Today I posted a humorous short article on Facebook that originally appeared in The Onion. It was about the “local introvert” who attended a party and was trying to make the time go faster by preoccupying himself with food, coats and tying his shoes.
Three people immediately “unliked” my Page.
Was it something I said?
The experience flashed me back to last week, when I was interviewed for Rachel Parker’s “Content Marketing Podcast.” She asked a really interesting question:
One thing I love about following you on Facebook is that you share humorous posts that only introverts find funny… has that kind of humor and sharing those kinds of inside jokes played a key role in building your community?
While my immediate answer was “Yes, it’s absolutely played a role,” it got me thinking more deeply about how essential humor is to our personal growth and awareness, particularly for introverts.
And, it’s a two-sided coin. Humor is risky; what is LOL to one person might be offensive to someone else. Someone might take it more seriously than was intended. Perhaps the joke hits too close to home, so it’s not remotely funny. Or maybe it’s not what they expect from my Page and decide to take their leave. Or it could be something else entirely. Whatever the reason may be, I respect their choice.
When you’re talking about introverts specifically, it’s a fine line. Much of the humor I see is self-deprecating, reinforces negative stereotypes or boosts up introverts at the expense of extroverts. I often share it anyway (unless it’s objectively offensive or disparaging), with a disclaimer or statement that positions it as a teachable moment or way to raise consciousness and stimulate conversation.
So if humor is high risk, why bother? Because humor is powerful. It brings levity when we’re feeling heavy, or alone, or afraid. And while it might push some buttons or cause someone to hide or unlike my Page, here’s why I’m going to keep on LOLing:
Humor builds community.
We all want to feel like we belong somewhere, even solitude-loving introverts. The “inside joke” reinforces a piece of our identity and tells us we’re not freaks or complete outsiders. One of the ways we forge strong connections with others is through a shared sense of humor and a good laugh (online or in real life). It breaks the ice and gives us space to be a little more real with each other.
Humor tells us something about ourselves.
There’s value to be had in humor that teaches us something about who we are. It raises our awareness of why we say and do some of the wacky stuff we say and do. That’s the lens through which I choose to see even the most stereotypical humor. I could get defensive, or I could recognize that it’s alerting me to something within myself that might benefit from examination. It might represent an uncomfortable truth that I have been avoiding.
Humor says what we can’t or won’t.
Every day, we have thoughts, feelings and desires that we’d never put voice to. But through humor, we can express ourselves in that half joking/half serious manner that’s much more socially acceptable. Think of the best comedians you know – Louis CK comes to mind for me – and you’ll notice that their biggest laughs come from people blushing and squirming in their seats a bit because they recognize a truth they would never be able to speak themselves.
For example, here’s a sign I saw at a gift shop a few weeks ago: “I love the sound you make when you shut up.” Mean? Funny? Truth? All of the above? Or is it relief, since someone made this into a sign with the hope of making money. That means hundreds, if not thousands, if not MILLIONS of other people are going to smile, nod, and share it with someone they love, saying, “Well, maybe not shut up, but I do enjoy being quiet with you when we hang out <grin>.”
Humor can serve as an expression of our shadow side.
Here’s a quick explanation of the shadow by Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D:
The shadow, said celebrated Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung… is the unknown ‘‘dark side’’ of our personality–-dark both because it tends to consist predominantly of the primitive, negative, socially or religiously depreciated human emotions and impulses like sexual lust, power strivings, selfishness, greed, envy, anger or rage, and due to its unenlightened nature, completely obscured from consciousness.
Our shadow isn’t exclusively made up of our negative traits, but those do tend to dominate. We suppress and reject these less savory aspects of our humanity; they are a source of embarrassment, shame or fear, and so they drop out of consciousness. Humor has the ability to shine the light on the shadow and maybe even shift our relationship with it. Something that embarrasses or triggers us might indicate an aspect of ourselves that deserves attention and compassion. Even nervous laughter about something we fear can start us on a path to self-acceptance and greater peace.
Humor helps us to not take ourselves so darn seriously.
When it’s not triggering our shadow side, humor lightens the load. It reminds us that we’re not perfect, that we all have our quirks. Just seeing the quirks of others might even normalize what we felt was quirky in ourselves!
I have a set of blank cards I purchased a few years ago that say, “Blessed are those who can laugh at themselves, for they shall never cease to be amused.”
May we all be abundantly blessed :-).
How has humor played a role in your personal growth? Please share in the comments!
PS: If you want to see LOL posts of the past few years, visit https://www.facebook.com/TheIntrovertEntrepreneur/photos_stream