Why Being an Online Extrovert is Bad for Your Health

Posted by on Aug 13, 2012 | 53 comments

SocialMediaMadnessOver the last 20 or so years, there have been numerous trends and changes that have been like manna for introverts: self-checkouts at the grocery store. iPods and earbuds. Smart cars and MINI Coopers that only seat two people. E-mail and the web. Social media/networking.

It’s that last one that is becoming less like manna and more like madness. I’ve been experiencing “Facebook fatigue” and social networking numbness. The feelings have been circling for the past year and have started to move in for the kill.

I’ve often referred to the web and social media as the greatest thing since sliced bread for the introvert. It allows us to express ourselves in writing, take our time, reflect, research, protect our personal space and energy, and connect on our own terms.

For most introverts – and especially introvert entrepreneurs – the web is a gift that has facilitated connections, business and friendships. We get to be introverts in real life and play the extrovert online. It’s allowed us to reach thousands, if not millions, of people with efficiency and minimal energetic output.

Or has it?

A fan on The Introvert Entrepreneur Facebook Page recently posted the following:

“Penny for your thoughts on social networking. Sometimes my digital space gets cramped with people wanting to be connected whom I do not know nor have met on a professional level.”

Here’s part of my response:

I can totally identify. I’ve been somewhat liberal with my friend/connection acceptances, and it’s meant that relative strangers have crowded into my virtual space and pushed out real life friends. It starts to feel like I’ve stepped into a room full of people I don’t know, and I’m expected to interact! What was once a blessing to the introvert (being able to connect in our own way, taking our time, maintaining some space) has the potential to become just as bad as the huge networking events we sometimes loathe.

This question came right on the heels of a recent cover story in Newsweek called “iCrazy.”  One particular sentence in the article cut through the clutter and explained perfectly how I was feeling:

“Altogether the digital shifts of the last five years call to mind a horse that has sprinted out from underneath its rider, dragging the person who once held the reins.”

The “digital shifts” have included how we define “friend” or “colleague.” They’ve created a space were connecting is easy and painless. This has led to what I’ve experienced as a slippery slope. Let’s take Facebook as an example. When I first signed up in early 2008, my circle of friends consisted of people I knew IRL (in real life). Almost all were “active” friends, people with whom I had a current relationship. Then I started connecting to people from the past: from high school, college, former jobs. The “friends” list continued to grow as I accepted requests from friends of friends that I trusted. Then there were people that I’d met at a networking or professional event, maybe only having had a single conversation. Then the friends of those people would request a connection… and they told two friends… and they told two friends… and so on.

iCrazy!

In the past few weeks, I’ve realized that I’ve started down the path of becoming a genuine “online extrovert,” thinking I’m fed by more and more interaction of any kind. It’s stressful, out of alignment and not sustainable.

So what’s an introvert to do? We love and want our connections and community, and we can easily find we’ve allowed chaos to invade our quiet.

Here are five quick thoughts:

  • Develop a personal social media strategy; it doesn’t have to be complicated. Decide what your objective is for each platform: personal, professional, family, prospects, etc. This tells you what kinds of people/businesses might match those objectives. You can then extend, accept or decline invitations based on that strategy.
  • It might feel a bit weird at first, but cull through your friends and contacts and “unfriend” people you don’t know (or who don’t fit the strategy you devised for that platform). You may think they’re going to notice and feel offended; chances are, they’ll have no idea you disappeared (unless you were one of 10 friends). Consider letting go of or “hiding” friends who always seem to fill up your feed, who regularly post items you don’t find interesting, or with whom you never interact.
  • Invest a little time in creating feed filters so that you can control the visual onslaught. Facebook allows you to create lists so that you can choose to see posts by selected friends or Pages. You can also choose to have your own posts be filtered to a specific list (such as “family,” “close friends” or “public.”) Here are some useful tips: heresthethingblog.com/2012/01/25/3-ways-declutter-facebook-news/
  • Craft a reply for those situations when professional contacts want to friend you personally, or when you’ve decided to reserve a particular platform for only the closest family and friends.  For instance, “I reserve my Facebook profile for close family and friends, so I ask my professional contacts to connect with me on X. I’d be happy to accept an invitation to be part of your network there.” Or, invite them to subscribe to your public updates (and then remember to use your filters).
  • Remember that when we spend our alone time online, we’re not really alone. We’re being bombarded with virtual voices, images and sounds that invade our private space. It’s not surprising to me that a day “alone” but spent mostly online can be exhausting. Choose to be more conscious of how much you’re allowing the web to suck up your energy.

Yes, the web gives the extroverted side of introverts a space to come out and play. Being more outgoing or people-oriented online than in person doesn’t mean we have a split personality or are being deceptive. That said, we have every right to control who we let into our virtual world. Even if it seems there is an expectation that we should say “yes” to every invitation. You can ask yourself, “Would I want to know this person in real life?” If yes, connect – if no, respectfully decline.

So if you’re my friend on Facebook and suddenly find I’m not appearing in your news feeds anymore, please understand… it’s nothing personal. I’m sure you’re a wonderful person. I simply want to restore some peace and quiet to my online world. And if you choose to remove me from your feed? I’ll be grateful that my silly posts aren’t coming between you and your real friends!

What about you? Is your online presence an oasis of calm and connection, or is it more like a virtual happy hour? What online strategies have helped you keep things under control? Please share in the comments!

86 comments
Melissa Ng
Melissa Ng

I've really been taking advantage of the "Lists" FB function. Occasionally, I take a peek at my main feed (always can expect a good laugh or random find!), but then I jump back to my smaller feeds where I can take in my information at a more better pace...and from those I care about most.

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Lisa, you highlight one of the challenges of extending ourselves too much online - people who "know" us online expect us to have the same energy in person. Depending on our work or friends or the situation, other people might experience a disconnect. So it's worth it to develop a natural voice online that supports both our work and our IRL relationships.

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Vicki, that's great - sounds like you never let the floodgates open, so you have a more peaceful experience online. As one of my former bosses used to say, "good on ya!" ;-)

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Dominy and Dawn, so glad you see the info as useful to a larger group - I'm sure there are some outties out there who a feeling a bit overextended, too!

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Jimmy C, seems like the whole student/teacher friending thing has come up a lot lately. I would be surprised if there wasn't a policy somewhere that dictated the rules. I also remember hearing/reading somewhere that there's an optimal size for a group of friends, and anything beyond it, we lose connection... like there are only so many people we can keep up with in any meaningful way. I want to say for FB it was around 150?

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Greg, yes, thank goodness the entourage is mostly avatars, LOL! I noticed something when I went in to unfriend a few folks - FB removes them from the your Friend list, but they remain "subscribed" to your public updates. So I think that means you'll stop seeing their posts, but they'll still see your public posts? Or maybe you're also subscribed. Either way, it's likely they won't notice b/c your public posts will still show up in their feed. I'm not a FB expert, so it's worth some research if you're curious. Seems like a good way to cut back on the official "friends" list while still having a loose connection. Then you just have to remember to filter your posts/feeds...

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Jimmy C, seems like the whole student/teacher friending thing has come up a lot lately. I would be surprised if there wasn't a policy somewhere that dictated the rules. I also remember hearing/reading somewhere that there's an optimal size for a group of friends, and anything beyond it, we lose connection... like there are only so many people we can keep up with in any meaningful way. I want to say for FB it was around 150?

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Greg, yes, thank goodness the entourage is mostly avatars, LOL! I noticed something when I went in to unfriend a few folks - FB removes them from the your Friend list, but they remain "subscribed" to your public updates. So I think that means you'll stop seeing their posts, but they'll still see your public posts? Or maybe you're also subscribed. Either way, it's likely they won't notice b/c your public posts will still show up in their feed. I'm not a FB expert, so it's worth some research if you're curious. Seems like a good way to cut back on the official "friends" list while still having a loose connection. Then you just have to remember to filter your posts/feeds...

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Dominy and Dawn, so glad you see the info as useful to a larger group - I'm sure there are some outties out there who a feeling a bit overextended, too!

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Vicki, that's great - sounds like you never let the floodgates open, so you have a more peaceful experience online. As one of my former bosses used to say, "good on ya!" ;-)

The Introvert Entrepreneur
The Introvert Entrepreneur

Lisa, you highlight one of the challenges of extending ourselves too much online - people who "know" us online expect us to have the same energy in person. Depending on our work or friends or the situation, other people might experience a disconnect. So it's worth it to develop a natural voice online that supports both our work and our IRL relationships.

Nyasha
Nyasha

Great post, Beth. I was in online extrovert about 3 months ago. I then decided to implement a social media strategy: - Facebook = friends (IRL) and family - Twitter = professional network (I love using lists) - LinkedIn = career network - Google+ = where the geek in me sets up play dates ;-) I use Flipboard, which allows me to split my lists and circles into separate feeds. It took a couple of hours to set up, but I no longer feel obliged to be everywhere with everyone all the time! Nyasha

Nyasha
Nyasha

Great post, Beth. I was in online extrovert about 3 months ago. I then decided to implement a social media strategy: - Facebook = friends (IRL) and family - Twitter = professional network (I love using lists) - LinkedIn = career network - Google+ = where the geek in me sets up play dates ;-) I use Flipboard, which allows me to split my lists and circles into separate feeds. It took a couple of hours to set up, but I no longer feel obliged to be everywhere with everyone all the time! Nyasha

VickiB
VickiB

If you use Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera, Check out FBPurity (http://www.fbpurity.com/). It's a terrific extension (I love it) that lets you hide all sorts of extraneous stuff in your facebook stream.   (If you use IE, may I respectfully recommend Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Opera? :-)

VickiB
VickiB

If you use Chrome, Firefox, Safari, or Opera, Check out FBPurity (http://www.fbpurity.com/). It's a terrific extension (I love it) that lets you hide all sorts of extraneous stuff in your facebook stream.

 

(If you use IE, may I respectfully recommend Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Opera? :-)

ArdenClise
ArdenClise

Such great insights Beth. So many things come to mind. I was reminded of an article I read recently that talked about how people often are fake on Facebook, trying to present this perfect witty, social self to the world. I find I sometimes fall into that trap where I think, oh, I need to find a witty way of saying that, or, this will be really interesting to my FB friends. Social media seems to discourage authenticity.   Another thought, I too think it's tempting to friend everyone, although I'm pretty strict about who I do friend. I don't want those I hardly know drown out my closer friends. Yes, I know I can manage it through lists and groups, but that's work. I do invite clients, most business associates and people I don't know well to connect with me on LinkedIn.   Lastly, as an introvert, I think I can sometimes fool myself into thinking I'm networking by being online. As I will say when I'm interviewed today on KUOW about networking for job seekers, you have to get out from behind the computer every once in a while and actually have a real conversation. You will make more of an impression. So, I try to take my own advice and get off social media and mingle with people IRL.   Thanks for a great post!

ArdenClise
ArdenClise

Such great insights Beth. So many things come to mind. I was reminded of an article I read recently that talked about how people often are fake on Facebook, trying to present this perfect witty, social self to the world. I find I sometimes fall into that trap where I think, oh, I need to find a witty way of saying that, or, this will be really interesting to my FB friends. Social media seems to discourage authenticity.

 

Another thought, I too think it's tempting to friend everyone, although I'm pretty strict about who I do friend. I don't want those I hardly know drown out my closer friends. Yes, I know I can manage it through lists and groups, but that's work. I do invite clients, most business associates and people I don't know well to connect with me on LinkedIn.

 

Lastly, as an introvert, I think I can sometimes fool myself into thinking I'm networking by being online. As I will say when I'm interviewed today on KUOW about networking for job seekers, you have to get out from behind the computer every once in a while and actually have a real conversation. You will make more of an impression. So, I try to take my own advice and get off social media and mingle with people IRL.

 

Thanks for a great post!

VickiB
VickiB

p.s. my FB and Twitter feeds are fully public. Feel free to pop in and read me (or not) at your discretion. No need to "friend" me. No need to even tell me you're there.   Facebook and Twitter - the eavesdropper's dream. :-)

VickiB
VickiB

I treat Facebook like email. I scan and delete (in FB's case, hide) messages. If I don't care, I hide the post. If I've read it already, I hide the post. If someone frequently posts things I no longer want to read, I "Hide All". If someone (or a "Page") posts too frequently, I "Hide All" and add them to a "group" so I can find them if I want to.   I scan down and clear out the page. Then I refresh. Nice, relatively empty, page. "Inbox Zero" in Facebook terms.   Remember - it's YOUR account. It's your stream. You control it.   This isn't a busy cocktail party; it's a web ste. There's no real noise. Everything is linear. No one can walk up to you and start a conversation. It's _your_ decision what you read, how much you read, or if you read. It's your decision when to respond or if to respond. You can hang out at the edge and "watch". You can post. You can comment. You can close the window. You can bounce over to email or Twitter or your current book. You can put on headphones and listent to music. And you can do all of this from the comfort of your own couch! With (in my case) a cat on my lap and a mug of tea. 

VickiB
VickiB

I treat Facebook like email. I scan and delete (in FB's case, hide) messages. If I don't care, I hide the post. If I've read it already, I hide the post. If someone frequently posts things I no longer want to read, I "Hide All". If someone (or a "Page") posts too frequently, I "Hide All" and add them to a "group" so I can find them if I want to.

 

I scan down and clear out the page. Then I refresh. Nice, relatively empty, page. "Inbox Zero" in Facebook terms.

 

Remember - it's YOUR account. It's your stream. You control it.

 

This isn't a busy cocktail party; it's a web ste. There's no real noise. Everything is linear. No one can walk up to you and start a conversation. It's _your_ decision what you read, how much you read, or if you read. It's your decision when to respond or if to respond. You can hang out at the edge and "watch". You can post. You can comment. You can close the window. You can bounce over to email or Twitter or your current book. You can put on headphones and listent to music. And you can do all of this from the comfort of your own couch! With (in my case) a cat on my lap and a mug of tea. 

LIEvans
LIEvans

I loved this post, Beth. It really spoke to the trouble I've been having lately with Facebook. I was an early adopter (been on Facebook since 2007) and yes, absolutely, it was an introvert's dream. But now I really wrestle with how it messes with my energy. And I find myself getting angry and frustrated with the things people do or say on there, when I really have no one but myself to blame. Our mutual friend Rachel Dexheimer put it well. She avoids Facebook, she says, because it leaves her energy wide open for the world to use as it sees fit. (I'm paraphrasing) I can't ignore Facebook altogether, as I conduct business there, but I do have to figure out my boundaries. This post helped with that. Thank you!

LIEvans
LIEvans

I loved this post, Beth. It really spoke to the trouble I've been having lately with Facebook. I was an early adopter (been on Facebook since 2007) and yes, absolutely, it was an introvert's dream. But now I really wrestle with how it messes with my energy. And I find myself getting angry and frustrated with the things people do or say on there, when I really have no one but myself to blame. Our mutual friend Rachel Dexheimer put it well. She avoids Facebook, she says, because it leaves her energy wide open for the world to use as it sees fit. (I'm paraphrasing) I can't ignore Facebook altogether, as I conduct business there, but I do have to figure out my boundaries. This post helped with that. Thank you!

LMP
LMP

I completely agree and understand.  It took me awhile to even join Facebook.  I love the concept of it but I'm often overwhelmed by the "noise" of it.    It seems as though (once again) something that was set up for introverts has been taken over by extroverts.  So, I do what I do with all things in my life when it becomes too noisy... I "logoff" and choose to do something that brings me peace (being in nature or listening to music). 

LMP
LMP

I completely agree and understand.  It took me awhile to even join Facebook.  I love the concept of it but I'm often overwhelmed by the "noise" of it.    It seems as though (once again) something that was set up for introverts has been taken over by extroverts.  So, I do what I do with all things in my life when it becomes too noisy... I "logoff" and choose to do something that brings me peace (being in nature or listening to music). 

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

Nyasha, thanks for commenting! I've not heard of Flipboard... sounds like something worth looking into. Congrats on setting up your strategy, and thank you so much for sharing it with us - I hope it's working beautifully for you :-)

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

Nyasha, thanks for commenting! I've not heard of Flipboard... sounds like something worth looking into. Congrats on setting up your strategy, and thank you so much for sharing it with us - I hope it's working beautifully for you :-)

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BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @VickiB Great tip! FB has gotten so busy, it's helpful to have something that helps to sift through the noise. Thank you for sharing the resource.

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @VickiB Great tip! FB has gotten so busy, it's helpful to have something that helps to sift through the noise. Thank you for sharing the resource.

Latest blog post: About

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @ArdenClise Arden, you share so many pieces of wisdom here. FB is full of traps, including the "oh, I have to be clever" one. I think if we show up and share authentically, the rest will take care of itself.... unless you share every meal or trip to the gym, and then we have to hide you ;-). Thanks for sharing how you decide to respond to friend invitations, and reminding us to get out into the real world - you make me think, all of the "networking" we do online can be just as draining as IRL, but IRL has so much potential and is good for our souls. No matter how introverted we are, "likes" and comments can't replace exchanging handshakes, hugs and smiles :-)    

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @ArdenClise Arden, you share so many pieces of wisdom here. FB is full of traps, including the "oh, I have to be clever" one. I think if we show up and share authentically, the rest will take care of itself.... unless you share every meal or trip to the gym, and then we have to hide you ;-). Thanks for sharing how you decide to respond to friend invitations, and reminding us to get out into the real world - you make me think, all of the "networking" we do online can be just as draining as IRL, but IRL has so much potential and is good for our souls. No matter how introverted we are, "likes" and comments can't replace exchanging handshakes, hugs and smiles :-)

 

 

Latest blog post: About

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @VickiB , what you share here is true. We have a lot more control than we sometimes realize. I think some people (me included) find it overwhelming to keep up with the changes, filters, groups, lists, settings, etc that give us those tools to take control. And I often do think it's like a cocktail party - noisy, crowded and sucking up my energy... even if I have exercised control over the environment. I think a lot depends on who we've chosen to let into our virtual space and what role it plays in our business/personal lives. And I'm totally with you on the cat and cup of tea :-). 

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @VickiB , what you share here is true. We have a lot more control than we sometimes realize. I think some people (me included) find it overwhelming to keep up with the changes, filters, groups, lists, settings, etc that give us those tools to take control. And I often do think it's like a cocktail party - noisy, crowded and sucking up my energy... even if I have exercised control over the environment. I think a lot depends on who we've chosen to let into our virtual space and what role it plays in our business/personal lives. And I'm totally with you on the cat and cup of tea :-). 

Latest blog post: About

VickiB
VickiB

p.s. my FB and Twitter feeds are fully public. Feel free to pop in and read me (or not) at your discretion. No need to "friend" me. No need to even tell me you're there.

 

Facebook and Twitter - the eavesdropper's dream. :-)

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @LIEvans Yes, Rachel is so wonderful at articulating her experiences of the world. I know exactly what she means. Of course, we choose how much of ourselves to share, but putting *anything* out there is exposing our energy to others, and we may or may not enjoy the consequences. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience :-)

VickiB
VickiB

 @LIEvans I... don;t really understand. How does Facebook "leave her energy open for the world to use as it sees fit"? It's. Her. Account.    They are _her_ posts. SHe can set them to friends only, or close friends only.   And it's not "energy". It's words. Let them go, like a balloon.   Breathe. Repeat after me: This is MY Account and I control it.

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @LIEvans Yes, Rachel is so wonderful at articulating her experiences of the world. I know exactly what she means. Of course, we choose how much of ourselves to share, but putting *anything* out there is exposing our energy to others, and we may or may not enjoy the consequences. Thanks for commenting and sharing your experience :-)

Latest blog post: About

VickiB
VickiB

 @LIEvans I... don;t really understand. How does Facebook "leave her energy open for the world to use as it sees fit"? It's. Her. Account. 

 

They are _her_ posts. SHe can set them to friends only, or close friends only.

 

And it's not "energy". It's words. Let them go, like a balloon.

 

Breathe. Repeat after me: This is MY Account and I control it.

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @LMP , yes, I think FB has become so much noisier over the past year or so. And it's apt to get worse with the pressure of shareholders and the need to make $$. Kudos to you for recognizing when you need to shut it off and get back to the real world... wishing you lots of peace. :-)

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @LMP , yes, I think FB has become so much noisier over the past year or so. And it's apt to get worse with the pressure of shareholders and the need to make $$. Kudos to you for recognizing when you need to shut it off and get back to the real world... wishing you lots of peace. :-)

Latest blog post: About

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @VickiB  @LIEvans Vicki, Rachel is a very grounded, spiritual person who experiences everything as energy. She's sensitive to what she projects and what she absorbs, and I know she finds that to use FB in its intended sense is to invite an invasion of some kind into her life. That's her personal feeling about it, and I totally get it and respect it. It's not unlike the belief or superstition that having a photo taken of you captures a piece of your soul. It's more than a photo (or words) - it's a piece of her, it's a reflection of her energy.

LIEvans
LIEvans

 @VickiB I was paraphrasing and I wouldn't presume to speak for Rachel any further than that, so I can't answer for her. As for me, my words that I put out into the world are a part of my energy. The responses people make on my page are a part of their energy. It's an interaction and I am affected by it. Your mileage may vary.

BethBuelow
BethBuelow moderator

 @VickiB  @LIEvans Vicki, Rachel is a very grounded, spiritual person who experiences everything as energy. She's sensitive to what she projects and what she absorbs, and I know she finds that to use FB in its intended sense is to invite an invasion of some kind into her life. That's her personal feeling about it, and I totally get it and respect it. It's not unlike the belief or superstition that having a photo taken of you captures a piece of your soul. It's more than a photo (or words) - it's a piece of her, it's a reflection of her energy.

Latest blog post: About

LIEvans
LIEvans

 @VickiB I was paraphrasing and I wouldn't presume to speak for Rachel any further than that, so I can't answer for her. As for me, my words that I put out into the world are a part of my energy. The responses people make on my page are a part of their energy. It's an interaction and I am affected by it. Your mileage may vary.

BethBuelow
BethBuelow

 @LIEvans, that's how I feel, too. :-)

VickiB
VickiB

 @LIEvans Interesting. I disagree, but I value your opinion. (After all, it must feel that way to you or you wouldn't say it.)

VickiB
VickiB

 @LIEvans Interesting. I disagree, but I value your opinion. (After all, it must feel that way to you or you wouldn't say it.)