Discovering a natural aptitude for something is always a bonus. So why are my Spidey senses tingling at the tsunami of correspondents proclaiming how easy 2019-nCoV will be for us introverts, when I should be rejoicing? Especially as I may have said something similar in an earlier post? Let’s just say I’ve had a big rethink and hereby announce a 180° change of mind. I believe this plague is going to be an absolute futtocking nightmare for introverts, and here’s why.
Firstly, to establish relevant context, the rot began when Susan Cain, Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Kahneman, et al. made introverts trendy. That’s right disbelievers, trendy. Historically content to work our magic from the shadows, Cain & Co. had to go and write frigging books about us. Spilled the beans. Gave the game away. Cat out of the bag! Where’s Tyler bloody Durden when you need him? Now, like lesbians, everybody thinks we’re cool, and when you make something cool you invite false pretenders. These doppelgängers (who may or may not also be lesbians) now besiege the interwebz with arrant nonsense. The reality is that introversion is a slippery slope between Arcadian solitude and abyssal loneliness; thus, A REAL INTROVERT DOES NOT NEED TO BE MORE ALONE.
Quote me on that. I describe my personal formulation of introversion using the loneliness-cup. Time with others empties my cup, whereas time by myself refills the cup. But if I’m always alone then my cup overfloweth. Overflowething cup = unhealthy thoughts, habits, and (a bit scientificky) an absence of healthy attribution biases. Life becomes an echo chamber, a closed-feedback loop where the only opinions I hear are my own. As always, it was The Bard who said it best: “Your old kind father, whose frank heart gave all—O, that way madness lies; let me shun that; No more of that.“
No more of that. Incidental contact with strangers has always been enough. Example: I went on a foraging run to the supermarket yesterday. The self-service checkouts were thirty-deep, so I joined a regular checkout. Uninvited, the androgynous blob ahead of me gabbled: “Ooh! You’re lucky to get that pasta!” My stock reply (“Shut up fatty”) segued to, “You’ve done well getting all those frozen potato-wedges into one trolley!” Voila, cup emptied. I can now retreat to my lair and refill the cup over a couple of days. By then I’ll be back at work, and my cup will be dry as a nun’s nasty. I’ll be gagging for solitude, for some respite from the inchoate mass of humanity. Except they won’t be there! Get my point? Yes, us introverts are social distancing experts, but no, we don’t need trendy wannabe lesbians telling us to stand further apart. Not that there’s anything wrong with that (lesbianism). But it’s not 2013, either.
There’s nothing trendy about this virus, either. If everybody retreats indoors, not only will the infection rate among extroverts (jesus, all that pointless blithering in confined spaces) skyrocket, introverts will lose their reference points, and — oh my god — perforce begin socialising. That’s right, our nonexistent online personas will take on a… um, a non-life of their own… and suddenly we’ll be communicating with housebound extroverts the likes of whom we would not have urinated upon, had we chanced upon them mid-combustion. Making new virtual friends in difficult times is, I supposed, a handy survival skill, but in reality us intros have never been so isolated as to be that desperate. Small circles of relationships IRL always trumps (o how I hate that word now) large mobs of fake friends.
Segue to the future, post-millions of deaths, and I may regret speaking so casually about all of this. But a silly book written by a lonely monk a long time ago mentioned something about the meek inheriting the Earth. Meek is not synonymous with weak. Its etymological root rests in the Old Norse mjúkr which translates to ‘soft, gentle’ and almost all true introverts will remember Gurney Halleck’s immortal advice: “The slow knife penetrates the shield.” Get ready peeps, because the future, such as it is, may rest upon our ability to behave introvertibly. If my hundreds of ill-spent hours playing Fallout 4 have taught me nothing else, its that the rebuilding of this great nation our ours may fall to us.