Being an introvert is like being a mobile phone.
Let me explain.
Think of an introvert's energy supply like a mobile 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.
A year of lockdowns has made introverts of all of us, in one way or another. And if you're anything like me, you'll have discovered that your phone battery has changed significantly over the last year, and things that used to take up minimal energy (like hanging out with 5 other people in person) now drains your battery faster than you thought possible.
But, for the sake of the analogy, let's pretend we're back to 'normality' and such things as 'networking events' and 'dinner parties' exist.
So, battery life of an introvert. Here we go...
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 under an hour. 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: 15+ people we do know. Think dinner parties, birthday parties, group trips. We can last a good few of hours 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, or petting the resident dog. 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 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.
Airplane Mode: time with 'safe' people. Every introvert has a few individuals 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. 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' 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.
Another way in which introverts are like phone batteries is that, when they reach the last 10% 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 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 Alianore. I used to be known as 'Nell Goddard', but then I got married and changed my name. I’m an author, blogger, and speaker. A theologian, on a good day. A Christian, a storyteller, and a friend. I tweet as @alianoree and you can find more of my writings in my first book, 'Musings of a Clergy Child'.