Since the spring of 2020, the way we socialize has been turned on its head. Social distancing has drastically cut down our interactions with each other, and there has been great discussion about how the pandemic may be affecting our mental health. But there’s one group of people no one seems too concerned about—introverts.
What Is an Introvert?
Introversion is a personality type that describes people who are reserved, thoughtful, and inner-focused. Introverts tend to prefer calm and solitude, in contrast to their extrovert friends who seek out busy environments and thrive among groups of people.
As COVID-19 spread rapidly around the globe and cities everywhere began to shut down, memes soon circulated teasing that introverts were secretly enjoying quarantine. After all, this new world mandated canceling all plans and staying at home. What’s not to love for the average introverted homebody? Well, it turns out, quite a bit.
Why Aren’t Introverts Loving Quarantine?
A recent study suggests that introverts may, in fact, be especially affected by the pandemic, experiencing higher levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression compared to those who are less introverted. So, if you’re an introvert who’s not thriving right now, you’re not alone. Check out this list of reasons why you might be not be digging your newfound solitude.
1. Socializing just got complicated
While the initial virus outbreak seemed to put a halt to socializing altogether, this didn’t last long. With the renewed popularity of virtual platforms like Zoom and Google Meet, introverts quickly realized that socializing didn’t disappear—it simply evolved.
Office chit chat morphed into awkward video meetings and presentations conducted from home. Classroom comradery transformed into being broadcast onto the professor’s screen with a webcam locked on your every move. It’s a new world out there. And while virtual socializing is great for keeping us connected in a safe way, it’s not for everyone.
Remote communication can be especially hard for people who aren’t as comfortable socializing since many of the social cues we typically rely on are absent. And just like social events in the “real world”, these virtual meet-ups can leave introverts feeling exhausted and drained. Not to mention that it’s more difficult to bail on a friend’s Zoom event when everyone knows you’re chilling at home.
2. Adjusting to the “new normal” is a struggle
No matter where you are in the world and no matter your lifestyle, the pandemic undoubtedly shook up your game plan. For an introvert who tends to prefer consistency and routine, this kind of abrupt change and uncertainty can be especially taxing.
Everyday errands such as grocery shopping and commuting to work now take extra planning and precaution. An abundance of new safety measures may inadvertently cause more interaction with others than usual. Introverts face bigger crowds at the supermarket, with the addition of having to answer questions at the door and navigate an onslaught of social rules and customs that make up the “new normal.”
For many, even home life has changed. Those who live with roommates or family members may find that their homes are rarely empty these days, and a night in might not offer the escape it used to.
3. Introverts are highly self-aware
Being more inwardly focused, introverts spend a greater amount of time inside their heads. They’re likely to spend more time analyzing their thoughts and feelings, as well as observing and reflecting on the world around them.
This sensitivity and self-awareness can help introverts understand who they are, but it can also make them hyper-aware of those moments when things aren’t going so great. The COVID-19 crisis aroused a range of emotions in all of us, and an introvert may experience these emotions more intensely than other people do.
4. Introverts miss their friends, too
A common misconception is that introverts revel in their own company and would quite happily hang out alone forever. But introverts aren’t necessarily antisocial.
Introverts enjoy socializing just as must as others do—they just prefer to socialize in a different way. Introverts typically prefer smaller groups and deeper conversations, which means they tend to form extra tight bonds with the people around them. For example, this study found that high-quality social relationships are important for an introvert’s well-being.
Without the usual workplace banter or coffee dates with friends, introverts are likely to feel lonely, just like everyone else. While extroverts are likely to have a large social network of friends to reach out to, introverts may not, leaving them with fewer opportunities to connect with others now that their usual activities have been cut off.
So, What’s an Introvert to Do?
First and foremost, whether you think you are an introvert or an extrovert, know that this trait doesn’t define you. In fact, there’s a great deal of debate over what it actually means to be an introvert or an extrovert. It’s generally understood that the two traits exist along a continuum, with most people falling somewhere in between.
If quarantine is getting you down, try leaning on the activities that make you feel your best. As an introvert, this might mean making time to connect with your close friends or allowing yourself to recharge from virtual hangouts by saying “no.”
It’s clear that the pandemic has introduced a unique set of hardships and setbacks. If you’re having a hard time coping during this time for any reason, know that you’re not alone and consider reaching out to a professional for help.
Beth Ellwood is a freelance writer for hire who specializes in mental health writing. She has a BA in psychology and behavioral science and a wealth of experience covering the latest mental health research for websites such as PsyPost. She strives to create content that is both well-informed and easily accessible. You can catch her at bethellwood.com