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Lockdown: the world upside down

Stay home.

If the corona crisis would have taken place seven years ago or before it wouldn’t have changed my lifestyle. To me, it would merely have meant working from home full time rather than one day a week. And that is perfectly fine with me, better than working at the office. Those days, I was always at home, to the extent where my significant other wished I’d start a hobby or something. Now that is the very thing I ended up doing and it is one of the few reasons I am looking forward to the end of the lockdown.

First let me emphasize I realize I am in the luxury position of living with a lovely woman and four nice sons, in a pleasant house with a garden. Therefore I fully understand this lockdown must be quite an ordeal for singles, the elderly or those living in an appartment building with no balcony. Especially for them, I sincerely hope the corona measures can be lifted soon.
That said, I realize the lockdown must be a torment even for those who, like me, have a pleasant home situation but are more extroverted than I am. Though it is hard for me to understand as an introvert, to people who derive a large part of the quality of life from festivals, parties, social events, church services, sports matches or pop concerts, it must be awful to go without these things for a prolonged period of time. Especially in this case where it is uncertain when such events can take place again. It is no coincidence society is increasingly pressuring the government to offer at least some perspective in regard to lifting the corona measures.

As an introvert, I need mass gatherings like these like a hole in the head. And by mass gatherings I mean everything that exceeds about ten or fifteen people. In that respect, the lockdown is no ordeal to me. Fortunately, no one in my country is forced to attend a football match, a church service or a pop concert. On the other hand, certain employers require you to be present at the Friday afternoon drink, and open plan offices have become commonplace. There you are, at a loss for words, forced to participate in meaningless chit-chat, making every effort to produce some conversation. Only to find yourself embarrassed to the point of melting the ground under your feet to lava because what you finally managed to mutter didn’t make any sense after all. And there you are, in a cacophony of calling and talking colleagues, trying to focus on solving a tricky problem.
Fortunately, the above horror scenarios are rare now. Over the years I have learned to stand up for myself. And I learned the power of the word “no”. I will simply refuse to participate in so-called social events, and if I have to concentrate I will make sure I get to a quiet place.

Am I therefore a hermit, or even worse, a misanthropist who cannot stand people around him? Am I a person who doesn’t want or need social contacts? By no means. In fact, meaningful relationships mean a lot to me. People are precious to me. Just because someone is an introvert doesn’t mean he or she doesn’t want to see people. On the contrary. But, speaking for myself, not everybody at the same time please. Two is company, three is a crowd, as the saying goes. For me, the limit is slightly higher. For example, I can fully enjoy an evening meeting with another couple. And since I started my two hobbies in 2014 and 2015, astronomy and climbing, I really appreciate my observation and climbing buddies, and I enjoy meeting them. However, I did not get there easily.

This may be difficult to understand for most people. The majority of the people are extroverted or somewhere between introverted and extroverted. Relating to people and maintaining contacts is quite natural for most people. However, for a minority – although a large one – of introverts, it is hard work involving blood, sweat and tears. As it is, the social norm in our society is extroversion. This is clearly reflected in things like the social events, open plan offices and other inventions that may be a blessing for extroverts but a curse for us introverts.

In that respect I find the lockdown an interesting phenomenon, since in fact the norm has now temporarily been shifted to an introverted lifestyle. Staying at home, social distancing, working from home, no social events. All of those are no problem for an introvert like me. I understand very well, however, that many people miss being around other people and are eagerly looking forward to the relaxation of the corona measures.
Therefore I hope this situation may help these people to better understand the group of introverts in society who prefer avoiding large social events or situations. For example, an understanding from employers, so they provide a quiet workplace – at office or possibly at home – for their introverted employees, and make the Friday afternoon drink an optional, enjoyable time for people who need it. More generally, I hope it will lead to the understanding that not everyone needs large groups of people, while the need for contacts on a smaller scale is strongly present.

In short, I hope the “new normal” becomes a situation where both introvert and extrovert have a place, with mutual respect. Even when the corona virus is no longer around.


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