The purpose of this paper is about how social media such as Facebook, Instagram and so on has changed the way introverts engage. In the online world, the user has the ability to take on any identity that they want and it can be one that is massively different from their real life self. In turn, introverts would feel more comfortable to be social. It becomes a tool that helps them be social and change how they engage with others. This paper will also bring forward the fact that introverts behave differently online compared to extroverts. Additionally, online communities plays a big role in this change and they are where introverts would go to fit in. Face-to-face interactions is not a problem for them despite the lack of it on social media but instead it can help make it easier. They are able to have a social life online while setting boundaries for themselves in order to not be overwhelmed.
Keywords: #introverts, #socialmedia, #identity, #behavior, #extroverts
Every day, one is required to be social whether it is to do a presentation at work or something as simple as ordering food at a fast food restaurant which might be a nightmare for certain people. First of all, there are two types of people: introverts and extroverts. Of course, there are different variations of it. Extroverts are people who would generally be outgoing and be comfortable in big groups or are more comfortable to speak out. They feel better in groups while an introvert would prefer recharging alone and they can attain this level of aloneness while still being able to be social. According to a book review by Sean Schat (2012, p. 111), “…introversion is more about one’s response to stimulation, including social stimulation. While extroverts thrive on stimulation, introverts tend to be more stimulus-sensitive, and therefore can be easily over-stimulated.” However, it is possible for a person to be both and they are called ambiverts. Nowadays, with how technology had evolved, social media became a huge part of people’s lives. It is a tool that would be used to connect with friends and family or for work purposes. This paper will explore the ways introverts engage in terms of what kind of identity they show and how they perform certain tasks such as starting a relationship while including the theory of third space.
Introverts have control over their online identity.
On social media, one has the ability to choose their own identity and this becomes useful for introverts. According to an article by Zhou, Xu and Zhao (2018), on common sites like Twitter and Weibo, millions of people have digitalized and virtualized themselves, providing data including everything from demographics, status, and emotions to activities. It is difficult to pinpoint how people engage online because of how complex humans are and the fact that there are different kinds of introverts from the type that everyone knows as simply being shy to more extreme levels. However, unlike real life, one is able to manipulate their identity and control to a certain extent how they would be perceived by others through online personas. Such online identities can be normal, thorough, long-term, and impartial fingerprints of vast communities of people, making them potential proxies for sorting out individual personalities (Zhou, Xu and Zhao, 2018).
Being in the online world, the user chooses their identity and so they can choose what they want to be called and what appearance they want to have. For example, on Instagram, the user creates an account under a nickname and uses pictures of dogs as their profile picture. According to an article by Moore, Barbour and Lee (2017, p. 4), this type of online persona is called the performative dimension and they argue that “to present a publicly mediated persona, we must perform our identity, our profession, our gender, and effectuate our tastes, interests, and networks of connection, through activities like commenting on posts, liking other’s contribution or framing a selfie.” The article also brings forward another kind of online persona called the public dimension which is to present one’s real self as their online persona. It is sort of the official version of themselves. In this case, one would use their real life and real face. An example can be about Tinder. The introvert is able to create their profile to their liking and be their real-life self. No one would judge them as all they can do is either swipe right or left. If it is a match, then the introvert might have a chance at love as the other person most likely have a lot in common with them. Both dimensions are often used by celebrities on social media.
The behavior of introverts online is different from extroverts.
On social media, an introvert would already behave differently as compared to extroverts but their behavior is still outside their comfort zone. A study was done by Zhou, Xu and Zhao (2018) to see if extroverts tweet differently compared to introverts in Weibo which is a social media in China. The questions ranged from how they tweet to how they act online in terms of online shopping. It was found that introverts, particularly during the day, post more frequently than extroverts. Extroverts, on the other hand, travel to various cities rather than remaining in the same one as introverts. Furthermore, the authors found that a small percentage of introverts may try to disguise their loneliness by tweeting from a variety of locations. Introverts love retweeting news, while extroverts enjoy sharing music and selfies. Extroverts address friends more often than introverts in online conversations, suggesting greater social vibrancy. Moreover, according to an article by Harbaugh (2010), studies were done to determine the ways personality have a play in social media use. It was found that introverts are more effective in social encounters online, find it easier to articulate themselves online, and therefore enjoy it. This is because introverts tend to be able to monitor how much social contact they expose themselves to, and the internet provides them with that opportunity. Harbaugh (2010, p. 73) found through the research that “Facebook has been described as the “ultimate communication platform for people who are more introverted because they can be connected with their own world online and be by themselves at the same time.””
Online Communities help introverts to fit in.
On the Internet, introverts can come across all kinds of communities where they can meet people with the same interest and so fit in. This is where the theory of third space comes in. It was a concept that was brought forward by sociologist Ray Oldenburg in his book ‘The Great Good Place’. In an article, Potter and McDougall (2017), “described variously as a ‘not school/not home’, as the halfway house of museum education or an after-school club or similar, and even sometimes as a metaphorical space which can be created out of sensitive pedagogy…” Essentially, they are public spaces on neutral land where people can meet and communicate. Third places, in comparison to first and second places that is home and work, encourage people to set their worries aside and actually enjoy the company as well as interaction around them. It is a space other than home or work. For instance, it can be libraries, parks or, in the case of the online world, it can be online forums. According to a book by Kahnweiler (2013, p. 14), “introverts have great ideas that go unheard” and they can come up with great ideas in group settings, but they cannot seem to find a way to share them. The third space helps introverts to share their ideas and they would be accepted without judgement as it is a space for equals. They are able to break through their shell of timidity and anxiety while being surrounded by people who understands them.
However, it is possible for people to say that social media would make it harder for one to have a face-to-face conversation especially for introverts, but it is not the case. According to an article by Spradlin et al. (2019), several studies were done about whether social media facilitate face-to-face relationships, and these findings indicate that nervous attachment, or the fear and expectation of being rejected, is related to increased usage of Facebook and social networking sites in general, although the role of different attachment types in the relation between Facebook use and face-to-face contact is still unclear. Basically, those studies had shown that face-to-face encounters are not replaced by social media use, and that can also lead to more time spent engaging in face-to-face interactions. Spradlin et al. (2019), also adds that, in general, studies suggest that Facebook usage is linked to extraversion, and that social networking sites in general can help people who are less socially adept feel more related to others. For example, an introvert can meet and interact with someone online and after getting to know them they can decide to meet up in real life. When they do meet up, the introvert would be more comfortable and more social as they already know that person and might even trust them.
Introverts can set boundaries.
Social media is a great way for introverts to be themselves, open up and make friends but with the wrong kind of boundaries it can be suffocating. Kahnweiler (2013) also states in the book that social media such as Facebook put a lot of pressure on people to share their inner self with the rest of the world. Introverts, who want to get to know others before baring their soul, would find the lower privacy boundaries unsettling. Introverts, who are especially thoughtful social media consumers, may be ahead of the curve. They have been attracted to social media because it helps them to build on their strengths while still improving communication. According to Harbaugh (2010), they would try to act more extroverted online which is being more outgoing. Introverts can build and reinvent their identities in a variety of ways on the Internet, something that the average person cannot do offline. However, it would only drain their energy so it is not the approach that they should take. They can choose to get to know people slowly by setting boundaries for themselves. Social media provides features that can let the user choose who they want to see the things they share online. For example, an introvert can set their privacy setting to friends only so that only people they trust would be able to see it. Moreover, Instagram has this ‘close friends’ feature for stories and the introvert can choose exactly who they want to see their stories.
On a final note, it is clear that social media changed how introverts engage and they themselves have changed with the constant rise of technology. In the online world, one is able to have an online persona and introverts can take the type of persona that is the performative dimension which means they can use names other than their real one and take on a different identity. There is also the public dimension where they use their real identity. It all depends on their personality trait. Introverts are better at interacting online because they are able to monitor how much social interaction they get. They are more comfortable online and so interacting on the web on communities that fit their hobbies and personality which brought forward the theory of third space as it is a concept meaning where they would be treated as an equal. In addition, it is found that social media can actually help them to better at face-to-face conversations and so, in turn, be able to have real proper relationships with certain boundaries that they can give themselves which can be easy with the privacy settings that social media provides. Since there are different types of introverts and different levels for each person, there are limitations in finding out how much social media changed them.
Harbaugh, E. R. (2010). The Effect of Personality Styles (Level of Introversion- Extroversion) on Social Media Use. The Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communities, 1(2), 70-86. https://www.elon.edu/u/academics/communications/journal/wp-content/uploads/sites/153/2017/06/06HarbaughEJFall10.pdf
Kahnweiler, J. B. (2013). Quiet Influence: The Introvert’s Guide to Making a Difference (1st ed.). Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Incorporated. http://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/curtin/detail.action?docID=1160955#
Moore, C., Barbour, K., & Lee, K. (2017). Five Dimension of Online Persona. Persona Studies, 3(1), 1-12. https://doi.org/10.21153/ps2017vol3no1art658
Potter J., & McDougall J. (2017) Third Spaces and Digital Making. Digital Media, Culture and Education, 37-59. https://doi-org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1057/978-1-137-55315-7_3
Schat, S. (2012). [Review of the book Quiet: The Power of Introvert in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, by S. Cain.]. Brock Education Journal. https://journals.library.brocku.ca/brocked/index.php/home/article/view/310
Spradlin, A., Cuttler, C., Bunce, J., & Carrier, L. (2019). #Connected: Facebook May Facilitate Face-to-Face Relationships for Introverts. Psychology of Popular Media Culture, 8(1), 34-40. https://doi.org/10.1037/ppm0000162
Zhou, Z., Xu, K., & Zhao, J. (2018). Extroverts tweet differently from introverts in Weibo. EPJ Data Science, 7(1), 1-22. http://dx.doi.org.dbgw.lis.curtin.edu.au/10.1140/epjds/s13688-018-0146-8
25 thoughts on “Social Media changed the way introverts engage.”
Your paper was very interesting and as introvert myself I can easily relate to many of your points that you have mentioned. On the social media platforms I tend to interact more with strangers because they show interest in the content that I produce. Thus, this initiate a type of friendship where people share their common interests which is further reinforced by online communities. However, do you think there should be a line between virtual and reality? Because in reality many introverts fail to communicate their ideas or opinion to people and this is quite problematic in a working environment.
Please do check out my paper: https://networkconference.netstudies.org/2021/2021/04/26/amateurism-vs-professionalism-who-will-prevail-in-the-digital-era/#comment-2536
Hi Ignesh. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
If you mean in the sense of identities, there is a line between virtual and reality. A lot of introvert would have different identities online and offline. A social interaction that they might not be able to do offline could be done online. However, that line can be blurred. Like I mentioned before in the comments, social media can just be a practice tool with the right boundaries and who knows maybe that same introvert who couldn’t communicate their ideas and opinions in a workplace might be able to do just that after doing the same online.
If you have any more questions or anything you want me to elaborate on, do let me know!
I quite enjoyed your paper especially as someone who themself would identify as an introverted person. I found that I could relate to many of the practices you outlined as being common to introverts and overall the paper was well written.
In particular I found your points regarding identity and boundaries to be painfully accurate in regards to how I handle my own online pressence where for the large majority I communicate with others under a pseudonym rather than using my own name allowing the boundary to exist between myself and the presented identity.
While reading through the comments I also saw that you compared this online socialisation as practice for offline communication and I could not agree more as it has personally helped largely with my own social skills.
While somewhat of topic I would also like to thank you for including in the introducion the discusssion of the concept of ambiverts as it is a concept I had not heard previously and plan to do further reading on.
Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
I am happy to see an introvert like me read my paper. I did base the research from my own experience as social media had helped me a lot and I, too, uses a pseudonym. I am glad you got more interested on the topic. If you want to discuss more, I will be more than happy to.
Very nice topic.
I do agree with you that social media is helping introverts to engage themselves in the society. But how do you think they can improve their social skills/Face to face communications while being behind a monitor? Is there any solutions that the social platforms are providing the introverts with?
Awaiting your response,
The introverts can use social media as a practice tool. They can get used to the different ways of socializing before trying to do the same in real life. The face to face communications can start with video call. First of all, the introvert would start with chat and then work towards a voice call to then try turning on their camera if they feel comfortable enough. It is all in their control and if that introvert was comfortable enough to do a video call, they are already comfortable with the person they are talking to and might even trust them. Now, if they’re ready they can try to meet in real life. Social media provides the person with the tools and it all depends on them how they want to use it.
I really enjoyed reading your paper. I think that I can define myself as being an extrovert and I did not really think of what social media can offer to people who are introverts. Therefore reading your paper was very informative and shown me another perspective of the usage of social media. We often talk of influencers etc when talking about social media but I agree with you that social media can also act as a ‘safe space’ for introverts to be what they truly are or what they truly want to be.
However, I have some questions. Do you really think that introverts have full control over their online identity? Don’t you think that it may happen that they prefer to stay online with their online identity rather than interacting in the real world?
You did a good job and manage to add weight to all your arguments with good research on the topic.
I encourage you to check out my paper on, “Black Natural Hair Vloggers on YouTube Are Empowering Their Audiences’ by Encouraging Them to Embrace Their Black Identity.”
I hope to hear you soon.
Hi Camille. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
There are indeed more sides to social media than it being a place for influencers. They do have control to a certain extend since as you may know whatever you post online would stay there even if you delete it. The owner of the platform may still have it or your ISP does. However, I still believe with enough boundaries that the introvert give themselves would give them enough control on their online identity. It does happen that an introvert would prefer to stay online since it is their comfort zone and their world but it would happen that they would want to meet their internet friends or go to events that their online community organized. Those would become part of their safe zone with enough boundaries. Ofcourse, it depends on the level of introversion they have. There are people who would not step out of the house for anything but this might be more of a mental health issue.
This was definitely interesting read. I quite liked how you discussed the idea of a ‘third space.’ I found that the way you described it, was very informative/instructive. It was also very interesting to see the usage habits of introverts and extroverts, some of which I was very surprised about! One thing I could suggest you could’ve discussed more, was the close friends feature that Instagram offers. I think/believe that introverts are more willing to post on their close friends stories, as they can post what they want without having any judgements, because obviously they can choose who they want to see those pictures, selfies, song recommendations etc. if you know what I mean? But overall really good article 🙂
Hello Allan. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
I am glad you mentioned the close friends feature on Instagram as I completely forgot about it. I don’t use Instagram as much and much less that feature. It is a great way for introverts to post things they want while still being in their comfort zone. Thank you for suggesting this point.
I read your paper and really enjoyed it. I agree that introverts have really succeeded in finding comfort in social media in some ways. The communities found on social media are ways introverts can interact. Compared to the physical world, where introverts would be too shy or hesitant to join a club, on social media, it is not the case. Virtual communities seem more approachable in such cases.
How far do you think communication on the virtual communities help introverts to express themselves in the physical world? Do you think introverts change to become more ambivert after their interaction on social media communities?
Hello Vejetaa. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper. I am glad you enjoyed it.
Communication online does help introverts a great deal. Think of it as some sort of practice that they get before trying to be social in real life. Also, the introverts makes friends online and would eventually want to meet them in real life. It would be easier then since they already know each other and the introvert might already feel comfortable and safe around them. Ofcourse, it does has its downside but as long as they set boundaries, they should be fine. I don’t believe that introverts can become ambiverts. The introversion is how the brain is wired and how it wants to get energy. They can only feel more comfortable and safe in situations that they are used to. They would remain in their comfort zone and still would require to take breaks to recuperate.
your paper was is very nicely written and informative as well. It is true that social media has helped a lot of introverts to feel better and express themselves. it has become a big part of their life when they feel safe, comfortable and more relaxed. You mentioned very good points to show how social media are being helpful to them and it can be a place where they can eventually express themselves and say things that would be impossible in real life. This shows the importance of social media in people’s life.
Hello Vinanda. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper. I am happy that you enjoyed my paper. Social media can really help introverts if used properly. Is there anything else you want to add to this issue?
As an introvert myself I was drawn to your paper. I was surprised at your findings on introvert behaviour online as I only post on social media a couple of times a year and never share any type of posts, but I think this goes more along with your research on the way introverts set boundaries online. I completely agree with the quote about online platforms being great for introverted people as they “can be connected with their own world online and be by themselves at the same time”. Online communities can definitely be very helpful for introverts and shy people to be able to express themselves and share ideas and that it can help with face-to-face contact in the real world. I think sometimes communities can be harmful for people who are particularly vulnerable in their introversion (such as Incel groups, which I touched on in my paper), but I think they have more potential to be supportive and positive. I really enjoyed your paper and it was interesting to see the research on this kind of thing and getting some understanding about my own online behaviour.
Hello Lauren! Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
I am an introvert myself so the idea for this paper started from my own experiences on social media. I spent most of my time online where most of my friends were. I used to be a restrained introvert and social media did help me come out of my shell a bit. It really helped me be more social in real life. I do agree that certain communities can be harmful but it’s all about boundaries. I am glad you enjoyed my paper!
Hello Munika, your paper is very interesting and it has grasp my attention to read it. It is a very interesting topic where people have accounts on social media platforms such that Twitter which is a professional one where everyone posts real news of whats happening in the world. And you have indeed, showed how introverts and extroverts are in your paper. Certainly it is all about presenting all the real self details on those platforms which is required in our real life. Thank you very much for presenting your paper in this way. I really like it.
Hello Tiloshna. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
I am glad you find my paper interesting.
Being our real self is required because at the end of the day it’s your life and being yourself would make you happy.
Thank you for enlightening us about the way introverts engages on social media platform. I really like your paper its really enriching.
If possible can you please clarify more about identity crisis for introverts. Dont you think that there is a contradiction present between how they present themselves on the offline platform and online platform through social media
What are you views about it?
Thank you for enlightening us about the way introverts engages on social media platform. I really like your paper its really enriching.
If possible can you please clarify more about identity crisis for introverts. I mean introverts doesn’t really socialise as in they are more in their bubble at times in the offline platform there daily life for instance. Don’t you think that this might have an impact on their identity owing to them on social media platforms creating an identity of them socialising with others and all isnt it contradicting ?
What are you views about it?
Hello Devanee. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
Well, introverts do get lonely and do want to talk and make friends. It just all depends on the person as there are different levels of introversion. Most of the times, they would want to remain in their own bubble and they would try to get out as long as they are comfortable. Ofcourse, there would be sort of an identity crisis as their online and offline self would be totally different. In a way, I can say that their online self would be their ideal self or their “real” self since social media gives you control over your identity. Bringing back the fact that they have access to communities where they can meet people with the same interest. They are encouraged to be their “real” self as in real life they won’t. And so, with enough practice online, they can try to be social offline as well and eventually merge their online self with their offline one.
Is there something else you want to suggest about this issue?
Your paper is quite interesting and I have managed to grasp how an introvert behaves himself and engages with others through the use of social media. Thank you for providing us with such a detailed analysis on a topic that is quite under-looked. Nice job!
However, I wanted to ask you a question.
Based on what you have written, do you think these changes apply to real life also or just online?
Hello Temul. Thank you for reading and commenting on my paper.
I do believe it is possible for these changes to be applied in real life but slowly. The introvert can practice online and try to do the same offline. Usually, they would do things that they are used to, in other words their confort zone, so after getting used to socializing online they might be more encouraged to do so in real life. Also, there is the aspect where they can meet their internet friends. They would be comfortable around them already since they relate to them in some way.
That was very insightful. It is true that social media do help introverts to fit in and set boundaries that are healthy for them. I also believe that online communities help introverts to deal with day to day life better as they have a go to place where there are other people just like them who understands exactly what they are going through.
Thank you for this comment and reading my paper. I am happy that you agree with me.