Those born after the turn of the century may not fully realize it, but we inhabit a very different world from that of even twenty years ago. The primary culprit? You may have already guessed it—the smartphone. In this post, we will explore the nature of this new digital era from a personality perspective, including its effects and implications for both introverts and extraverts.
Have smartphones turned us all into extraverts?
In asking this question, I’m not really concerned with whether smartphones are making us more (or less) social. There’s already plenty of discussion about the effects of modern technology on human social behavior. Rather, our primary concern here will involve the impact of smartphones on our attention.
In his classic work, Psychological Types, Carl Jung espoused that the chief difference between introverts and extraverts has to do with the typical direction of their attention. Introverts, according to Jung, prefer to turn their attentional spotlight inwardly, while extraverts direct theirs outwardly.
Jung went on to say that a type’s dominant function would largely dictate the direction and content of attention. For example, types whose dominant function is Introverted Feeling (i.e., INFP and ISFP) will largely concern themselves with their own feelings and values, whereas types using Extraverted Feeling (i.e., ENFJ and ESFJ) will focus more on interpersonal feelings, values, and dynamics.
In addition to pointing their attention in opposite directions, introverts and extraverts differ in the preferred scope of their attention. As explored in our book, My True Type, the extraverted functions (Se, Ne, Fe, Te) are characteristically broad, extensive, and expansive in their scope:
- Extraverted Sensing (Se) broadly surveys sensations and experiences.
- Extraverted Intuition (Ne) extensively explores and multiplies ideas, options, and possibilities.
- Extraverted Feeling (Fe) works to establish wide social networks and broad consensus of feelings and values.
- Extraverted Thinking (Te) values and continuously establishes facts, rules, definitions, and procedures.
By contrast, the introverted functions (Si, Ni, Fi, Ti) are typically narrower in scope. Rather than expanding and multiplying, they prefer to zero in, distill, or consolidate:
- Introverted Sensing (Si) draws on past experiences and traditions and extracts a preferred set of beliefs and behaviors.
- Introverted Intuition (Ni) penetrates deeply to identify root causes, patterns, and motivations.
- Introverted Feeling (Fi) surveys, refines, and manages personal feelings and values.
- Introverted Thinking (Ti) formulates and hones subjective methods, strategies, and philosophies.
In suggesting that extraverts utilize a broader scope of attention, I’m not necessarily arguing that they are better multitaskers. Extraverts may still prefer to focus on one thing at a time, but they will generally invest less time in one project or one individual than introverts will. From an extraverted perspective, putting “all of their eggs into one basket” is apt to seem mundane or foolish compared to having a more diversified portfolio.
So what does all of this have to do with the digital age in which we find ourselves? Let’s begin answering this question with another question:
Does life with a smartphone more closely resemble the extraverted style of attention—outwardly directed and quickly transitioning from one thing to the next—or the introverted mode, involving a deep and sustained focus on a limited number of concerns?
The answer is clearly the former. The following examples illustrate how we’ve adopted a more extraverted style of attention since the advent of the smartphone:
More specifically, the smartphone era seems to largely reflect the natural style of extraverted perceiving types (ENTP, ENFP, ESTP, ESFP). Using either Se or Ne as their dominant function, these types are wired to perceive and quickly respond to a wide range of external stimuli. They often feel under-stimulated without a constant stream of background noise or stimuli. Some even sleep with the television on, reporting that life feels “too quiet” without it. Moreover, because their attention span tends to be shorter and their need for variety greater, they prefer ingesting information in smaller chunks—perfect in an age of tweets and sound bites.
What we (especially introverts) might be sacrificing…
Introverts are known to require regular intervals of quiet and solitude to recharge their proverbial batteries. During these restorative moments, they may notice themselves sighing or taking deeper breaths, feeling like they can finally drop the extraverted façade and be themselves. In a real sense, these are healing moments for introverts, as their minds and bodies undergo a process of rebalancing and recalibration. Once balance has been restored, they literally feel like new human beings, like having a sound night of sleep after a long and stressful week.
Part of me wonders, however, if introverts raised in the smartphone era have had the opportunity to experience what true restoration feels like. The fact is that audible silence and physical solitude, while undoubtedly beneficial, aren’t enough to guarantee that introverts will feel recharged. Only when the calm and quiet is allowed to permeate their minds and bodies will they start to breathe and feel differently. In other words, introverts don’t just require quiet, they must become quiet. The key question then, is whether this is possible when their phones are constantly chirping and chiming? Can they find restoration if they are being held hostage by a perpetual stream of virtual intruders?
Self-restoration isn’t the only challenge facing introverts in the smartphone era. They may also contend with a perceived lack of direction and control over their lives. Those who fail to turn off their phones (or who can’t stop worrying about what they are missing when doing so) are essentially putting themselves at the mercy of outside forces. As discussed in my post, The Introvert’s Dilemma, this goes against their natural preference, which is to forge an identity and direction for their lives by way of self-reflection. Unfortunately, introverts who are unwilling to unplug will struggle to hear the voice that matters most when it comes to fashioning a fulfilling life—their own.
In short, I worry that younger generations of introverts, in particular, will pay a price for not understanding, and unwittingly neglecting, the needs of their own personality. This can leave them feeling lost, confused, scattered, depressed or otherwise ill-prepared for adulthood.
Unplug to recharge
While social media can at times supply jolts of energy and ego gratification, it can just as readily engender feelings of anxiety, depression, and compulsiveness. As we’ve seen, this makes it difficult to stay centered and to hear one’s own voice.
In my view, we can tap into a more powerful source of energy and renewal by periodically unplugging. Doing so can remind us that who we are deep down, at our center, is more robust and life-giving than our Instagram feed could ever convey.
If you’re an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP looking to clarify who you are and your path in life, be sure to explore our online course—Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP—which is now on sale:
Why INFJ, INFP, INTJ & INTP Types Struggle in Modern Life
Anxiety & Self-Awareness: How Introverts & Extraverts Differ
Arcadia Page says
I am a 32 year old INFP & HSP who works in IT and enjoys playing with technology. When I was younger, I was definitely letting my smartphone control me.
However over time, I turned off all email and social media notifications (I check those daily anyways, so I don’t need a reminder) and I made my phone into an environment that furthers my interests and values. I love reading–I regularly read about 3 books per week. My smartphone has played a huge role in that. I also use my phone to self reflect via journaling and to take notes related to what I read. I limit myself to one social media app. Currently I only have Instagram installed, and I barely use it. I also limit myself to one shopping app. Currently, Thrift Books is the only shopping app on my phone.
Because of the way I use my smartphone, I’ve found that it has enriched my life. Since all notifications are off except the ringer, my phone gives me no anxiety. And usually I let calls go to voicemail, so I can call back whenever I’m ready. I uninstall apps I don’t need. I replaced Google news with an old fashioned RSS reader so I could control the amount of media I’m exposed to. I can journal and reflect wherever I am. When I was having problems with depression and anxiety, it was great to be able to pull up a CBT book and listen to calm ocean sounds whenever I wanted. I learned mindfulness and deep breathing from an app and it changed my life. I look for apps that can teach me stuff related to what I care about.
Also as an HSP, using a red light filter and dark mode has helped a lot with reducing stimulation. And I don’t sleep with my phone nearby. I leave it in another room to charge, and I use a normal alarm clock in the morning.
If an app doesn’t make me feel good or improve my life, I uninstall it. So I’ve never found myself needing to take a serious break from my phone, because it feels more like a helpful tool than a burden.
So my overall goal when it comes to my smartphone is to use it to enrich what I already love in real life.
A.J. Drenth says
Thanks so much for sharing Arcadia. It sounds like you’ve developed some great habits that are worth emulating. Here’s a quick summary for our resident “skimmers”:
-Turn off notifications
-Use phone to journal and record notes
-Limit shopping apps
-Let calls go to voicemail
-Uninstall unused apps (if it doesn’t improve your life, delete it)
-Mindfulness, deep breathing, and CBT
-Use night mode on device
-Charge phone in another room
I’m with Arcadia Page above.
I’m a tech-savvy 34 year old ENTP. I have set ALL notifications to silent and I must manually refresh email, podcasts, etc. to receive updates.
I LOVE my smartphone as it has greatly enhanced the quality, accessibility, and variety of my learning. My phone is actually my portable radio, as podcasts reflect ~70% of the time I spend on my phone. II can listen to long-form (2-3 hour) research conversations between experts in their field and hear them debate & speculate their own and others’ ideas (not available through books). I feel like podcasts are the printing press of the internet.
I can listen to people like Sam Harris (Making Sense), Tim Ferris (TF Experience), Peter Attia (Drive), Steven West (Philosophize This), Jordan Peterson, Ken Wilber (Integral Life), and Alan Watts directly, often in the company of others of comparable competence. Even the Carnegie Institute and the LSE (London School of Economics) provide constant streams of useful, leading-edge information that was nearly inaccessible a decade ago.
I leave my phone on airplane mode most of the time. I can manage the texts and calls on my own terms without feeling overwhelmed.
I avoid social media apps, with the exception of a 10 minute daily maximum on Instagram, which I must manually open and refresh.
I see many younger individuals lost and bound to social media, constantly responding to notifications. I worked in a hospital as an RN for many years, and it’s the only environment I know that parallels the amount of beeps, notifications and alerts. It seems odd to voluntarily subject oneself to, or crave, such an environment.
Creative diligent endeavours are also made possible, along with quick recordings of music to share with other musicians. This has provided a network of creative feedback without social media. However, I could see an entrepreneur create a Social Platform geared towards musicians in the future.
It has also helped with the exchange of personal experiences with family across Canada and abroad. Sharing videos/images through shared albums (via Apple, not social media) has been a net positive to our lives and relationships.
I sleep with my phone in another room and delete anything non-essential off my phone (anything unused in the past 30 days).
I also started a weekly phone audit by ‘screenshotting’ my battery usage to trend my smartphone use. I took this idea from Peter Attia, and find this more helpful than the “Screen Time” option.
The one downside that I have noticed is that I spend less time reading books as I have chosen to listen to more podcasts. However, when I do choose a book to read (non-fiction), I have vetted it well and is supplemented with a foundation of what other thinkers have criticized, praised, build upon, etc. I still find books to be the best source of in-depth knowledge, and need to reclaim more time for this.
Meditation has also become more accessible and am now building more group meditations at work, which is also a net positive.
I say this as someone who did not have a smartphone until I was out of university, which, I assume, has provided perspective on how to develop a healthy relationship with a tool that has addiction funding its technological development. I can only imagine what youth are experiencing being handed these things at such a young age. Jonathan Haidt’s work on this has been an eye-opener.
I do see my ESFJ friends use social media to continually build and strengthen their social relationships (Fe) in a healthy way but they are also 30 or older.
I find it provides the opportunity for discipline with self and others. For example, when someone pulls out their smartphone, instead of pulling out mine, I will patiently wait for them to return to the present moment and engage. Overtime, I have found this to condition other’s to reframe from using their smartphones at inappropriate times.
– leave phone on airplane mode when not in use
– shut off ALL push notifications (manually pull updates)
– use podcasts for learning in-depth topics
– use to supplement creative endeavours (music, photography, languages)
– use shared albums available without the use of social media platforms
– limit Instagram to ~10 minutes/day
– use for meditation or other contemplative practices (i.e. journalling)
– use as a disciplinary measure and exercise
I am an INFJ. I’m addicted to my smartphone for social media (reading rather than interacting, mostly), news/interest articles, Words with Friends and other ‘mind’ games, and checking for messages. I find the ability to see when other people are online really unhelpful and distracting, yet also compulsive. I am aware that I spend too much time online, yet can’t stop. I think my inferior Se lets me down by not reminding me that I am tired, stiff, drained, etc, and need a break. In equal parts I’d like to throw my smartphone away, yet also weld it to my hand!
This was really enlightening! It’s cool to see this era analysed already- we can be so caught up in living it that we don’t step back to see the effects it’s having.
Social media is definitely a double edged sword. It provides a kick but probably not in the healthiest way. Sometimes I’ll feel my mood slipping and then suddenly I’ll realised it’s because I’ve been spending too much time on Instagram. There are great accounts focused on self help and growth that beat the more narcissistic ones, those are the ones to follow.
As an INFP i relate to hating the constant phone pinging and ringing! Mine’s perpetually on silent now :)
INTJ. I use my smartphone to further my interests. I love having so much knowledge at my fingertips. Almost all of my open tabs are me looking something up (or shopping online, which is better than shopping in person!) I only have Instagram as social media because it is image-based, and I have lots of aesthetic interests. Also, it does not demand interaction like Facebook does. The only thing I hate about phones is when they chime, so I always keep mine on silent so that I can ignore it or not. I regularly leave it in my room and go read or do something else without it. Overall, I have no problem having a smartphone – I use it in ways that support my style and interests – I don’t let it rule me.
Rarely use a phone of any type.
I think that the way people use their smartphones, and how they use social media (eg. Facebook) matches aspects of their personality more than the generation they grow up in (although it may be more difficult to discern in the younger age groups).
I am 46, probably INTP, and have used Facebook as a tool to keep in touch with family and friends who mostly live far away from me. I fulfil a lot of my need for interaction with others via messaging, but only when I want to interact, not as a constant chirp of notifications (Which I turn to silent).
On Facebook, I was fascinated to observe that my talkative and engaging friends (in person) would actually not post much, and not comment much (too busy interacting with the real world perhaps?). Meanwhile some of my quiet and more nerdy friends were very involved and “talkative” on Facebook. There were other friends who refused to use Facebook at all (not even opening an account) as it seemed to offend them in some way – they were the more down to earth types (probably ST?), and I suspect they thought it was too fake and they had no interest in that sort of interaction. The same people prefer actual phone conversation (long calls) and don’t really like to text. Whilst with others I can have very deep and long “chatversations” via messenger rather than actually talk.
I’m an ENFP and I totally responded to this. I actually feel pretty tied to my phone most days, and unplugging feels like I’m disconnecting from the world. I heavily use social media, Facebook and Instagram, as well as my google news feed – all of these I’ve structured to feed into my interests so I’m mostly seeing things that inspire me. I regularly purge my feeds from things that don’t interest me so all the info coming at me is curated in a way. I also realized that with as often as I pick up my phone and engage with it, I don’t need the noise of notifications, so I’ve turned those off except for text messages and phone calls. … The reality is, I probably use my phone mostly for communication. I have several group text feeds. The main apps I use in addition to social media are Meetup and Pinterest. I find that I only feel exhausted by my phone when I’m bored, and I go looking for something to stimulate thoughts or conversations, and find that I’m all caught up on all my feeds and there is nothing new to look at.
I’m a 30 year old INTP who works as a software consultant, and who has had some debilitating health problems over the past 5 years.
I found that before my health problems, my phone was useful and entertaining (personal organization, reading, navigation, keeping in touch with friends and family, etc.)
At my worst point, around 2015/2016, my phone had become an instrument of fear and torture. I was on a very bad project at work that had people communicating at all hours, and large amounts of my remaining time were spent consuming various media excessively (books, videos, etc.) I was utterly drained and miserable.
Once “the project” ended I was still not healthy, so I often was idle rather than living my old lifestyle- and excessive media consumption was a constant. I think it left me far more drained than I realized.
As my health improved, I wanted to catch up on “lost time” and that meant more phone (take courses, read interesting and educational books, etc.) I continued to feel anxious and drained even as my physical health improved. Also, in the intervening time, my email accounts have had a major uptick in “noise” which has two major consequences: excessive notifications, and “real” messages getting drowned out.
Once I understood that I am an introvert, and also what that means, I have started working to reclaim my psychological health. For me this has included:
– simply ignoring notifications and accepting that some important ones may suffer until I can put good email filters in place
– recognizing that my Ne drives me to read at times when I need to be alone with myself, and being able to resist because of that awareness
– increasing the quality of my “Ne time” so it is more satisfying, and less likely to become compulsive
– taking time to be truly alone. this has turned out to be quite a process involving trimming extraneous commitments, setting expectations with myself and others, and working at increasing the frequency and duration of my alone time until it’s enough.
Another important thing I’ve learned is that a smartphone cannot replace a computer or paper for me, it must complement the computer and paper. This is because I often exercise my Ti while drawing, taking notes, or programming- things a smartphone simply does poorly.
So its been quite a ride for me but things are slowly coming together for me. My ideal end state will include: extensive email filters allowing me to get the important things right away and skim the chaff later at my leisure, countering my compulsive reading by focusing on quality over quantity (of the material itself and of the act of consumption, eg by taking notes), and consciously adding my old non-phone activities back into my life (some extraverted, but also enough time at the park, doing solo exercise, etc.)
Note: the era of cheap and numerous ebooks makes it very easy to accidentally choose quantity over quality, and also to forget the pleasure of quietly going to a book store. This happened to me without me even realizing until a few years after the shift.
Rachel L Smith says
INTJ here amd 35. I remember life without Facebook and texting amd still mostly live that way. My phone only makes noise for calls amd one family group conversation. Everything else is silent. All app notifications are turned off except for messaging and email.
I’m the stereotypical INTJ that doesn’t have a lot of friends. Most conversation with my best friend is via email or we call each other. She lives in the middle of nowhere and her cell only works in her laundry room.
I don’t shop on my phone, unless I’m quickly buying an ebook. I have a blue light filter installed and a lot of stuff set to dark mode.
I have family and friends overseas, so WhatsApp is invaluable with staying in touch. But I actually use it more on my laptop than my phone. The time differences are a built in timer for not being on when I should be asleep. My one game is Candy Crush, that I play through my lives once a day.
It’s also full of podcasts for when I’m driving. Which isn’t often since I work from home. I prefer to read. I don’t use it for notes or reading, though. Notes are handwritten and reading is done mostly on my tablet, with the wifi off unless I’m downloading books. I don’t really do YouTube either. It’s annoying.
I have Facebook and Instagram on it. Facebook I check a couple times a day from my phone. I’m an author and my readership is on there, so staying engaged is part of business. I’m also somewhat active in a couple of hobby groups. Instagram is checked three or four times a week. More if political stuff is dragging Facebook down and I’m not going there.
I loathe Twitter. Even though it’s installed, I open it maybe three times a year. Usually when something is going on in the world of romance novels where I need to keep up with it. Like the recent plagiarism scandal and all the trademark trolling last year that ended up in court.
As far as anxiety, nope. But I don’t have that issue with anything. I can walk away from it at any time and don’t feel like I’m missing anything. I barely touch it on Sundays.
It stays by my bed because it’s my alarm clock amd my clock. I can’t find a non LED clock. All current alarm clocks are so bright they interfere with my sleep. I’m nearsighted so it has to be by my bed or I can’t see it. Even the giant ones I can’t see when it’s far enough away to not affect my sleep. If I have to touch something to see the time, I’d rather flip my phone over. It’s also set to do not disturb during my sleep hours.
I’m 37 & an INTP Luddite; I have yet to get a cell phone. I didn’t get one in the early ought’s as I was in the army & if you had a cell phone, they would call you in for something. I got out in 04′ & 05′ the first smartphone came out. We had a land line & that sufficed. I take pictures on a camera & recently found my 20 year old film camera. It was freeing to drop off a roll of film & not have to upload, scroll, edit, select, delete & choose what to send to whom. I could just pick up pictures…a month later since 1 hr. no longer applies to film.
I still read a lot of books. The one thing I’ve noticed is that music is not as available as one after another my cd’s, cassettes & players scratched, broke & became obsolete.
We have always had the internet via a desktop computer my family of 8 shares. Youtube has filled in the social media gap, w/ a lot of great international music I would never have discovered otherwise. I would like to take it w/ me, but my van only has a radio, no kind of music player. Same w/ gardening vloggers, foreign language & a few great channels we use for our home school. I’ll listen to a podcast or presentation while I cook or clean. If I’m outside I listen to outside. Highway noise, water running, animals, children, etc.
We have friends, places, lessons we visit weekly for face to face interactions & while I doubt their teen years will be as analogue as they are now, I’m glad we ended up on this path of raising them in this kind of childhood.
Another Different Vanessa says
I want to shove people´s phones up their erse
Meredith Linden says
This is a really great article and the comments are fascinating. I am a 52-year-old INFJ. I resisted having a cell phone 15 years ago and I still resist having to get a new one due to the changes and my Se inferior function. But I love having the access to data, documents, and content. I keep my phone on silent, much to the chagrin of family.
I have to watch my tendency to gravitate toward external sources of stimuli since it is so easy. I make conscious efforts to spend time doing nothing, staring at trees, and being alone.
Ah, this was a refreshing read! INFP, HSP, Male, 34 – Decided last year to unleash the Traveller within me and go for a working holiday in Canada. At the beginning I clearly felt the urge to produce content, to keep my peeps at home in the loop with daily pics, and really got involved in the dynamics of creating the perfect image of all the nice and shiny things about traveling. But after some time I got tired of documenting my travels more than experiencing them. So I unmuted my phone, decluttered all apps I did not use and stuck to a routine of meditating for 10 mins in the morning with an app and journaling in the evening. I kept my phone on during the day to check gps coordinates while hiking and taking a few pics.
I need the down time to digest my thoughts and experiences – otherwise all the information forms a giant spaghetti ball in my head and produces low energy States of mind.
My experience of life has become richer, my attention more focused (and I believe Attention is the resource number 1 to manage first – as information seems to ever expand while our capacity to process them is limited). Also I learned classical Hatha Yoga to enhance my energy, and altogether everyday life keeps evolving. The presence feels thicker, and the need to constantly check mails or produce content diminishes with every day.
We do need to relearn spending time without our phones and turn our attention inward where our perception of life really happens. This is the journey from compulsiveness to consciousness. Extraverts out there, follow us turning inward!! :)
Reed Olson says
Thank you for creating and sharing another fantastic, incredibly insightful article.
I’m confident that a primary source of the apparently massive increase in social anxiety in young people is a direct result of young introverts being (mostly unconsciously) alienated from their true inner introverted selves and how to care for themselves properly.
I’d like to undertake a PhD research study in order to empirically prove this.
If anyone knows of how to go about this, please connect me with what I need to do to carry this out. Thank you.
Katie Walker says
I think there is a fundamental mistake in this post, and that is in assuming that a smartphone means “Facebook and Twitter.” If your hypothesis is that Facebook and Twitter are for extraverts, I might be in more agreement. But the post says “smartphone”, and a smartphone can be an introvert’s best friend. (Google is my other best friend. Except, lo and behold, Google is now in my pocket.)
It all depends on how you use it.
I’m a 41-year old, INFJ stay-home mom. I love my smartphone so much I’ve been known to wish it could be implanted in my hand. Or maybe my brain. (Don’t judge :P ) I got my first iPod touch (essentially an iPhone that needed wi-fi and didn’t make phone calls) around 2011, and my first iPhone around 2014. (Having internet everywhere I went was a dream come true.)
I use my smartphone to deep dive like you wouldn’t believe. I got hooked on fanfic for a specific television show, and my smartphone allowed me to read about 50k words a day of that specific fanfic for three years. Everywhere I went, my current story went with me. I was even known to read while walking up the stairs. Waiting in line at the store? Let’s read. Kid digging in the sandbox? Let’s read. On the elliptical? Let’s read. In the bathtub for a blessed few minutes? You guessed it. Time to read.
After three years of that, I decided I would write a few stories of my own. Since then I have written over 400k worth of fiction on my smartphone in 2.5 years. The key to this is learning to type quickly and efficiently on a phone. May I recommend Scrivener for iOS and a swiping keyboard? I use Gboard. Swiping is not quite as fast as typing on a real computer keyboard, but just like anything, you get much better with practice. I can swipe about as quickly as I can think of the words to write, and that’s fast enough. And if autocorrect is both necessary and my worst enemy, well, at least the portability makes up for it. Swiping works best on the smallest possible phone (like an iPhone SE), and now I have a nifty pop up handle on the back that makes swiping one-handed easier than ever.
I can write while pushing a stroller. I can write at the park. I can write on the elliptical. I can write while waiting for water to boil or a kid to get off the bus. I can write while nursing a child (like right now). I can write in a hot tub or bath, and it’s awesome. Or I can write while standing in the kitchen getting ready to clean up lunch, like I am right now. (This comment was added during editing; I can edit standing in my kitchen too.)
And then I decided I wanted to talk to people in that particular fandom. I found a chatroom filled with people that read and write the same things I did. I made wonderful friends. It was a small group, and there was the ability to get to know people deeply. We could talk about very deep subjects or light things, and the best part was that if I needed to be alone, I could leave the chatroom. There were people from all around the world there. Always someone to talk to if I needed it. And when I was done, I could turn them off.
A few friends became very close, the closest I’ve ever had. We send messages to each other, and the messages can be essays. (I have a horrible tendency to think in essays.) And then we have the freedom to respond when we feel up to it. A phone call is much more invasive than a text. When I was young and there was no caller ID, you had no choice but to answer the phone. It could be important. Or for your mom. And if it was a friend wanting to talk, you were kind of stuck. Of course you could apologise and bow out, but that took mental energy and the feeling of letting your friend down.
But with messages, such as over discord or Google Hangouts… Or even plain old-fashioned text messages… you can respond when you are ready. I have an INTJ friend who goes into deep antisocial periods. I can essentially send her a letter, written on my smartphone, and she’ll read it when she’s ready. As opposed to email, it’s easy to add on extra thoughts on individual messages, and they are all chronologically laid out and make much more sense than a group of emails. I can deep dive into topics with her in a way I never have with anyone before.
An in-person conversation doesn’t normally allow one to develop the same level of thought that I can do by writing everything out. The ‘me’ that comes out in writing feels much more like the true ‘me’, and a smartphone allows that self to interact with the world on a level previously impossible.
Last summer I read an article about writing that suggested using the Enneagram as a model for developing fictional characters. That got me interested in personality theory. I read what seemed like all the websites (it was a very thorough investigation) and got started on books. All the books are on my smartphone. (And yes, I read yours: purchased, read, and highlighted on my phone. And with small parts texted to other people for discussion.) I started buying books for my smartphone last fall, and now I probably have a hundred (mostly on personality theory, writing, and LEGO). They go everywhere with me. I have a library in my pocket, and anywhere I am (unless I’m camping in the wilderness), I can acquire more. I check out ebooks from my library and read them without ever leaving my bed. My daughter needed more books in Spanish to read… I checked out an ebook she reads on her iPhone. She missed a day of school and the teacher read part of a novel and she missed it. No problem. Use a smartphone and in thirty seconds she has checked it out from the library and is reading it.
Regarding the pre-digital age chart in the article, which claims that the following items are more introvert-friendly:
1. Social interactions conducted in person or over the phone
I disagree that this was beneficial to introverts as opposed to extraverts. The introverts I know are much less happy with phone calling and seeing people in person than the extraverts I know are. My mom (ENFJ) and sister (ESFP) are always on the phone or out seeing people. They organize dinners and throw parties and know all sorts of people.
And I would just hole up with a book somewhere.
I hate talking on the phone, and I know many other introverts who also dislike it. (It’s been a frequent topic of conversation in the writing chat room.) The people I know that most like talking on the phone have been extraverts, carrying on with their busy social lives.
Smartphones don’t replace in-person interaction. But they do help connect you to other people who might share your same crazy interest.
It wasn’t until college that I found friends truly as nerdy as I was. That was heaven, having friends who had similar interests. And then the real world happened, and we all scattered. I was back to the world of people talking about topics I had zero interest in. Hair styles or clothes or some TV show I didn’t watch. Fascinating. As a parent, I could always find people to talk about parenthood. But LEGO? (I had a three-year obsession with that before the fanfic.) The nuances of the differences between introverted feeling and extraverted feeling and how an INTJ could have too many feelings and still be a T? The effect of emotion in writing and whether the rules of “show, don’t tell” apply the same way? No. Not so much.
My smartphone allows me to have friends interested in the same things I am, and have them in the doses I need. It allows me to develop deep friendships instead of being alone with my thoughts.
2. Heavy reliance on books and other reference materials for information
Smartphones only help with this! Ebooks, online journals, websites filled with info (like this one). I can use my smartphone to access all of this whenever I want it. I’ve never had such great access to so much useful reference material.
When I was young I daydreamed that I would die and go to heaven and learn the answers to *everything*. And now I have Google in my pocket. No dying necessary.
I also dreamed of having a bookshelf that was always stocked with five awesome books that I would love reading. No problem. Now it’s all in my pocket. No waiting for the bookmobile to come every third Thursday.
(I also dreamed of having a pen that would write in any color I wanted. And now I can turn my font every color of the rainbow.)
3. Away from home or office = unplugged from the outside world
To me, being away from home when I was young meant limited access to books, to LEGO, to the things I wanted to do. It meant being out in the world, shopping or running errands, engaging with people out of necessity and feeling wiped out by it. Away from home was not this idealistic “unplugged from the outside world” thing you are talking about. It meant enduring all sorts of stimuli, interactions with strangers, facing all kinds of anxiety-provoking situations, and, often, being bored (while anxious and irritated at the same time).
It still is all those things, but having a smartphone loaded with books and friends and stories to write makes it a lot more bearable.
My smartphone IS my way of getting my highly necessary quiet time. I read. I play a few games. I write. I talk to people with my same nerdy interests but only when I feel like it. (They’re all introverts. They understand and do the same.)
As for your chart about the smartphone age:
1. “Conversations replaced by pithy texts or images”
No. It can be, of course. But a smartphone is a tool, an incredible tool. It just depends how you use it. Some people will only use it for pithy texts or images. I think my ESFP sister is much more prone to that. But there is NOTHING about a smartphone that says that’s what you have to do. I’ve used my smartphone to dive deeper into knowing people than would ever have been possible in person. There is something about writing that lets certain people (maybe specifically introverts?) open up. My smartphone allows me to go through all the details about things like the causes and effects of a family member’s failed suicide attempt, for example, with someone in another country, all while my kid is going down the slides at the park.
(You can have a whole argument about if online friends are real friends and if that friend in the other country will come help me move or whatever. Maybe it’s just strong intuition, but for me, the written world feels about as real as the physical world. And my smartphone is the access point to all my favorite introverted activities.)
2. “Information gathered in piecemeal fashion—brief articles, tweets, etc.”
It’s what you choose it to be. A smartphone can give you tweets, or it can give you an interactive pdf of your entire local newspaper maximized for smart phone reading each morning. It can give you brief articles or it can give you huge libraries to delve into. Websites have become so thorough that they will often cover a topic in more depth than any specific book. I find myself reading a book, needing more info, and delving deep into websites which will lead me to other books, which might lead to other webpages and articles. And I can link or copy excerpts easily into my conversations with friends and get their input. I can do this while hiding on the toilet or waiting for a kid to brush his teeth.
3. People are always accessible: at home or work, day or night.
Only if you want to be. The great thing about texts is that there is generally no expectation of an immediate response, certainly not like if the phone was ringing. And if you don’t want your phone to alert you to incoming texts, no problem. That’s what Do Not Disturb is for. The texts will be there when I’m ready for them. As for phone calls… my smartphone allows me to see who is calling and decide if I want to answer it. It’s much more useful than only having a home phone, as it goes everywhere with me. Very handy when you’re running around all over the place.
Sorry I’m so very passionate about this. It is my hypothesis that a smartphone is an introvert’s best friend (assuming they are creative enough to realize that “smartphone” does not equate to “Facebook, Twitter, and texts”). Though I imagine someone could deep dive into Facebook and Twitter if they wanted. They are tools, and it’s all in how you use them.
(Actually, I’m grateful for Facebook. It takes a lot of energy to maintain relationships with every person I ever met. It would be impossible. But Facebook is like a very informative phone book, able to connect me to people if I need them without having to do all the social effort of maintaining contact. True, these aren’t deep relationships, but they aren’t replacing deep friendships. They are relationships that I wouldn’t have at all without Facebook. It’s a great tool to keep my introverted self at least somewhat connected to the people in my community and the people I’ve gone to school with. It doesn’t make me extraverted. It just keeps me maneuver in an extraverted arena.)
As for me, my smartphone helps me to feel connected to the outside world when I’m alone all day with children. It lets me deep dive into a topic as far as I can before coming up for air (usually about three years). It helps me relax and get work done and make like-minded friends. It helps me talk to my kids’ teachers through writing in an app instead of a phone call. I can write; calling a teacher drains so much energy I wouldn’t do it unless the situation were dire. I use my smartphone to write and post stories online and interact with my readers.
Yes, a lot of that could be done through a desktop computer. But as a parent of three kids, I don’t have time to sit at a computer. Or if I try, my kids want to “help” me, or use the computer themselves. A computer won’t go to ballet practice or the park. A computer didn’t follow me to work (when I had my teaching job four years ago). A computer can’t follow children from room to room and be picked up for three minutes and then put down again when a child wants to talk to me.
My husband is an ISTJ. He’s not interested in reading and writing the way I am. But he uses his smartphone to listen to financial and sports podcasts, deep dive into all the intricate details of fantasy football, play a few games, and FaceTime with far-off family members. His smartphone has not reduced him to shallow Facebook connections—though he does check up with his favorite people on Facebook. He also uses Facebook groups to discuss his university football team in great detail with other like-minded fans.
Anyway, I generally love all the analysis you do on this site. I just think in this case, the information presented doesn’t tell a full story. It seems to present the ways an extravert might use a smartphone (which would, logically, promote extraverted activities) and few or none of the ways an introvert would use a smartphone.
Thank you for the great website! (Sorry for all the words. They just pour out of me when writing, especially if I’m passionate.)
Great article. As a 22 year old INFJ / INTJ who grew up in the social era, I deliberately kept myself out of “the loop” for years. I actively avoided social media, had my phone off when I didn’t want to be contacted, and only checked my emails when I was working. But, this was when I was a teenager, and now that I’m an adult things are very different.
I’m a freelance artist, and a few years ago I realized I need social media to get more work. So I made accounts, but I try to limit myself to only using three, and keep YouTube to a minimum. I also try to log on only when I’m making a post, and keep them about important updates or new new content.
However, as I’ve begun to get more user engagement (sometimes hundreds of comments), it’s begun to force me to make some tough decisions, which I’m still struggling with. User engagement, rationally, is great – but I feel bad if I don’t respond to followers comments, and find myself logging in multiple times a day to check. It’s exhausting, and a huge time-waster as I’d rather be making art.
I’ve begun explaining my loss of time, and how I can’t always respond, but this is the first time it’s begun to happen to me and it certainly leaves me feeling conflicted in regards to caring for myself, and caring for others.
So, social media is the first bane. The second is emails. Most of my clients are international, and often on the other side of the world, and time-zones are crazy. I get most responses and updates to projects very early in the morning, or very late at night – and I know that if I want a fast response or have important questions, I should send a message back to them while we’re both still awake. I’ve set up my phone so it checks for emails in real-time now, and it doesn’t feel good. Most of the time I’ll read the new ones before bed (or IN bed), respond to the really important ones, and leave the rest for the morning. Often it’s how I wake up. Responding to emails (gosh writing this makes it sound terrible).
The last bane is that I work for myself. I don’t get weekends off, lots of random overtime, and I tend to struggle to tell the days apart. It’s all new emails, new projects, new updates, requests, communications, etc… I struggle to take a couple of hours for myself here and there, and I try to set one day a week aside for myself as a day off, but usually something comes in which takes an hour or two. It’s hard.
I’m learning that by setting small amounts of time for myself, even just half an hour or an hour, to have a cup of tea and read a few chapters of a book in silence… it’s really recharging. I just wish I had more of it >.<
52yr old Male Kiwi INFJ. Don’t have a landline so need a SP. Had a flip phone until late 2013 when I got first one so I could make use of G Calendar reminders so I wouldn’t miss my counseling client appointments. They weren’t in any regular pattern from one day to the next as I was studying and working part-time as well then. Great for that, never miss any by mistake now.
My much younger American INFJ wife never wanted a SP but I got her one for Christmas 2014 so she could join in on her American family voxer chats. She still uses hers for that. She also listens to a lot of podcasts. She’d rather text than make calls.
I only use my SP for actual calls or checking email if I’ve been away from laptop and am expecting an email. I do text but if it’s going to take more than 2 texts by me to get to the answer/conclusion I want etc then I just make the call! Texting back and forth wastes SO MUCH time cf a quick call (and like most INF’s I don’t like calls much :)
I don’t use Messenger or YT on my SP as I’d rather do that via laptop. Have deleted most other apps and all games as never use them plus I’d rather waste time in a book or staring at a mountain or whatever. We use Androids but virtually all our USA family etc are iPhone snobs. If we spent what they do on iPhones and changing computers we’d never be able to afford to visit them. Have never spent over 130USD on a phone. We’d rather put money into travel with our kids :)
My SP is often left in the lounge at night and I always have the “do not disturb” call/text blocking feature set to block everything (except calls from close friends & family – as we don’t have a landline and I’d not want to miss a call for help in an emergency etc) from 9pm thru 7.30am
So yeah, we’re rather backward and that’s totally ok.
This is an interesting article. I love to see this pressing issue finally tackled and analysed with great insight.
As a 25 year old INTJ, I am old enough to remember life without smartphones and social media, but young enough to be expected by peers to be present on social media and always available to chat.
I had my share of troubles with social media and the “necessity” of constant online presence. I used to feel exhausted and overwhelmed with chat apps, comments and my phone constantly ringing. The lifestyle just never agreed with me. So I switched off all push notifications in my phone years ago, then uninstalled all social media apps. Finally, I closed all my social media accounts.
My decision was a radical one and I can’t say it was without negative consequences— sometimes I get behind on what’s going on in friends’ lives and even get out of touch with many of them. It’s been a couple of years since I gave up on social media and I’m so much better off without the pressure of constant online conversations. I feel better when I regularly have time to contemplate events by myself, in my mind, without having to extrovert and fragment my attention all the time.
I still think smartphones are powerful tools. I just prefer their slower and less intrusive functions: I use my smartphone a lot for reading news, blogs etc. As for output, I have my own blog, which allows me to mull over information in broader contexts before expressing my opinion in a more articulate and complex way than social media would allow. I prefer e-mail to chat messages for the same reason. I still have friends :)
Very on point piece. As a tech-savvy INTP, I’ve found that even after silencing my phone notifications and reducing time spent on social media, I have similar work to do for email and direct messaging (Slack). I find myself easily distracted and scattered if I jump around the web, open up too many tabs of ‘interesting’ reads, or even check my email too often and try to address each message at once. I’ve started turning off my wifi when possible to better focus while I write and I try (optimal word) to turn off onscreen email and message notifications to better focus while working. Thank you for the insightful read!