An Introvert’s View of the Coronavirus

Published March 12, 2020

I’d never heard the term “self-quarantine” before. I’d never heard of “social distancing.” But now, fear of contracting the coronavirus is causing people to avoid human contact as much as possible.

Welcome to my world.

As an introvert, I’ve been practicing social distancing my whole life. I prefer email to phone. I hate small talk. There is only one person I would rather be with than myself, and that is my wife (which is how I knew she was “the one”).     

Now there’s a new reason to avoid humanity: protection from the coronavirus. But it won’t change my life. I already avoid air travel. I’m self-employed and semi-retired, so I don’t have to mingle with coworkers. I’ve even always been against the ridiculous custom of shaking hands. In Corporate Crap: Lessons Learned from 40 Years in Corporate America, I devoted a whole chapter to this.

While my life may not change much, however, what about extroverts? What about those people who live for social interaction? I would think avoiding human contact for these folks would be torture.

Of all the topics for which I solicited input for Corporate Crap, the one generating the most response was Myers-Briggs, a survey companies use to assess levels of introversion and extroversion in their employees. It seems everyone who has ever worked for a company has had to take this survey.

During my research, I learned a bit about introversion and extroversion. The terms were coined by Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung in the early twentieth century. Jung defined introversion as “inwardly directed psychic energy.” Introverts recharge by being alone. They lose energy when they’re around other people. Extroverts gain energy from being social. They recharge by being with other people. They lose energy being alone.

Labeling employees as introverts or extroverts implies that everyone belongs to one camp or the other. But Jung defined these terms as extremes on a scale of human behavior. “There is no such thing as a pure introvert or extrovert,” Jung said. “Such a person would be in the lunatic asylum.”

I found this a tad frightening, as I seem to have all the characteristics of a pure introvert. But it also legitimized my joy of solitude, helping me realize that I am not alone (no pun intended).

As for you extroverts out there, you may feel like a fish out of water. But you can still talk on the phone and interact with people on social media. You can drive your wife and kids crazy.

Just make sure you have enough toilet paper.