Susan Cain offers an explanation for why I am so comfortable with social media.
“Studies have shown that, indeed, introverts are more likely than extroverts to express intimate facts about themselves online that their family and friends would be surprised to read, to say that they can ‘express the real me’ online, and to spend more time in certain kinds of online discussions.”
Cain’s book, “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” (Random House, 2012), validates the worth of people like me -- the one third of people who are introverts. Her book is a welcome antidote to a society that values outgoing personalities.
Like the people profiled in Cain’s book: Guy Kawasaki and Pete Cashmore, I prefer online communication to that taking place face-to-face.
“Wouldn’t it be a great irony,” Cashmore asks, as quoted in Cain’s book, “if the leading proponents of the ‘it’s about people’ mantra weren’t so enamored with meeting large groups of people in real life? Perhaps social media affords us the control we lack in real life socializing: the screen as a barrier between us and the world.”
True enough, I like to spend time in those “certain kinds of online discussions” that Cain is talking about.
(Emphasis upon “certain kinds.” Inane small talk is still inane small talk, whether in-person, on the phone or instant messaging.)
When a group of people self-curate Twitter posts by using an agreed-upon tag, it’s far easier to follow their dialogue than when I try to talk in public. Even when people engage in cross-conversations in the midst of the larger set of posts, I can use Storify.com to organize their postings in a way that makes sense.
My first exposure to Cain was through following a Twitter thread: posts left by people who were attending the American Library Association’s Midwinter gathering, #alamw12.
While monitoring people’s updates, I encountered this one by Sara Kelley-Mudie, @skm48: “We are losing out on the skills & talents of introverts by comepelling them to pretend to be extroverted @susancain #alamw12 #quietrevolution.”
I was intrigued by the statement, having felt out of place in a culture that seems to place so much emphasis upon large-group social activities and inane social chattering.
I followed Cain’s presentation during Midwinter Gathering through the medium of Kelley-Mudie’s tweets. I’ve curated those Tweets, and my reactions to them, at http://storify.com/CynthiaParkhill/susan-cain-promotes-value-of-introverts.
Cain tells the attendees at Midwinter Gathering (as related via Kelley-Mudie’s Tweet), “‘We need a world where it is culturally permissible to go off and be quiet.’ At work and at school. @susancain #alamw12 #quietrevolution.”
In this area, I feel I have an advantage with my Asperger’s syndrome diagnosis: it helps me to assert cultural permissiveness to be by myself.
After viewing Kelley-Mudie’s Tweets of Cain’s presentation, I placed a hold upon her book through my local library and was reading it this week when I discovered the quote that I mentioned at the beginning of this commentary.
For so many reasons, I find online communication preferable to face-to-face:
- Multiple conversations taking place around me make it difficult to concentrate when I am trying to track only one.
- Direct eye contact that is trained upon me makes me awkward and uncomfortable.
- The uncertainty of encountering someone that I would rather not meet isn’t an issue online because my social media accounts can be set to block those individuals.
- There’s a name of a person — or at least of an account — directly tied to a person’s Tweets. I don’t have to worry about not recognizing a person’s name or face.
Live-Tweets of a presentation by Cain during Technology, Entertainment, Design can be viewed at http://storify.com/CynthiaParkhill/susan-cain-presentation-for-ted.
Published April 10, 2012 in the Lake County Record-Bee