Friday, January 7, 2011
There is a difference between being alone and feeling lonely. A BBC report pointed out that not everyone who is alone feels sad about it. A true loner likes being alone.
The assumption that people who are alone are not alone by choice is usually made by extroverts. Extroverts love being the center of attention; they thrive on being around people. But too much attention can frustrate an introvert. Introverts need time alone to recharge after being around people.
I am definitely an introvert. I enjoy visiting with my friends at conventions, but then I need time alone. When I found Jonathan Rauch’s article in The Atlantic “Caring for Your Introvert”, my primary reaction was relief. Someone else understood.
It takes time though, for young introverts to realize that it’s okay to be an introvert. Parents and friends will tell them that they want to be popular, that they need to be social. They’re told ‘Don’t be shy, talk to people’ (even when they actually enjoy listening and can’t think of anything to say). The message passed along is that there is something wrong with you if you don’t like being the center of attention.
It’s not always easy to remember the introvert when writing YA. Even introverts are indoctrinated to write a character as wanting to be popular, to be the center of attention, and to consider many friends as good things for their characters. But what about the character that wants to be alone at times, who has a few good friends, who likes to listen and observe? Who enjoys quiet walks along the beach or in the countryside? Why is being alone or being a loner and liking it not celebrated more often?
Jonathan Rauch’s 2006 followup article “Introverts of the World Unite” pointed out that various cultural times will better suit one type over the other. In the agricultural time period, loners were more appreciated. That is definitely apparent in westerns and fantasy stories where the main character often is required to work alone. Science fiction stories with the lone explorer will need an introvert personality in order to function well, but ships with large crews can have a mixture of introverts and extroverts. And those characters who save the day by striving on their own to conquer a computer code? Usually loners, unless that particular code needs a group to work together on it.
What personality type are you? Do you enjoy reading about extroverts or introverts?