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Viewpoint: Deactivating extroversion

By Eli Cahan , Editorial Board Member
Published December 10, 2012

I just took down my Facebook account. No, no, don’t worry those of you who so religiously check my timeline — as Facebook asked me when I quit, yes, I’ll be back.

And yet, something in me hated checking that little circle — as much as I was comforted that I’ll be back and that it wasn’t a permanent deletion, I despised myself for it. So what’s the big emotional deal about deactivating an account during finals? On one hand, it’s as if I’ve finally succumbed to the professors who have been trying so hard to get us off Facebook and phones during class.

On the other, there’s a sense of relief in leaving. I don’t have to live up to the expectation of adding new photos to show people that I still exist; I don’t have to post on a friend’s wall so I can get a response showing that people have some minor desire to communicate with me.

What does it say about me that I’m so conscious of something my grandma would simply call a wise decision? Well, in a society ruled by extroversion, where social interaction is not only encouraged but also required, it seems as though I’ve literally “signed off.” To leave Facebook is to leave your friends, at least according to the Facebook team, who was so kind to remind me that Spencer, Steven, Sophia and Sam would all miss me; it’s to leave your circles — the Facebook team was generous in recommending I appoint a new group administrator given I was shirking my responsibilities; it’s to divest from societal news — the Facebook team made it clear I would no longer receive notification updates telling me when I ought to pay attention. It’s to become completely absent — the Facebook team thought it important I recognize that people would no longer be able to search for, nor find me.

Where does introversion fit into all of this? I’m just trying to take care of my mental health and my sanity during a ridiculously crazy couple of weeks. Who knew looking out for oneself could be so profoundly selfish? Maybe the issue with “work and play” is that work — as we’ve experienced it — is inherently introverted. Maybe the reason we can’t stand work is that it’s just so damn personal. During that work, that Sunday to Thursday week which is so unbearable, we’ve become introverts — we’ve cut ourselves off from the network. Now it’s clear that the reason why we so frequently “play hard” after we “work hard” is that we’ve got so much to catch up on.

There shouldn’t be anything about working that cuts us off from the rest of humanity. I think that in a world where work might actually be play, where we might enjoy the means and not just the ends, work would be as social as play. Play is fundamentally social, as the word itself indicates interaction, so why should work be separated from that?

So back to finals week and Facebook. I got emotional about whether or not my account was still up was because I felt like I was sacrificing my friends for myself. It’s in that context, where work is individual and play is social, that extroversion must be “deactivated” to focus inwards. I don’t think that’s the way it should be. I’m not sure working at 11:52 p.m. on a Saturday should be frowned upon, as I’m not sure getting up at 8 a.m. on a Wednesday during Welcome Week should be, either.

We’ve created this rule for ourselves that we must step “in the zone” at work and “zone out” at play. I’m against the belief that the line between work and play should be so clearly defined. I just don’t understand the idea that we can only struggle through work alone, and that can only enjoy play together, and that’s the way it is. The integration of social engagement and individual focus should be a goal of ours. Maybe then I wouldn’t feel so bad about quitting Facebook for all of 10 days.

Eli Cahan is a Business sophomore.