We introverts are a different breed. For one thing, we’re less trend-obsessed and slower to jump on bandwagons than our extraverted counterparts. Extraverts may see us as naysayers or killjoys, incapable of going with the flow. Hence, their frequent, at times condescending, admonishments to “let loose” or “lighten up.”
I suppose it’s true that we’re a bit stubborn and headstrong. There’s a part of us that finds guilty pleasure in resisting the outside world. By using “no” as our default response, we create boundaries around our introverted space, which allows us to feel safe and in control. And on the occasion that we decide to get on board with something, we like to believe that it’s not because we’re caving to external pressure, but because it might somehow benefit or enhance our lives.
Reflexive obstinance aside, there’s another and more important reason introverts say no—to protect and preserve our spiritual wellbeing. We’re concerned that outside entanglements may detract from, rather than enrich, our spiritual health and vitality.
Introverts are also notorious for bucking even the most deeply engrained cultural habits. Who in their right mind would choose to bicycle to work rather than drive? Who opts to read or meditate instead of watching television? In many cases, it’s introverts. And while we’re often misunderstood, we typically have good justification for our actions. It usually boils down to knowing what makes us happy and fills our spiritual cup.
I recently had the pleasure of spending some time around an INFP high school senior. One thing that surprised and delighted me about her was, unlike her friends (not to mention our culture in general), she seemed to have a rich intellectual and spiritual life apart from her phone. One day a large group of us sat down to lunch and, on my count, she never glanced at her phone. Not even once! I was shocked and awed by the fact that, despite a cultural tidal wave of compulsive phoning, this young person was choosing to live differently. Instead of fixating on a screen, she was intentional about observing and experiencing the concrete world around her—the people, the food, the surroundings, etc. She intuitively grasped the richness and meaning available to her in ordinary, non-virtual existence.
I’ve also enjoyed some recent conversations with friends regarding the emotional and spiritual downsides of frequent engagement with the news. In particular, I’ve wondered to what extent it’s worth sacrificing our inner peace and positive energy for the sake of burdening ourselves with the latest atrocity committed by our political adversaries. Maybe we’ve become so spiritually aimless and disconnected—so unaware of what’s truly important to us—that political outrage is our only balm against full-blown malaise and nihilism; maybe we prefer negative, even toxic, energy to having no energy or purpose at all.
Confident that I’m not the only introvert concerned with spiritual wellness, I’m baffled by the numbers of introverts I still see glued to their phones. So I’m eager to know, dear introvert:
- Don’t you ever get tired of it?
- Wouldn’t it be nice to stretch, look around, or introspect for a while?
- Wouldn’t unplugging help you better process and integrate whatever you’ve been reading or watching?
- Wouldn’t you like to create something of your own instead of merely gorging on outside information?
- What about engaging with others and strengthening your extraverted muscles?
Okay, maybe I’m being a little presumptuous here. Perhaps the phone isn’t so much a compulsion as a safety net for introverts—a way of blending into the background or alleviating social anxiety. And maybe introverts are being more creative than I’m giving them credit for, such as by participating in online discussions, etc. But even if I’ve somewhat misinterpreted or overstated the matter, I know I’m not entirely off the mark.
As discussed in my post, Introverts & Extraverts in the Smartphone Era, phone engagement can be viewed as a predominantly extraverted affair, dividing and scattering our attention in myriad directions, like light passing through a prism. So for introverts attempting to find Zen or achieve a meaningful state of flow, perpetual pings and notifications are surely a detriment. How can we possibly hear ourselves, let alone accomplish anything of depth or substance, if we perpetually and indiscriminately avail our attention to the outside world? Even worse for anxious or sensitive introverts who can be slower to rediscover their center after being startled or interrupted.
I’m concerned that introverts in the modern world are somehow missing, or forgetting, the value of quiet and unmediated alone time. The scatterbrained nature of phone engagement will at some point prove insidious to our success and well-being. When we’re at our best, we are working from a place of calm, centeredness, and intentionality. This includes knowing who we are, what we value, and how we can achieve and maintain an optimal level of flow and absorption. Too much external chatter—be it online or elsewhere—distracts us from what’s most important and ultimately hinders our spiritual and creative development.
It may sound cliché, but a simpler life—one with fewer unnecessary distractions—is the optimal soil for introverts to cultivate a meaningful and productive life. This doesn’t mean we’ll never experience FOMO or envy the energy and worldliness of extraverts. But we have something that extraverts want too—the ability to extract a lot of meaning from a relatively quiet and unadorned life. We accomplish this by appreciating life subtleties, staying aligned with our values, and devotedly pursuing our passions. Contrary to popular opinion, our happiness isn’t reliant on our phones, but is rooted in something far more profound and elemental.
If you’re an introvert looking to better understand yourself, your personality type, and your path in life, be sure to explore our books and online course—Finding Your Path as an INFP, INTP, ENFP or ENTP.