Updated: Apr 4, 2022
According to the American Psychological Association, introverts lean toward their internal private world rather than toward the outer world of people and things. They are the ones who enjoy spending time on their own or with very few people rather than being with a large crowd. Contrary to extroverts who experience a boost in mood after social interactions, introverts tend to get tired of it (Edward-Elmhurst Health, 2020; Cherry, 2021). Now that there’s a pandemic, classes are suspended, work is done at home, meetings are done virtually, and people are compelled to stay at home. Gyms, restaurants, bars, malls, and cinemas are either closed or can only accommodate a few people. Therefore, it’s easy to assume that introverts are having the time of their lives during the pandemic where there is social isolation.
Theories about the Extroversion-introversion traits have been around in psychological literature for over 100 years. Extroversion-introversion is an established personality dimension that is a part of the Five-Factor Model of personality traits. The higher pole of this dimension describes extroverted personality traits that include sociability, assertiveness, and cheerfulness while the lower pole includes introverted qualities of being quiet and reserved (Matthews, 2019). It is important to understand that this dimension is a spectrum and personality traits are more complex for introverts or extroverts to be purely one or the other. Personality traits play an important role in determining how well we will cope with difficult situations such as quarantine and self-isolation. However, there are many other factors that contribute to this such as several demographic factors, employment status, physical health, and mental health.
Are Introverts Enjoying Quarantine?
For some introverts, the answer may be yes, but the longer we live in quarantine, the more research studies find otherwise. The pandemic ensues a huge adjustment for everyone, and introverts are more associated with adjustment problems (Robinson et al., 2010; Davidson et al., 2015).
Even if introverts tend to enjoy spending their time on their own, they have their families living with them in their homes. For years, members of the family are used to spending most of their day at work or in school. Now, they’re staying at home and dealing with each other every day. For introverts who are not used to full-time interaction, staying at home with others places a burden on them as they can’t actually have time alone (Olheiser, 2020). Additionally, trying to balance personal life, work, and raising children are causing stress to parents. A study conducted during the pandemic also found that living with others was associated with experiencing more cognitive impairments and anxiety as compared to living alone. In the same study, results showed that introversion predicted more severe loneliness, anxiety, and depression (Wei, 2020).
Given that introverts tend to get tired from social gatherings, having the need to meet people online may actually be worse for them. Online meetings are found to be more exhausting than meeting face-to-face. In the absence of several non-verbal cues, online calls require more intense focus and sustained eye contact (Baumann & Sander, 2020). While silence is natural and oftentimes comfortable when people are together, silence during online meetings tends to be more awkward and makes people anxious. As a result, people have to exert more effort to engage with each other and appear more interested. It is also important to understand that introverts do not want zero socialization and they also need some social interaction (Tuovinen et al., 2020). For extroverts who tend to be more flexible and creative when it comes to socializing, this may be easier. However, introverts tend to be less flexible when it comes to thinking of ways to connect with people, causing them to be even more isolated.
Excessive isolation is an unhealthy behavior that may lead to loneliness. Loneliness can make people more vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and addiction (Mushtaq et al., 2014). The idea that introverts are coping better compared to extroverts can actually be very dangerous. Not only would this cause people to neglect those who they know are introverts, but this also adds pressure to the introverts themselves to feel okay during this pandemic. Like extroverts, introverts need other people too and to have a strong support system during this difficult time. It is also important for introverts to become self-aware if they are isolating to give themselves time to relax and reenergize or if they are doing it out of depression or anxiety. If they are doing it because of the latter, then it may be good for them to seek help from professionals to protect their mental health.
Baumann, S. & Sander, E. (2020). 5 Reasons Why Zoom Meetings Are So Exhausting. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/5-reasons-why-zoom-meetings-are-so-exhausting-137404#:~:text=So%20why%20are%20online%20meetings,sustained%20eye%20contact%20is%20exhausting.
Cherry, K. (2021). 5 Personality Traits of Extroverts. Retrieved from https://www.verywellmind.com/signs-you-are-an-extrovert-2795426
Davidson, B., Gillies, R. A., and Pelletier, A. L. (2015). Introversion and medical student education: challenges for both students and educators. Teach. Learn. Med. 27, 99–104. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2014.979183
Edward-Elmhurst Health. (2020). How introverts and extroverts are handling the pandemic. Retrieved from https://www.eehealth.org/blog/2020/06/introverts-extroverts-during-pandemic/
Matthews, G. (2019). Extraversion-Introversion. Reference Module in Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Psychology. doi:10.1016/b978-0-12-809324-5.21765-3
Mushtaq, R., Shoib, S., Shah, T., & Mushtaq, S. (2014). Relationship between loneliness, psychiatric disorders, and physical health? A review on the psychological aspects of loneliness. Journal of clinical and diagnostic research: JCDR, 8(9), WE01–WE4. https://doi.org/10.7860/JCDR/2014/10077.4828
Robinson, O. C., Demetre, J. D., and Corney, R. (2010). Personality and retirement: exploring the links between the big five personality traits, reasons for retirement, and the experience of being retired. Pers. Indiv. Differ. 48, 792–797. doi: 10.1016/j.paid.2010.01.014
Spinelli, M., Lionetti, F., Pastore, M., & Fasolo, M. (2020). Parents’ Stress and Children’s Psychological Problems in Families Facing the COVID-19 Outbreak in Italy. Frontiers in Psychology, 11. https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.01713