I’ve always known I was an introvert. A shy and quiet kid, I usually preferred my own company and was my happiest sitting alone in my room, reading or writing. It wasn’t ever a dislike for other people; I simply knew that, most of the time, I could have more fun by myself than with anyone else. As I grew up and became more confident within myself, I started to appreciate being around others more; however, socialising always seemed to tire me out in a way it never did with others. In 2020 terms, my social battery would drain far quicker than a lot of my friends’ would.
Since the start of the pandemic, the idea of a “social battery” has seemed ever-present in the general vernacular. “Social battery”, according to Urban Dictionary, is “a metaphor for a persons capacity to intermingle with groups of people in one setting.” Basically, this means that no-one has an inexhaustible supply of energy to spend on social interaction – we all, at some point, need a minute or two to ourselves to recharge. At the bones of it, the distinction between introversion and extroversion really just comes down to social battery – an introvert, by definition, is someone who gets energy from their own company, while an extrovert feels more energised after spending time with others.
As the Scottish lockdown dragged on throughout April and May, I became aware of more and more of my “extroverted” friends no longer being able to make the effort to socialise or make friends amongst the new terrain of restrictions. Maybe it was the general stress of the pandemic that drained everyone’s social batteries, or the added barrier of limited interactions between households, but suddenly the term was everywhere. And, for perhaps the first time in my introverted life, it was finally seen as “acceptable” to have a social battery with the capacity of Poundland knock-off instead of a Duracell. Now, with the pandemic still very much weighing on all of our minds’ even with (slightly) more relaxed restrictions, it’s become normalised to simply “not have a reason” when you decline to socialise. Gone is the stress of coming up with a new lie (my friends growing up probably thought I had the strictest parents ever with the amount of times I used them as an excuse to get out of socialising) each time you’re asked to do something. Within the burning hellfire that is 2020, there is no more guilt in needing a little time to yourself, because everyone is on the same boat.
Before this year, I always felt vaguely uncomfortable in admitting the fact that, in order to be a functioning human being, I needed a little time by myself each day. In my early teen years, when I would receive invites to three-day sleepovers or spending the October Week in a caravan in the middle of nowhere with a friend and their family, I was exhausted at the mere thought. But, being surrounded by extroverts, I felt bad for it – after all, shouldn’t I be excited about being able to spend so much time with the people that I loved? Until I started learning about social batteries and introversion, I questioned my empathy, my sanity. When I finally came to terms with the fact that I just needed a little more time to myself than my friends might have, it was like a big weight being lifted from my shoulders. It only took a pandemic and global lockdowns for everyone else to finally understand it, too.
2020 has indubitably been hard on us all, but if I may find one silver lining, it’s the new mutual understanding that, sometimes, we just need a little alone time to get ourselves together. With the difficulty of socialising in a pandemic making everyone’s lives a little harder, I think it may be more important than ever to give everyone their space – not just physically, but mentally, too. And, if in doubt, go ask your nearest introvert; we’ve had years of experience.
[Bea Crawford, she /her, @bearuth9]
[Photo Credit: RF._.studio]