Why are some people outgoing and want to be social while others choose to isolate themselves? This is not an easy question to answer, and there are many different ways to try to do it. In this essay I am going to talk about my thoughts about this topic, and have a closer look at why people choose to have the social life that they do.
Listening to the song “I Am A Rock” by Paul Simon, a thing that comes to my mind is that people isolating themselves is not at all strange. In the song Simon says that “I am a rock, I am an island.” He wants to hide behind the walls of a fortress that he has built, alone where no one can hurt him. “If I never loved, I would never have cried”. Perhaps people isolate because they are afraid of hurtful feelings. Some people must have concluded that they do not need, or want, to depend on others. I think that is understandable, considering the fact that committing to another person can lead to disappointment. As the song says; “I have no need of friendship; friendship causes pain.” Friends do not always get along and they do not always agree. Romantic relationships may also lead to tragic break-ups. However, I personally think that the positive things definitely outweigh the negative.
Another way to explain the phenomenon is by a theory that people have different psychological personality types. Some people are introverted (which I will talk about later) and some are extraverted. Extraverts are often considered to have the ideal social personality in our society. It may seem like the extraverts are simply the people who are more friendly and outgoing, but extraversion is mainly defined as the people who tend to be energized when being around other people. Extraverts often value time spent being social more than time spent alone. They enjoy social situations such as parties and other gatherings with larger groups of people. When given the opportunity, they will prefer to socialise and talk with another person, rather than sitting alone to think. Reflecting on something without sharing it with another person does usually not feel like it is enough for an extraverted person, as they tend to think as they speak. Some extraverts also find it hard to be alone without feeling lonely. They often find inspiration and meaning in other people. Therefore, being alone may give them a feeling of emptiness.
The opposite of an extravert is an introvert. Introverted people are often viewed as “bad”. This is of course far from the truth. Introverts are basically the people who feel more energized when being alone. Unlike the extroverts, the introverts tend to value time spent alone more than time spent being around other people. Introverts often feel uncomfortable in large groups, and they do usually not enjoy chatting. One of the reasons for this can be that the introverts are likely to think thoroughly before they speak. The introverts often prefer to reflect on things on their own. This thinking can lead to some great thoughts. Therefore, introverted people may become great artists, scientists, authors, philosophers or composers.
Of course, it is not black and white. We can think of the social personalities as a scale that has an extravert and an introvert side. Most people can find themselves around the middle of the scale, leaning slightly towards one side. Therefore, one does not necessarily have all of the introvert or extravert features that I mentioned earlier. Most introverts do not detest all kinds of social interaction. They have friends, and are not less normal than the extraverts. They are simply more introspective, and tend to get tired when being in crowds for too long.
As John Donne says in his poem; “No man is an Island, Entire of itself. Each is a piece of the continent, A part of the main.” Humans need contact with other humans to have a good life. Except of course for a few extreme cases. Like for instance on the Norwegian television program “Der ingen skulle tru at nokon kunne bu”, where we see single people living completely on their own, for example on the top of a mountain, on the outside of organized society. I think that these people must be worshiping their introverted side. Personally, I find it hard to understand how a person can be that comfortable in his or her own company. Me, being an extravert, I know that I would have felt extremely lonely living like that. I am relatively sure that my life would start to feel meaningless and that I would eventually become depressed and even commit suicide.
I think I can conclude that being alone can be some sort of protection against difficult feelings. It can also be something that people need to do to get more energy and strength. It can be necessary to get to think through things as well. Some people prefer their own company, some prefer to interact with as many people as possible, and some people do not have a prominent desire to either of those.