“What did you say?”

“Nothing, sorry I — uh, was just talking to myself.”

When I’m in a crowd, I often tell people this after quietly mumbling something they may not hear, when in reality I’ve made a joke or said something that’s been on my mind. Being soft-spoken can make me doubt what I say.

I am an introvert.

I would much rather spend a day at the bookstore with my friends or spend time with my family than go to a party surrounded by new people.

I’m terrible at small talk. Often, I leave conversations realizing I forgot to ask how the other person was doing.

I can spend hours in my room alone just contemplating about the universe, and that’s when some of my best ideas are born. Sometimes they even creep up on me at night when everyone else is sleeping, amidst the silence of my house.

Recognizing that introversion is a personality trait that can manifest itself in various ways and is different from being shy or having social anxieties is important when interacting with people on diverse sides of the spectrum.

People often think that introverts dislike talking to people and always need to be by themselves, but the reality is much more complex.

Extroverts feel most energized through interactions with other people. Introverts, on the other hand, can get exhausted from too much social interaction and use time alone to rejuvenate. Ambiverts are somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between introverts and extroverts. These descriptions, however, don’t necessarily manifest themselves in ways that are exactly the same. Someone who’s introverted may seem like an extrovert because they’re outgoing, but really, they may find these interactions tiring.

The term introvert can come with a lot of baggage and misconceptions, as it is often misconstrued as being unsociable or boring. Introverts may be told to “break out of their shell” and to act like extroverts — though it may go against their nature — simply because extroversion is seen as the norm.

When I was younger, people would often dismiss me because I am quiet, but being introverted empowers me to do spoken word poetry and speak out against human rights violations. Often, I find inspiration from seeing people with their stories left unheard because I can understand the feeling. I may find writing easier than speaking, but that can help make my spoken word better because the process starts on paper. I can perform in front of thousands of people without stuttering because when I perform, I focus on the importance of the words on paper and why I think they need to be heard.

In the age of technology, introverts are given more chances to express themselves. People can use platforms, such as vlogging, to get their opinions across to viewers or use social media to connect with people who have similar interests. They can be exciting and personable and connect to a large group of people without becoming tired from the overstimulation of large social gatherings or dealing with small talk.

Now, introverts can be more visible and are able to create online communities. Some of the most popular YouTubers are introverted, such as Hank and John Green. They can create bridges between themselves and others without having to go through small talk. They can talk about things they are passionate about and acquire a fanbase of individuals who are passionate about the same things. Similarly, people can utilize forms of social media, like Twitter or Tumblr, to express their ideas to a large group of people, which traditionally would’ve been more difficult.

It is possible, that without these platforms, people would overlook influential introverts, as it often still happens in the workplace, classrooms and other social situations.

So maybe I will never be good at small talk or be the life of the party, but that’s okay, because if you listen really closely, I’m hilarious.

Rabab Jafri can be reached at rfjafri@umich.edu.

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