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The Emergence of Ambiverts: The Extroversion of Introverts During COVID-19

Leanna M.W. Lui, HBSc

Disclosures

July 13, 2021

Introversion and extroversion aren’t new concepts — but they’ve certainly been re-debuted during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

I used to think I was somewhat of an introvert. I enjoyed hanging out with my friends and meeting new people, but I also valued time to myself to recharge, rest, and recover. It wasn’t until COVID-19 and the prolonged period of lockdown that I realized I was an ambivert. 

Introverts are often associated with these terms: reserved, quiet, shy, withdrawn, and timid. Commonly characterized as those who would rather spend time alone rather than go out or seek attention. Extroverts, on the other hand, are those who are thought of as sociable, outgoing, lively, energetic, and unreserved. They are typically thought of as people who thrive on the energy of others — those who are “socially present.” 

With these portraits of introverts and extroverts in mind, one might think that introverts actually benefited from the lockdown. But is this true? Let’s explore the hypothesis. 

In theory, it would make sense that introverts thrived during the pandemic. With greater time alone, more time spent at home and limited opportunities for social engagement, one might think that this social break was a match made in heaven. The only interactions with the world are distanced with limited social stimulus, which seems perfect for an introvert. I would have agreed with this thought as well. The enforced distance in gatherings, structured online chats, and video conversations could manifest as less of a personal battery drain. 

However, theories are not always accurate pictures of reality. 

To simply state that introverts do not enjoy social interaction is incorrect. Just because a person would rather stay to themselves does not always mean they do not enjoy company — especially in a world that has conditioned its people to embrace social contact. A study that investigated the relationship between introversion and the psychological impact of COVID-19 found that higher introversion (i.e., lower extroversion) was more likely to be associated with outcomes of loneliness, depression, and/or anxiety. In short, people who were more introverted were more likely to be affected by the lockdown. 

This finding aligns with prior literature suggesting that introversion is associated with adjustment concerns, and decreased likelihood of developing help-seeking habits. These behaviors, in turn, are linked to increased introspective behaviors that may perpetuate anxiety and rumination

We shouldn’t characterize introversion and extroversion as a dichotomous paradigm. Instead, it should be conceptualized as a spectrum where introversion and extroversion fall on the extreme ends of behavior. Many of us are likely to switch between the two extremes, and even, more realistically, to fall somewhere in the middle — a mix of introversion and extroversion (i.e., ambiverts). 

The question then becomes — will we see an emergence of ambiverts following the COVID-19 pandemic? 

While there’s no definitive answer, it may be safe to say that self-proclaimed introverts would resonate more with the definition of ambiverts. A year of “Zoom parties,” awkward video calls, and empty messenger chats has created a craving for genuine social interaction. Passive social media interaction has certainly not filled the void for in-person connections. The imbalance of time alone and time with others has been exacerbated these past 15 months. The previous mantra of “I’d rather stay in tonight” is likely to fade out as restrictions lift, cases go down, and vaccinations increase. 

While I would be cautious to say that we’d see a complete 180 flip from introverts to extroverts, there’s a good chance for greater adventure. It’s become quite clear on social media that people crave social intimacy. Even Maslow agrees — we need love and belonging to survive. 

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About Leanna Lui
Leanna M.W. Lui, HBSc, completed an HBSc global health specialist degree at the University of Toronto, where she is now an MSc candidate. Her interests include mood disorders, health economics, public health, and applications of artificial intelligence. In her spare time, she is a fencer with the University of Toronto Varsity Fencing team and the Canadian Fencing Federation.

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