Are there more introverts than extroverts on the social web?

by abisignorelli on June 22, 2010

@guykawasaki revealing he's an introvert

I’m convinced – there are more introverts actively using the social web than there are extroverts.

Yep, that’s a pretty bold statement and I know many people will put up a good fight on this one – probably the more extroverted amongst us. However I’m pretty convinced.

So, I’d like to carry out some research to put my theory to the test – and I’d love your help. I would really appreciate if you could complete the mini poll below and, if you can spare a moment, pop in your views as a comment or DM me on twitter. I’d like to get as much input as possible on this, so, I’d be really grateful if you could encourage other socially active (in web terms) people to vote. And, once I’ve gathered enough information, I’ll pull together a more comprehensive view of my findings.

Click here to access the poll

In the meantime, here’s some food for thought on this ever increasingly talked about subject…

Irony alert: social media introverts? – Mashable’s article from about a year ago focusing on many of the social web’s early adopters and big time advocates being introverts.

Twitter is great for introverts – some personal thoughts from an introvert on why twitter works so well for him. Being a fellow introvert, I couldn’t agree more with some of his statements.

Twitter is a haven for shy people and introverts! – another set of personal thoughts from an introvert who gets massive value out of Twitter

Introverts on the web – an interesting blog about a recent study revealing that introverted personalities were over-represented on social networking sites – compared to ‘real life’.

I look forward to hearing from you…

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

callumsaunders June 22, 2010 at 5:25 pm

Abi – I shall follow the results of this experiment with great interest. I always thought that being ‘an extrovert’ meant that one was happy mixing with people, the life and soul of the party etc., but after working on some in-depth character analysis with Courtenay HR, it transpires that this is not necessarily the case.

Many people consider ‘introverts’ to be loners or people that suffer from shyness; however these terms are not to be confused. As defined by Jung, introversion and extraversion are terms that explain different attitudes people use to direct their energy.

I have no qualms about speaking in public, meeting new people (Connecting HR for example!) or being a lively contributor within a social setting. However I regularly need time by myself in order to think things through and work with ideas, which according to Myers Brigs, makes me an introvert.

In terms of Social Media usage, I think that all predominant users are overwhelmingly extroverts – or indeed, are afforded the opportunity to become extroverts through SM’s ability to ‘dip in and out’ whenever one chooses. It should be interesting to see what results you can glean from people’s responses!

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patrickhadfield June 22, 2010 at 5:31 pm

Interesting. In MBTI tests I score borderline E/I – an E as close to an I as it was possible to be.

My belief is that the proportion of introverts using new media will be the same as in society as a whole. What is fascinating is that introverts can function in social media without people being aware they are introverted. I think social media allows people to be the people they see themselves rather than playing roles society expects them to be.

I also think that the internet enables everyone – including introverts! – to find likeminded people. Introverts may not do this so easily offline, and so they can find more people with whom to interact online: the internet reduces the search costs.

I’ll be interested to see what other people think!

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John Cunningham June 22, 2010 at 7:19 pm

Hi Abi,

Interesting topic. I am not sure if the whole introvert/extrovert thing is to black and white where there needs/should be more grey.

I am an INTJ (myers briggs), but most (everyone) who knows me thinks i am an extrovert, i think it’s situational, we react to our environment

That said, social media/on-line allows people to say things that they might not say in a crowd, so i can understand the introvert appeal

John

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Jon Ingham June 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

Hi Abi.

I support Callum’s point – it depends how we’re defining the scales. If it’s about energy, I don’t see why there should be a difference. We get energy from people whether we’re talking to them f2f or computer to computer.

In yesterday’s social learning zone webinar (thanks for your participation!), I mentioned an earlier debate about this over a couple of different blogs.

http://strategic-hcm.blogspot.com/2010/06/social-learning-zone-webinar.html

I think this was the post that triggered it, where Kris Dunn refers to his journey from a I to an E style, as an indirect consequence of the use of social media.

http://www.hrcapitalist.com/2009/10/the-myers-briggs-of-the-capitalist-the-istj-dont-live-here-no-more.html

This I do support. Social media opens up new channels to conversation, and is therefore likely to result in more practice, comfort and desire for more social (in the relationship sense) interaction.

(Depending of course, whether like me and Kris, you believe personality does / can change.)

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thehrd June 23, 2010 at 9:42 am

Abi,I think this is an interesting topic and I don’t in anyway mean to sound glib, but does it really matter?

As you know through our brief conversation on Twitter, I have never had an MBTI mainly because it then leads people to start putting people in boxes. “Ahhh you must be a INTJ etc.” or “Well that is typical behaviour for an ENTJ”. And that is typical HR bollocks. Myers Briggs merely shows a preference and it is clear that people operate between the two extremes depending on the particular circumstances etc.

The other reason I question this question (if that makes sense)is the use of “Social Media” what do you mean by that? Are you suggesting that Facebook only attract introverts? Or internet forums? Or MySpace? Or are you drawing an assumption from a specific, that specific being Twitter?

I hate to say it but I fear this is an obsession over a minutiae that doesn’t really add any value. Perhaps a more felpful question might be to look at how different people with different preferences use different types of social media. But I’m thinking you’ll need a lot of time and a whole host of researchers to get to the one.

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Jon June 23, 2010 at 11:37 am

Hey Abi – as usual I will offer an opinion based not on academia or formuliac analysis (I’m not a huge Myers Briggs fan coz everytime I do it I come out as something different, and like theHRD, object to being pigeon-holed) but on personal observation.

Most of my more extrovert mates think facebook, twitter et al is a load of old tosh. They don’t have time for it because they are too busy socialising. Most of the people I know who are very active social media players are not proper extroverts. They may be confident, capable communicators but are not the brash noisy types who like to be the centre of attention at parties.

I think social media does afford introverts the opportunity to appear more extroverted than they really are. Which is great, because it places everyone a level playing field and a share of voice which is not based on the enormity of your personality.

My gut feeling is that you are right; there are more introverts actively using the social web than extroverts.

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Abi June 24, 2010 at 9:01 am

Thanks for all your responses and votes so far. It’s looking relatively even on the poll although I’ve had quite a few people sending me a DM on Twitter revealing themselves as introverts. I’ll need a much bigger sample to be able to do any sort of analysis and conclusion. In the meantime, I thought I’d get back to you on your comments…

One thing I really need to point out – I’m not asking about (or at this stage interested in) Myers Briggs preferences. It’s just simply whether you’re an introvert or extrovert. So, I’ve focused more on that rather than your comments about MBTI types.

Callum – Your point about introverts being afforded the opportunity to become extroverts is key here – although I think it’s more about introverts feeling more comfortable in displaying extroverted behaviours rather than actually becoming one. Do you agree?

Patrick – Love your point about how the internet enables people more than perhaps offline situations would. I’ve seen loads of evidence of this – have you got any great examples?

John – snap! And, yes, I agree about it being situational. Give me a few glasses of wine and a karaoke and I’m there. Put me in a room full of people I don’t know – I’ll walk out. But, put me in a room full of people I’ve built a social relationship with – whether that’s off or online, I’d be extremely comfortable.

Jon I – On the energy point, I just think introverts may not be comfortable or able to get energy from certain face-to-face situations – whereas, online, they’re more comfortable raising their head above the parapet. Take your webinar (really enjoyable by the way) as an example – I wonder how many of those who took part would have played such an active role in a face-to face-equivalent?

thehrd – Does it really matter? Well, it does to me. As someone who advises and coaches people on how to communicate effectively, it’s vital I understand what channels work best for whom. As I said above, I’m asking about introverts and extroverts – not about what Myers Briggs type you are. I’m not sure I understand your point about “social media”. I actually asked about the “social web” – personally, I hate the term social media as that implies “tools”. I’m more interested in how people interact and behave online than which tools they use. (I realise that the articles I attached relate to “social media”. Their words not mine). And, finally, it’s not an obsession – but something I’d like to understand more fully to help with my communication coaching. I look forward to catching up with you face-to-face on this as I’m not sure I’ve got your points here.

Jon W – Again, it’s not about myers briggs, but I love your point about it placing everyone on a level playing field giving a more equal share of voice.

PS. should I draw any conclusions from the fact that 50% of the comments are from John/Jon – perhaps more if thehrd is in fact called John/Jon?

Obviously, that’s a joke 😉

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callumsaunders June 24, 2010 at 9:19 am

“Callum – Your point about introverts being afforded the opportunity to become extroverts is key here – although I think it’s more about introverts feeling more comfortable in displaying extroverted behaviours rather than actually becoming one. Do you agree?”

Abi – I agree wholeheartedly – perhaps my wording didn’t make this clear enough. I genuinely believe that yes, Social Media allows natural introverts to display extroverted behaviour rather than actually ‘becoming an extrovert’.

The classic example here is the age-old image of angst-ridden teenagers locked in their bedrooms. They are considered a ‘weirdo’ at school because they’re quiet, shy and don’t have many friends, but online, they may indeed have an expansive network of friends in chat rooms (how Web 1.0 of me – do ‘chat rooms’ still exists??!!) It’s a classic example of Social Media providing a SAFE channel for introverts to demonstrate extroverted behaviour.

But more than the channel providing a space to do this, I think that PRIVACY and CONTROL have a significant psychological bearing on the individual. By only allowing real friends into their ‘virtual playground’, this has the effect of ‘filtering out noise’. The noise in the real world of bullies, aggressive personalities etc. hinders our plucky teenager. Online, this noise is non-existent and allows our plucky teenager to grow in confidence and behave comfortably.

I’m aware that this may come across as some ill-construed psycho-babble, but the point I want to make is that Social Media allows individuals to CONTROL those they interact with – or in this case, more importantly, control who they are SEEN / HEARD by.

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John June 24, 2010 at 9:40 am

Abi,

John means “gift from god”, so all Johns’ (Jons) are god’ gift”, there’s no coincidence! As I said I’m an introvert by the way 🙂

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Ron Edmondson July 23, 2010 at 11:07 pm

Thanks for this mention. I missed it earlier.

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