Introverts and Extroverts Versus the Pandemic

Everi Yeo looks into how personality can shape how students experience the COVID-19 pandemic.

Introverts and extroverts get their energy differently. Photo by Everi Yeo.

 

 

BY
Everi Yeo
Editorial Admin Manager
Hype Issue #54

Published on
November 25, 2021

According to Verywell Mind, the human personality is made up of five key traits, with extroversion being one of them. Extroverts are energised by social interaction and meeting new people. On the other hand, introverts are easily overwhelmed from socialising and prefer spending time alone.

Based on 16Personalities’ database, Singaporeans are more likely to be introverts than extroverts. That said, segments of Singapore’s multicultural society with heavier individualistic Western influences will tend to value extroversion more than those with stronger collectivistic Eastern influences.

 

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Introverts and extroverts get their energy differently. Photo by Everi Yeo.

In the state of the COVID-19 pandemic, our everyday face-to-face interactions have turned into an activity we must avoid to prevent the virus from spreading. With various restrictions being put in place by the Singapore government such as the Circuit Breaker, the time we spend with others has significantly lessened.

This change was warmly welcomed by introverts at the start of the pandemic as it meant the partial or complete removal of the social activities they previously felt obliged to participate in, like hanging out with friends after lessons or chatting with classmates during commutes.

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Cutting down on socialising isn’t a problem for introverts. Photo taken from HuffPost.

Ironically, research by Ms Anahita Shokrkon, a Psychology PhD student in the University of Alberta (U of A), has revealed that such a situation can easily become detrimental to the mental health of introverts due to the toll it takes on their relationships, which can be a crucial source of emotional support.

When introverts meet their friends in person less often, it becomes more challenging for them to maintain their friendships because staying in touch doesn’t come naturally or easily to most of them, according to 16Personalities.

“I do not like to initiate contact with others,” shares Dylan Chew, 20, a recent polytechnic graduate who’s waiting to enlist in National Service (NS). “I believe it makes me seem clingy.”

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Dylan and his beloved puppy, Grogu. Photo courtesy of Dylan.

Dylan, an introvert, isn’t as close as he used to be with some of his friends due to a lack of communication from both sides since the arrival of the pandemic. For him, this has reflected in his negative self-image and loneliness.

As found by a study conducted by Ms Shokrkon and Dr Elena Nicoladis, a U of A psychology professor, it doesn’t help that introverts typically experience their emotions with greater intensity and struggle more with managing them. This includes facing more difficulty with opening up about their feelings to others.

introvert-personality-overthinking-emotions-mental-health

Introverts are prone to getting stuck in their heads. Photo taken from Medium.

According to Healthline, introverts also tend to ruminate on distressing feelings at length, adding to their unhappiness. Extroverts, on the other hand, generally don’t have any trouble with openly communicating their thoughts and emotions to others.

Their wider circle of friends usually also means that they have a larger support system to rely on. In addition, they’ve displayed the ability to work around whatever circumstances they’re presented with to get the connection they need with others.

“[When] I talk about my [troubles] on my private Instagram account, my friends will be there to help me,” explains extrovert Ellin Leong, 20, who’s currently pursuing a diploma in Pastry & Bakery at At-Sunrice GlobalChef Academy. “It helps to not bottle up my feelings but to express them so I will feel better and happier.”

Remote everything

The COVID-19 pandemic has radically transformed the way we work and attend school. The majority of us now regularly carry out these activities remotely from our homes. As it turns out, introverts may be benefitting from this new normal, so it’s not all doom and gloom for them.

introvert-home-based-regulate-surroundings-energy

Home, a safe cocoon for introverts, who tend to be hyperaware of their surroundings. Photo by Everi Yeo.

According to 16Personalities, external stimuli such as movement, noise and harsh lighting can be irksome for introverts, sapping their energy. When they can fulfil their role of employee or student from their homes, a place where they’re better able to regulate their environment, their energy reserves are protected.

Ms Elaine Chua, 22, a final-year Psychology Studies student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic, has preferred an arrangement like this since her primary school days.

“Now that most of [my] studying and working have shifted online, I feel so good,” says Ms Chua, who’s proudly introverted. “I can be so much more efficient.”

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Ms Chua is more than happy to study and work from home. Photo courtesy of Ms Chua.

On the flip side, individuals who score highly in extroversion might find it tricky to navigate such a home-based setup. Extroverts are powered by the very thing that drains introverts: buzz. When they’re at home, there’s likely less stimulation in their environment, negatively affecting their productivity and creativity.

Moving forward

How can we better support ourselves, as well as the introverts and extroverts around us? Ms Chua suggests that setting boundaries and respecting that of others is important.

“Make known to your friends your boundaries with regards to communicating online, like how often they should text you [and] when you do not want to receive texts,” she expresses.

Make known to your friends your boundaries with regards to communicating online, like how often they should text you [and] when you do not want to receive texts.

- Ms Elaine Chua, 22

Final-year Psychology Studies student in Ngee Ann Polytechnic

Joann Chia, 18, a second-year Social Work student in Nanyang Polytechnic, echoes this sentiment. “COVID-19 is very tough on all of us and it’ll be irresponsible of me to just rant about all my feelings to people [without] trying to manage them on my own [first], loading unnecessary emotional baggage on them,” opines the pre-pandemic extrovert turned introvert.

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The pandemic has deepened Joann’s appreciation of personal space. She has since learnt to be more independent in dealing with her emotions. Photo courtesy of Joann.

All four individuals interviewed for this article agreed on the need to keep in contact with friends and not take them for granted. Introvert or extrovert, everyone requires social interaction and its mental health benefits!

“It [is] so much more [meaningful] when someone initiates a conversation and has the desire to talk to you,” observes Joann. “You never know how much it will mean to [people].”

It [is] so much more [meaningful] when someone initiates a conversation and has the desire to talk to you. You never know how much it will mean to [people].

- Joann Chia, 18

Second-year Social Work student in Nanyang Polytechnic

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