looks foreign will get accosted by white nationalist scum and the woman will get accosted by desperate men. We still have a long way to go, both to educate out the bigots and to stop the harassment of women.
Yet society has come a long way and if this is the future for the unprivileged. I have to say, it looks pretty good. Soon VR will become common place and affordable, aughmented reality headsets will sync up to social media profiles so all the tedious asking of uninterested people will be eliminated. Women will be able to broadcast an aura of “No. Fuck off.” and minorities an aura of “More English than you and anyway I have a black belt so jog on”.
As society becomes increasingly digitised, the hermits will emerge blinking into the real world once more, happy to find that the extraverts may still inhabit and run the real world but they have trapped themselves in the digital domain. Leaving the hermits free to appreciate the glories of a sunset, a nice flower, a well prepared meal or indeed the casual thrill of people watching when you don’t need to fear awkward conversations.
So if you see me or my ilk with a set of chunky headphones about our ears and a smile on our faces, know that we are the introverts and we are happy to have our world back, now that all the pesky social people have fucked off to the land of information to rage at Covfefe and whether Wonder Woman is or isn’t the greatest and most significant film in the history of everything.
For the record Trump is a nazi who likes getting peed on works for the Russians, boasted about committing sexual assault and just enacted a policy that will kiill the world by pulling out of the Paris climate agreements. I don’t care about ‘covfefe’
Equally Wonder Woman could literally be made by Trans Exclusive Radical Feminists and be part of a plot to kill anyone who isn’t a cisgendered female and I would still judge the film on its own merits while being pessimistic as fuck about whether it will be any good because DC has so far churned out crapfest after crapfest. It’s like if the team behind the Sharknado films decided to make a Black Lives Matter hitpiece film against the Trump Administration. So much bullshit controversy over a film that has fine probability of being shit just considering who made it.
Now I’m going to drink my tea and watch Many A True Nerd letsplay Medieval 2: Total War. Good night.