Introvers vs Extroverts

The E-I Tension

Introverts (E’s) and extroverts (I’s) have a curiously symbiotic, love-hate relationship as a result. Both E-E and I-I interactions tend to be harmonious, since there is consensus on what to do with any energy generated. Positive E-E interactions strengthen bonds over time. Positive I-I interactions generate energy that is used up before the next interaction, with no collective storage.

It is E-I interactions that create interesting tensions. Extroverts accuse introverts of selfishness: from their point of view, the introverts are taking out loans against jointly-held wealth, to invest unilaterally in risky ventures. Introverts in turn accuse extroverts of being overly possessive and stifling, since they cannot draw on the energy of the relationship without the other party being present. The confusion is simple if you note that the introvert is thinking in terms of two individually held bank accounts, while the extrovert is thinking in terms of a single jointly held one.

The tension between introverts and extroverts is most visible in the loose, non-clinical mental health diagnoses they make up for each other as insults. Introverts are likely to accuse extroverts of codependency. Extroverts are likely to accuse introverts of Asperger’s syndrome. I only recently learned about the slang term extroverts have for introverts: aspie. Introverts don’t have an equivalent short slang term for codependency that I know of (probably because by definition they don’t gossip enough to require such shorthand). So let’s simply make one up for the purpose of symmetry: codie.

I’ve met people suffering from clinical versions of both co-dependency and Asperger’s, so I know that most of the aspie/codie accusations flying around are baseless.

Lately I’ve seen a lot more aspie accusations flying around than codie accusations. This is perhaps partly due to Asperger’s becoming an aspirational disease in places like Silicon Valley (along with dyslexia), due to a presumed correlation with startup success, but I believe there is more to it. Recent shifts in the social landscape have made introversion far more visible. This is among the many cracks in E-I relationships that I mentioned earlier. There are seismic shifts going on in social psychology. We may see a re-organization of social geography comparable to the great racial and socio-economic sortings created by the flight to suburbia and exurbia at the peak of the urban sprawl era.