I know that a lot of my extroverted friends struggle to understand my introverted nature.
Despite an attempt to explain this in my 'Dear Extroverts' post last year, still they are confused. And so, after a recent conversation with one very extroverted friend, we came up with an analogy. Being an introvert is like being a mobile phone.
Let me explain.
Think of an introvert's energy supply like an iPhone battery. Different levels of social interaction drain the battery different amounts. 4G results in an excessive drain on battery, 3G leads to quick loss of battery life , general use will drain the battery slowly, airplane mode won't take much battery life at all, and charging gives back energy previously lost. Pretty much every situation and every person fits into one of these five categories...
4G - large crowds of people we don't know. Think house parties, networking events, basically anything which involves small talk with strangers. These kinds of things can take us from 100% battery to 50% battery in 45 minutes or less. We know we have to do them, so we store up lots of energy to prepare, and then make sure we'll have time afterwards to re-cooperate. If we're forced to be in these situations for longer than a few hours, you'll probably find us hiding in the toilets for extended periods of time - this is known as 'emergency charging'.
3G - a large amount of people we do know. Think dinner parties, birthday parties, group trips. We can last a good couple of hours (2-6 hours max.) in this situation, but we'll still be exhausted by the end. We love spending time with all our friends, but the sheer amount of people, noise and sensory stimulation can be really quite exhausting. Towards the end of the night, you'll most likely find us sitting in a corner having a quiet chat with 1 or 2 of our closest friends. Mingling just isn't our thing.
General Use - general day-to-day life. Going to work/school/lectures, stopping to chat to people in the street, hanging out with small-ish groups of friends. All these things take up little bits of battery life. Sometimes, we can go a good few days just on 'general use'. If we're tired or stressed, we'll only last about 10-12 hours. This is because being stressed is a bit like when you're using your phone with a lot of apps running in the background; your battery drains slower than when on 3G, but faster than usual. This is everyday stuff, and we are used it, but it does drain our batteries more than you might expect.
Airplane Mode - time with 'safe' people. Every introvert has a few friends (and family) around whom they feel 'safe'. These people drain minimal energy very slowly by allowing us to be ourselves, and being comfortable with all our introverted, silence-loving tendencies. These 'safe' people are few and far between, but when we find them, we will be incredibly loyal to and honest with them. Despite what you might think, sometimes an introvert's 'safe' people are actually extroverts, but ones which understand and are willing to comply with the unspoken rules of introversion when needed. 'Airplane mode' (or 'safe') people can sometimes drift into 'general use' people, draining energy through no fault of their own, but they are, for the most part, 'safe'.
Charging - alone time, or time with pets. Occasionally, some very very special people can become 'charging' friends, but they tend to be rarer than gold dust. In general, however, alone time is the best way for us to renew our energy. Reading a book, playing or listening to music, baking, painting, taking a bath, hiding under our duvet... all these things will rejuvenate us and give us energy to face the next people-based activity. Cuddling pets also counts, because they don't require people-energy, and pets are great.
These are, by and large, the five main categories into which all daily activities fit. There is, as is to be expected, cross-over between each of the categories, and different people can be on different levels depending on the situation and the current energy levels of the introvert in question.
Another way in which introverts are like iPhone batteries is that, when they reach the last 20% of their energy levels, it can be drained by general use in about 20 minutes. It seems ridiculous, but that's how it is. When we're low on people-energy, it runs out even quicker. If we're not careful, we can genuinely reach the stage of 'power-down', and have to hide from everyone for a prolonged amount of time until the world feels safe again. If we really need to, we can break out of the 'phone battery' analogy, and go into minus-energy for an hour or two, but that is a dangerous game to play, and one which no introvert would recommend.
I am well aware that this analogy only goes so far, and is in danger of making sweeping generalisations about both introverts and extroverts. If that bothers you, I am sorry. This is somewhat of an 'introversion for dummies' post, explained through one particular analogy. I am also aware that extroversion is very easily explained using this analogy, but just the other way round. If an extrovert wanted to write that up for me, I'll happily post it on here.
If analogies aren't your thing then have a read of 'Dear Extroverts' or 'An Introvert's Guide to Freshers' Week', both of which I've written. Other excellent introvert-explanation posts include this Buzzfeed article, this 'higher perspective' article and this excellent graphic depiction of being an introvert.
Hi, I’m Nell. Alianore, if we’re being overly formal (that’s pronounced ‘Eleanor’, by the way). I’m a blogger, author, speaker, and occasional over-thinker. An introvert who likes to talk. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend.