Webtroverts Unite!

You’ve undoubtably come across the terms introvert and extrovert before. They’re used to to describe a couple of interchangeable phenomenons, which means the meaning can often get muddled, but the definition I’ve always taken most interest in – and the one that seems to be backed by research & evidence experience – goes something like this:

An extrovert fills up when mixing with other people, and is drained by being alone.
An introvert is emptied by this, and needs time alone to refill. 

That’s not to say either ‘type’ dislikes the ’emptying’ activity – it’s possible to be an introvert who is the life and soul of a party. It’s just how it affects your energy levels, and how you feel afterwards, that decides which you identify as.

And of course, it’s a spectrum, and we all move along it at different times – and yet, I always struggled to place myself anywhere specifically along that line.

In so many ways I am undoubtably an introvert – I find social situations tiring, I depend on my time alone as equally as oxygen. In an ideal world I’d balance my time with others at about 30/70, with the larger portion spent in quiet, happy solitude.

But then, that isn’t quite true. I don’t like to be totally alone – in fact, I find that pretty intolerable. The idea of spending a weekend in a cottage by myself somewhere, with no wifi or phone reception actually makes me start to hyperventilate. I’d have to think about things. And not google immediate answers to all my questions!!

It turns out that the ‘alone’ I crave, more often than not, is actually about being alone online.

I ‘fill up’ by hanging out online, and a big part of that is chatting on social media. That special kind of socialising to can do in bed, in leggings, with messy hair, and occasionally with a glass of wine to hand. The kind of socialising where I can consider the perfect phrasing, or stop to follow my thought to it’s end before I speak. The kind where I can connect with like-minded people, at any time of day, and walk away when my brain starts to swim.

In this way, Twitter and Instagram are much like a non-stop party that I’m choosing to attend. Daily! Me, who only goes to real life parties in the hopes of sausage rolls, then finds a cat to stroke in the hall!
So what the hell does that make me, and, if you’re identifying with all of this, then quite possibly you?

Well, in the absence of any fitting descriptor, I am inventing one: webtrovert.  I asked on Twitter and it turned out there are tons of us, all feeling the same. We’re a thing, and so it’s clearly time we had a word for us.

Signs you’re a webtrovert:

  • You’re generally quite outgoing and sociable on the internet, & generally a little less so in ‘real life’
  • Twitter & wine > pub with friends
  • You regularly turn to your internet friends for support, advice and/or validation
  • You’d rather tackle conversations with strangers via email than on the phone
  • You make friends more easily online than in real life
  • You refill and recharge by scrolling on your phone

Now bear in mind I’m no sociologist and I’ve essentially just made this up, but I still think I’m onto something. Because Twitter and Insta and email and texts – they’re all just as valid forms of human communication as talking face to face. They’re just newer, and therefore maybe our classification system doesn’t really have a space for them yet.

Add to that the erosion of community, everyone working increasingly long hours and the brilliance of being able to find people with your exact same interests online, and it seems perfectly sensible that so many of us find the technology makes life nicer.

In the ‘real world’, extroverts tend to rule the roost. They speak first, assert themselves more easily, don’t hang back from sharing their ideas or thoughts, while the introverts are quietly wondering whether they’ll look stupid putting their hand up. Often as an introvert in social or professional groups, I’ve felt left out, left behind or under-represented. Ideals and standards are set by the vocal majority, and they tend to comprise of more of those extroverted folks.

Online, it’s a more level playing field; a virtual world where more of us can flourish, and it’s fascinating to watch it unfold. In fact, I think it’s really the core of my business – women like me, who’ve always found it hard to be seen, finding a voice for themselves on the internet. 

Do you relate to the idea of a webtrovert? Any other signs or suggestions you’d add to this? 

  • Paula Solar

    Dear Sara, this is no joke, I think you invented a perfectly valid new term for an actually existing type of people, a group in which I can be included. We’ve talked about this on twitter (good memory, you know me). I am the kind of person who finds social meetings stressful and a source of anxiety. But at the same time I’m terrified of finding myself totally alone. As you said, social networks, or rather, finding people you actually like and have fin with on social networks gives us the chance of avoiding both the anxiety and the fear. Because we’re alone but we’re not alone, we’re with a lot of people and at the same time we’re not. It’s our personal middle ground so to speak. I’m no second best, I’m not the last to be chosen for a match, I can sit with people (mean girls reference, yes), I can even be funny or stupid and nothing happens! I mean, I can be myself, the real me that I can’t be when I’m with people in the flesh!

    This is who I am

  • Kate wainwright

    Wow Sara, I feel like you just described me! I always thought it was strange – finding socialising in ordinary exhausting yet loving connecting with like minded people who I’ve never met in person and at the same time actively seeking alone time. YAY to there being more Webtroverts!

    Webtroverts unite! 😉

  • Yas! I love this term. I think you’re totally right, I find it hard to place myself in the extrovert or introvert camp, but definitely find it easier to talk to people online. I think in someways it can be easier because the pressure is off, I know sometimes at big social events a big group of people can seem quite intimidating, but online it can feel much easier to approach people and have a chat.

  • This describes me to a tee! I absolutely love being social but I need to have my alone / usually on the Internet time to balance it out. In particular, if I’ve felt overstretched by face-to-face interactions at times (weeks with lots of meetings and events) to the point where my anxiety just gets out of control!

    But on the internet – never. I almost don’t even understand why you’d call someone when you can email instead 😉 x

  • I’m ready to cry after reading those last words… “women like me, who’ve always found it hard to be seen, finding a voice for themselves on the internet”. As Polly said, you totally nailed it!x

    • It’s us, right? Thank you. This felt badly written so I’m so glad it still resonated x

  • Sophie Lippiatt

    Ohhh my goodness, yes! You just put something I’ve felt for a while perfectly into words. I always thought it was because I’m “better at writing than at speaking”. <3

  • Pandu Rizal

    It’s really relaxing when I talk to people ‘online’ and add some friends via online. 🙂
    Because on the real world, I’m alone. :’)

  • kelli

    OMG! That’s me. To a perfect T. I discovered IG last fall and spend almost all of my free time there chatting with strangers. I find that I am eloquent, and even funny!?! In “real” life, I am a wall flower, have a very hard time with face to face conversation. If I need to contact someone, if I need to actually call them, and they might answer, I get physically freaked out. I sweat, I get kind of sick in my stomach, I tremble. I avoid that at all costs, texting or emailing or calling only when I am sure I can just leave a message. So, in saying this, I have realized that the new forms of communication and social interaction have opened me up, but, I can also see that some might say it’s enabling me to avoid getting over that fear. Do I need to get over it? If I am able to communicate better in this new way? I would love to hear your thoughts.

  • That term will take off. It’s so real!

    I swear you know my mind. You hit the nail on the head every time. Putting into words what I simply cannot.

    I’ve turned down many iphone photography meet ups/opportunities because I don’t want to shatter any illusions people may have of me. When someone described me as an ‘Instagram Legend’ (which I absolutely am not – I’m just a mum who loves Instagram and loves to take photos with her iPhone) it made me feel like a total fraud.

    I think my friends and family would see me as generally outgoing off line too, but it takes a fair bit of will and energy to be that way.

    My name is Elaine and I am a Webtrovert.

  • Scissorsand Thread

    I find this a really interesting post and I think your description of webtovert is spot on. My view is there are all sort of things that move us along a spectrum of being and introvert or extrovert on a daily basis (anxiety, alcohol, a good hair day!). So given the place that online and social media has today understandable that it would have a role to play in creating new “troverts” of sorts. I studied sociology for 3 years and it’s still my first love – I would desperately love to still study it now in the connext of our online world.

  • Kelly Clapperton

    This is a brilliant read Sara. I am all of this. I enjoy meeting people but also I love alone time. I am also active on social media at times when I can’t be bothered to chat to people face to face. Loved reading this…I was happily nodding away throughout xx

  • Jo

    I really hope you’re right, Sara because I totally relate! However I’m a little concerned that I’m just hooked on the dopamine hit and that’s what makes me feel good, not raised energy levels. But I’m no scientist so maybe the introverts’ alone time and the extroverts’ socialising are actually about dopamine too? This inquiring, introvert mind needs to know!

  • ah, no, I am definitely an introvert -I find social media and online networking exhausting and quite honestly really stressful. I do do it though!

  • Great minds think alike, I wrote a similar thing last week! However, I don’t identify as a webtrovert, I find online interaction just as exhausting as in person – it doesn’t come with the same angst, but its constant ‘there-ness’ is very draining. That’s why I try to do my engagement ‘on charge’ – in the bath, watching TV, anywhere where I’m otherwise alone and relaxed and able to let me energy levels plateau. Also by the way, a nice extrovert/introvert definition I heard is that extroverts are powered by solar panels, introverts by an internal battery – sometimes out on a walk with the dog I can almost feel my battery winding up 🙂

    • Kate, I love this description! I can think of a few people who are powered by solar panels, and others who are powered by internal battery. I think I’m mostly the latter. I already feel tired at the very thought of this weekend as I’ve signed myself up for two days of socialising… so I’m strategically planning bubble baths and long walks to book-end Saturday and Sunday.

      Flora x

  • Jasmina

    Make sense now 🙌 I like it.