How an Introvert Turns Off and On

On this Sunday morning, please tell me if this general scenario sounds familiar:

Despite being wrapped in a human suit with a brain that has thousands of years of evolution priming it to be a social being, there are days when you’re not feeling like being social. For whatever reason, on that particular day, you want to be away from people and away from socializing. However, because of whatever is going on, you have to be around other people for a period of time. So, when the moment comes to be around people, you are able to “turn it on” — the switch to become social rather than a hermit crab — and be your social self for the duration of the engagement. Then, literally immediately after you’re away from said people again, you turn it “back off” — now, you’re back to being a hermit, as if the prior engagement never happened.

I’m sure many of us can relate to this, right? I would imagine any introverts reading this clearly do. Maybe at times, those who pendulum between introvert and extrovert can relate, and heck, who knows, maybe the full-on extroverts have those moments as well. And I’m sure the major depressives and social anxious types, like me, but who are also introvert, can certainly relate to this general scenario.

Now, let’s get specific.

On Friday, I was asked to be a judge for a digital photo submission contest. I was humbled to be asked and happy to participate. I never know what to expect from doing something for the first time. How intensive it’s going to be and what exactly is expected of me. Afterward, I knew I was also planning on going into the office to retrieve an old newspaper to then take to the Post Office for mailing.

But on the ride up to the area, I was in that full-blown hermit mode of not wanting to engage with people. Some days, that just hits me, you know? If I was trying to get outside of my head and examine what’s going on there, I would surmise that Thursdays and Fridays tend to be a dip part of the week for me. That is, Monday and Tuesday are so intense and pressure-filled, that they weigh down the rest of the week, so when I come off of those pressure days, it’s sort of like a come-down? I’m not sure. But I’ve noticed that if I do still have my low moments and depressive moments, they typically arrive on Thursdays and Fridays, maybe even Wednesdays.

Friday, I wanted to read and maybe watch a movie. I didn’t want to socialize. I didn’t want to “be on,” even if it was going to be brief.

As it turned out, it really was brief. What’s funny (but not funny) about the pandemic era is the mask because it adds a layer of … razzle dazzle … pizzazz to the “switching on”? I don’t know, pick your word choice here, but it’s like, once I put on my mask and step out of the car, I know it’s showtime.

And when I “turn it on” to socialize, it’s not like a half-measure. I’m on. Let’s go. I’m not going in there letting the other person(s) do all the talking, I’m engaged and volunteering my own stories and lines. I’m not trying to short shrift the situation. Once I’m on, I enjoy being “on.”

The digital judging took maybe five minutes? Of looking at pictures? I mean, I go with my gut instinct to be honest, or first impression. Do I like the photo or not? Did it jump out to me? Okay, that one. Then I move on. I don’t know if other people would take more time with it or not.

Afterward, I went to the office and socialized some more. Then, as soon as I was in the car, I was “off” again, like a damn robot whose power switch was flicked off in the back. I was back to being hermity and “down” because of the lowness of that Thursday-Friday come-down I described.

Again, I don’t think this is an unusual experience, but I think the reason it spoke to me more than usual and made me want to write about it is because of how quick the switch on/switch off was due to the short social interactions and how weird it felt to go from one to the other so quickly. Like, it was that easy to transition from “on” and right back off again.

It’s a weird sort of power, perhaps better thought of as a “coping” superpower. As someone else pointed out to me, maybe introverts are more adaptable in that sense? Because we can exist comfortably in a space without people and we can turn it on to exist comfortably (inasmuch as it’s comfortable, depending on the context) in a space with people, but can extroverts exist comfortably in a space without people? I’m not sure, I’m not an extrovert. What say you, extroverts?

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