March 16, 2007

When I take the Meyers-Briggs test, if I remember correctly, I usually score INFJ, as do many many teachers and professors.

People who know me are sure that's wrong.

Why? Because to people who know me, they think of me as an extrovert. They know I clown around, I'm silly, I'm me ... and I don't care who knows it.

But the fact of the matter is ... if you get me in a situation where I don't know anyone at all ... I'll become the standard wallflower. I'll find a nice darkish corner ... the back of the room ... and just stand there, silent. Watching and observing like a good li'l writer-person.

I've been thinking about that a lot this week where I've been mostly silent online. I've been working on a few projects, not the least of which was a book cover for a friend's poetry collection on lulu.com. (When it's up on Lulu, I'll publish the cover and the link to buy here comments/big_smile.gif) But I've also been thinking about what it is to put yourself "out there" for others. And the answer is that I suck at it.

I'm willing to risk improvement, but it's a really hard process for me. Talking to people whom I don't know is a very draining thing. The deal is ... an extrovert will get an energy charge out of talking to others. An introvert will get an energy drain out of it.

When I taught ... and my goodness, how I absolutely adored teaching ... I had to gear myself up for it and I had to wind down from it afterwards. There was a tremendous energy drain involved in preparing for class ... but it was well worth it to me.

But online? Online I can be a bit of the extrovert that I can't quite be in real life. And that's not completely uncommon, either. One of the main reasons that many teachers are using some form of MOO or online chat with students is because some students will "shine" online ... whilst others will shine during a face to face classtime discussion but despise the use of the online "discussion."

But what I wonder ... as we venture further into the age of computers and virtual connections ... is how do we define introvert and extrovert now? We have this tendency, myself included, to talk about the "real world" and the virtual world ... but I wonder if Gibson didn't have it right all along. Is a friendship conceived and carried out over the internet any less of a friendship than that of one face to face? I think about the people whom I have only known online ... some of them for 11-13 years now ... and we still "talk" regularly via the internet. I think of those folks whom I've loved and still consider friends ... even though one or both of us have moved away and we only talk once every great once in a while. I'm not talking about people that I've chatted with for a few months and dropped away. I'm talking about friendships over the internet ... and face to face ... which have spanned a year or more ... and several "deep" discussions. The kinds of discussions which involve a serious give-and-take and can't really be faked by actor in real life or online.

Are my friends in the "Banshees" any less friends than those I made in N.E.R.O.? Sure the Banshees only talked through emails and IM conversations. But the N.E.R.O. folks generally only talked in relation to the shared hobby we had first ... and secondly our personal lives.

What makes being social being social?

I'm not, by any means, advocating that all online relationships are the same as ... or even as "good" as "real life" relationships. But I am wondering if Gibson's description of what we would call real life isn't better described as the "meat" relationship.

Because I think I have several friendships online which are just as "real" as some of those I have in the physical world.

Then again ... maybe I'm simply a computer geek who doesn't know any better.

But I think of the people I've met from Wales ... from Australia ... from Israel ... from China ... from England ... from Belgium.

And I'm so incredibly grateful for the perspectives from other cultures ... for the reminder that "people like me" are not the only ones on the planet ... and for the reminder that other cultures are really not so very different ... that I think ... these online relationships are every bit as real as that of those who live in the same town as myself.

And I also have to wonder why a physical encounter with people I don't know leaves me so incredibly drained ....

.... whilst a virtual encounter with people I don't know leaves me charged and excited.

Is it the collision of new ideas? The fact that I am on the border of introvert and extrovert? (on the border, but still solidly on the introvert side). Or is it something else.

Dunno. But I'm grateful for the relationships face to face and through the ether, both.

Posted by Red Monkey at March 16, 2007 12:43 AM | Blog | Why Johnny Won't Learn and Mrs. Curnutt Is Tired of the System | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |


Red said:

Looks like our brains caught the same wave today. You said it much better than I.
Have a great weekend

March 16, 2007 12:52 PM


MsDemmie said:

I think to a certain extent we are more extrovert on safe ground - behind our computer screens the ground is quite safe - we have the little X in the corner - we have a *sharp exit*.

"And I also have to wonder why a physical encounter with people I don't know leaves me so incredibly drained ....

.... whilst a virtual encounter with people I don't know leaves me charged and excited."

People can physically drain you and suck you dry when thy are next to you - they can impose on your personal space - invade your personal space - sit too close - put an arm around you - touch you - all without invitation. You are required to often listen hard - an unfamiliar accent - a softly spoken voice - or someone who speaks too loud at you and makes you physically recoil.

There are people who can leech energy out of you just by their presence and their behaviour - they demand attention and input.

On-line those physical impositions on your private space are not there.

You can also think before you reply - you can take your time without being physically under pressure to respond.

March 16, 2007 6:47 PM
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