Introvert. A popular word floating around recently, as we return to “normal life.” A label I’ve picked up during quarantine. A safe little home, a social charging port. Their energy source is alone time — they recharge their social battery with solo time to reset.
Extrovert. My previous lifestyle. A deep desire for social interactions. Extroverts feel more energized when they are around other people. They draw energy from being around others — they recharge through social interactions.
There is no singular, clear-cut definition or theory of introversion and extroversion. But to me, the differentiating factor between introverts and extroverts is their “charging port.” In other words, where do people turn to when their social battery needs recharging? Everyone’s social needs look different; our battery life may vary. Some people have adapters, too, allowing them to recharge in a multitude of ways. Social recharging — being introverted or extroverted — therefore lies on a spectrum.
On this spectrum, I’d currently place myself on the introvert side. Recently, my social battery recharges the quickest when I’m alone with my thoughts. My method of recharging, however, has changed dramatically over the past year.
To those who know me, it likely comes as a shock that I’m now more introverted. A year ago, I was constantly busy, thriving most when in a social setting. As a high schooler, I would envision how it would feel to return home for summers: back from college, ready to catch up with everyone from high school over constant parties all summer long.
COVID-19 threw a wrench in those high school dreams. I think I saw five people max last summer — two of them being people I lived with. This summer, with restrictions lifting in my hometown, I find myself more comfortable keeping a quarantine summer routine instead of living my high school social summer dreams. It’s weird to hear about plans and parties from high school friends and realize how little I care now. It’s a strange feeling because this social life used to be my whole world.
Now, a year and a half later, nervous feelings flutter up at me before every social event. Even a simple dinner with someone I’ve known for years quickens my heartbeat. Any time I leave the house, my mind races through the full list of people I could run into.
My old self would look at me in absolute shock — what happened to you?
The answer: months and months of quarantine. Being unable to safely be social for over a year helped give me a glimpse of life with more alone time. I had time to self-reflect and learned to rely on myself to find energy and assurance instead of turning to others. I practiced a more introverted approach to recharging. To my surprise, the introverted charging method was very effective for me.
I’m not saying becoming more in touch with your emotions automatically makes you an introvert. For me, these shifts happened to occur at the same time. As I opened up to getting to know myself and feeling comfortable being alone, I found a whole new way to re-energize myself which didn’t rely on others. I’d still consider myself a very social person, but now I prioritize myself more and have another way to recharge when needed.
Being alone used to make me feel lonely, guilty and fearful of missing out. Now, it makes me feel re-energized, rested, content and grounded — it allows me to be more present when I choose to be social again. Becoming more introverted means I have more time to look within myself and focus on how I’m feeling throughout the day.
When I was super extroverted, I would avoid inward reflection, using social plans as an escape from my thoughts. Now, I feel comfortable alone with my thoughts and deliberately create more alone time. I’m learning to give myself time and space to process and reset. I’m honoring my need for time alone and giving myself the space to decompress, without anyone else around.
I read a recent New York Times article titled “You Can Be a Different Person After the Pandemic,” which assured me this personality shift is completely normal. As the article states, “the person who emerges from quarantine doesn’t have to be the same old you. Scientists say that people can change their personalities well into adulthood.” I often forget that my current identity is just a rough draft. We’re allowed to try out different aspects of our personalities, see which ones fit and which can be left behind. Right now, I like how the introverted style fits me.
This shift also benefits those closest to me; I find I’m more present around others since I’m investing so much in my charging time. It’s better for everyone — I feel better in myself, and I’m a more real and present version of myself when I am with others. They get the best version of me, the fully charged battery.
I still love being social and spending time with genuine friends, but I have a more intense filter now when it comes to friends and plans. I’m more turned inwards — looking for validation, approval and love from myself, as opposed to others. I can conserve more of my energy and use it for the plans that will fill me up. Since I have more time to rest and recharge, it’s become easy for me to identify those who fill me up versus those who drain my energy.
I enjoy being around people who bring out my extroverted side. I still make time for socializing, but I’m aware of which plans or people will require more introverted rest time for me. I’ve noticed the people I’m gravitating towards since this personal shift are those who make me feel extroverted, whose presence fills me up with energy instead of draining my social battery.
This shift I’m experiencing is common post-COVID-19 restrictions; when I talk with friends, I hear similar hesitant reactions to socializing. We’re all struggling to re-establish social routines after so many long months inside, alone. If you’re feeling less social and more introverted as we all begin returning to “normal” life, you are not alone. Many of us have experienced personality changes since quarantine, and it’s a challenge to try adjusting these shifts back into a bustling social life.
A major takeaway from the Times article: we can practice some habits into reality. Our practicing of certain behaviors and personalities during COVID-19 helped them become embedded in our lives. As the article explains, “you can behave ‘as if’ you are the person you want to be. Pretty soon, you might find that it is you.” For me, having myself as the only person who could lift me out of a bad mood or process my emotions during quarantine was good practice. Practicing this introverted lifestyle for over a year meant that it became a part of who I am.
I don’t think this shift toward introversion is necessarily a bad thing. If you’re anything like me, you might have gained a deeper connection and understanding with yourself over the pandemic. You may have practiced certain personality traits into existence.
We had to adapt to different mindsets during COVID-19. Quarantine was like a marathon; it was a long, sustained period of isolation with no social plans nor end in sight. Now, coming out of quarantine, I find there’s constantly an option to socialize — many people are overjoyed and eager to be around each other again. These frequent social events feel like sprints to me — I’m adjusting to how much energy each plan requires and trying to manage each one at a time.
I’m trying to remind myself that just as we all adjusted to quarantine life, we will again adjust to life post-quarantine.
This return to normal life will bring chances to reconnect with others after so many months apart. The article acknowledges, “Through painful isolation, this past year has, perversely, revealed the value of friendships and social ties.” During quarantine, I missed being social, along with the rest of the world. Now, I’m struggling to readjust back into the pace of social life. There’s going to be a transition period coming out of quarantine, and we must be patient with ourselves as we try to reconcile our pre and post-COVID selves.
I’ve been wondering if me being more of an introvert was always something I was meant to realize all along, and it was simply escalated by quarantine. Or is this a circumstantial shift, one that won’t end up being permanent once I fully adjust back to the social scene again? Is being an introvert or extrovert always circumstantial? Perhaps we’re meant to change our position on that spectrum many times throughout our lives.
Regardless, I hope I keep some of my introverted tendencies. It’s been helpful for me to be so in tune with myself since quarantine and I don’t want to lose that. Quarantine is over, but this is a lesson I want to keep with me. I feel confident re-entering social life knowing I’m in touch with my introverted side — I always have the option of recharging alone.
Wherever you find yourself placed on the spectrum of introversion/extroversion, trust that your “charging port” will help you ease back into normal, post-COVID-19 social life.
Statement Columnist Natalie Bricker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.