The Null Device

Hell is other people

Via Graham, Caring For Your Introvert.
With the possible exception of Ronald Reagan, whose fabled aloofness and privateness were probably signs of a deep introverted streak (many actors, I've read, are introverts, and many introverts, when socializing, feel like actors), introverts are not considered "naturals" in politics.

Isn't that the truth. If you're a natural introvert, being social can be like acting as it requires running an extra layer of emulation, and extra effort; which is why us introverts get tired by having to do so for long periods of time, or why we can be grumpy or unsociable when tired.

In our extrovertist society, being outgoing is considered normal and therefore desirable, a mark of happiness, confidence, leadership. Extroverts are seen as bighearted, vibrant, warm, empathic. "People person" is a compliment. Introverts are described with words like "guarded," "loner," "reserved," "taciturn," "self-contained," "private"--narrow, ungenerous words, words that suggest emotional parsimony and smallness of personality.
Sometimes, as we gasp for air amid the fog of their 98-percent-content-free talk, we wonder if extroverts even bother to listen to themselves. Still, we endure stoically, because the etiquette books--written, no doubt, by extroverts--regard declining to banter as rude and gaps in conversation as awkward. We can only dream that someday, when our condition is more widely understood, when perhaps an Introverts' Rights movement has blossomed and borne fruit, it will not be impolite to say "I'm an introvert. You are a wonderful person and I like you. But now please shush."

What's more likely is that introversion will be medicalised (possibly classified as a form of Asperger's Syndrome; either that or a social anxiety disorder) and there will be drugs released to "cure" it. If your kid doesn't like playing sports with other kids and prefers to read books, or (less anachronistically) uses their computer for designing imaginary cities/languages/worlds rather than instant-messaging their friends, you will be able (and expected) to give them drugs that make them into a fully-functioning, ruggedly outgoing extrovert. Sure, they'll lose a lot of their creativity and capacity for abstract thought, but they probably weren't going to be the next Albert Einstein anyway, and isn't it much better that they play well with other kids?

There are 14 comments on "Hell is other people":

Posted by: Graham Tue Feb 25 11:58:39 2003

Woo! ADD exploitation redux!

Posted by: Chloe Tue Feb 25 16:17:45 2003

I think that's overstating the matter. The way drugs & diagnosises are invented - because people WANT them. Drugs are prescribed to "cure" situations that are causing a person SERIOUS FUNCTIONAL PROBLEMS. Yes, a lot of people jump the gun and want a pill to fix the slightest bit of discomfort. But please - psychiatrists aren't out to try and change someone's personality. If someone's doing well, able to function, able to survive, law abiding, and they don't seek "help" - they can be whatever they want. And that will always continue to be the case unless you're talking about some popularity-obsessed parents who somehow manage to produce nerdy offspring. ;) And what's the chances of that?

Posted by: acb Wed Feb 26 00:47:31 2003

What about all the parents doping their kids up with ritalin because it makes them easier to manage?

Posted by: acb Wed Feb 26 01:15:54 2003

Also, if a drug for "curing" introversion is available on the market, it will raise the standards of social engagement; people will be expected to be extroverted, naturally or chemically, and introversion will be tolerated even less. While nobody's legally forcing anyone to take anti-introversion drugs, the social ostracism that results from their not conforming will have the same effect.

Posted by: deej http:// Wed Feb 26 05:12:08 2003

Whenever i read psychiatric/psychology texts (and i do reasonably often because i supply them for inter library loan), i often feel a bit disturbed at the breadth of what is considered a 'condition' that needs treatment. Psychology and psychiatry are mediated through political, cultural and social filters, which means that there will be some diagnoses and definitions that are highly questionable. Just look at the Soviet Union or what happened to single women even in Western countries in the twentieth century.

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Wed Feb 26 05:20:34 2003

I'm not sure Chloe... I suspect that psychiatrists are just as helpless before the marketing machine of the pharmaceutical companies as regular doctors are. Take the way the establishment has been sold on Prozac and Viagra, to take just two examples.

Posted by: Chloe Wed Feb 26 05:58:53 2003

My point was, people have a choice to be "treated" for what they think is "abnormal"... Nobody's pouring these things down people's throats. And nobody's making people listen to the pharmaceutical company's ads.

And if you say that our whole society is going to change... and you ask me "But Chloe, what if everybody thought that way?" I'd say, well, then you'd be a fool not to.

That's just the way it is. If you can't function in society because of your social quirks... there's a problem with you. I don't think it's fair to expect HUNDREDS of people to change THEIR way of living just to suit one person's aberration.

For example, in the case of these kids on Ritalin. Should the problem kids that are put on this medication, should, instead, be allowed to make havoc in their schools & in their homes?

And believe me, MOST parents who get their children on Ritalin aren't doing so just to shirk some responsibility. Most kids that are put on it because they are uncontrollably unruly, get expelled f

Posted by: deej http:// Wed Feb 26 07:22:34 2003

What may be considered a 'social quirk' in some societies may be considered madness in others. There are as you say, some behaviours which need to be treated because they harm the individual and others. However, if the bounds of acceptable social behaviour are narrowed, bureaucratised and clamped down upon then all sorts of people suddenly become abnormal and subject to both penalties of all kinds.

Posted by: deej http:// Wed Feb 26 07:23:14 2003

What may be considered a 'social quirk' in some societies may be considered madness in others. There are as you say, some behaviours which need to be treated because they harm the individual and others. However, if the bounds of acceptable social behaviour are narrowed, bureaucratised and clamped down upon then all sorts of people suddenly become abnormal and subject to both penalties of all kinds.

Posted by: Stephen Wed Feb 26 07:36:05 2003

But Chloe, not every kid on Ritalin is disruptive. Some take ADD/ADHD drugs simply to help them concentrate.

For example, here in Sydney, class sizes in some public primary schools have reached ~30 students. In homogenized situations like this teachers are forced to be inflexible and unable to adapt to a child's individual needs. Undisruptive children with ADD and other special needs who might learn well if only their learning style could be appropriately adapted to are given an ultimatum: medicate or fall behind.

Posted by: Stephen Wed Feb 26 07:36:32 2003

...And to some extent, this has propelled the usage of Ritalin and other "behaviour management"-type drugs.

Considering this, I don't think that the medication of kids 'suffering' from introversion is such a stretch.

Posted by: sailcat seven Wed Feb 26 17:19:52 2003

In my experience the desperate for attention extrovert is far more likely to be pathetic than your average introvert, though society tells us exactly the opposite. I'm so sorry that I, the introvert, find most people in our society to be both tedious and boring. Excuuuse the hell out of me! Maybe someone should come up with a pill for annoying extroverts. ;)

Posted by: Ritchie http:// Fri Feb 28 16:07:06 2003

To celebrate 20 years of the PBS network's Frontline, they've started putting some of their programs online. You can now go look at their documentary 'Medicating Kids' at

Posted by: sam http:// Sun Mar 2 10:38:30 2003

salcat: you could probably get the annoying extroverts to take this "wonder" drug quite easily too. I'm not saying all extroverts are stupid, but they're probably much more likely to be swayed by gimmicks and advertising. :-)

Of course, people are really much more complex than that anyway. You can't just sweep people into either an "extrovert" camp or an "introvert" camp.