Six months after the UK went into lockdown, we are spending more time at home and going out to socialise less. Some people will undoubtedly prefer staying at home to their pre-pandemic arrangements. If you energise more by yourself, or enjoy more lowkey events, or work more quietly and independently than others then you might not have had such a bad time.
Yet the idea that the last few months have been an introvert’s paradise is a flawed one. On the face of it, lockdown rewards these traits, but the reality is far more complex. Put simply, extroverts need not be jealous – the introverts are having it just as bad.
The first problem introverts faced was the lockdown itself. Yes, extroverts might be quick to point out how the pubs were shut, the sports games cancelled, and the offices moved into cyberspace but people who hate being the centre of attention often find great happiness in close relationships and recharging themselves at their own rate. They were deprived too.
We need to think big and reconsider how our society views and values time, politics, economics and more
Hugs with a friend or partner were often impossible. If you had to work at home, where you normally go to get away from work, the two colliding might be discomforting. Trying to act calmly became harder, as we all were bombarded with new regulations, new challenges and a new normal.
Schools and offices that were able to move online still expected action and interaction, so the suggestion that everything radically changed overnight to the delight of introverts is oversimplistic. Even if everyone else’s desk is now on the other side of a computer screen, that does not get rid of emails, meetings, or gossip.
An introvert who can work from home might be pleased that they can avoid awkward chats by the water cooler, but how that work is conducted still might put them at a disadvantage. If we want more inclusive, more productive, and fairer schools and places of work, then we need to think big and reconsider how our society views and values time, politics, economics and more. Allowing people to download files from a different chair really does not alter the world in the way some extroverts might think it does.
It’s hardly fair to say the extroverts have been ignored
Believing that the coronavirus response rewards introversion fails to consider how lockdown restrictions have begun to change. Plenty of employees who were happy to stay at home are now expected to return to work if bosses promise it is safe to do so. Some employers might allow staff to remain at home, but it certainly will not be all of them.
Let’s also not forget how the pubs reopened as early as July and how meals in restaurants were half price for a month. Regardless of whether you approved of these decisions or not, they undeniably tended to favour extroverts. For many, it will have been tough not being able to go to clubs or a party, but at least they could have a distanced pint in the pub or a reunion in a restaurant. Given how much coverage these complaints have got, it’s hardly fair to say the extroverts have been ignored.
The final problem with believing that we are all living in an introvert’s paradise is that it simplifies not only the world around us but us as human beings. Society does not exist in two separate bubbles. Extroverts are not all wild party animals with hundreds of friends, nor are introverts all a bunch of isolated hermits. The introvert/extrovert distinction might be useful at times, but it is hardly true to say we fall fully into one camp or the other.
Very few of us have got through the last few months without being able to do something we enjoy
It’s entirely possible you can miss the pub whilst being sad your small hobby club is shut, or be happy to stay at home while still feeling occasionally bored and restricted. It would be an exaggeration to say that this virus has affected us all equally. Just look at the statistics regarding age, race, and ethnicity if you want proof. It has all affected us to some degree, and very few of us have got through the last few months without being able to do something we enjoy.
Is lockdown an introvert’s paradise? Well, there might be the occasional benefit, but on the whole – no. A world where people can work, socialise, and relax as they want would be fantastic, but things rarely happen overnight. Regardless of whether you are more introverted or extroverted, this pandemic has been awful.