Some tough love for introverts

All I need is a good book, the internet, and my cats.

If you’ve ever re-shared a meme with a sentiment like that, I have some tough love for you. Someday the world is going to fall out from under you, and you’re going to need more. And your meme-enabled complacency is going to put you dangerously behind the curve on your own salvation.

Trust me, I know introversion, social anxiety, shyness, and antisocial tendencies from the inside. I can tell you firsthand what an oasis the internet was when I found it. Social interaction at a remove, turned on and off like a tap, as-needed. All I needed. And plenty of positive reinforcement that it’s OK to be a hermit. That you’re not a weirdo.

It’s true, you’re not a freak. But it’s not OK.

Yes, when things go to shit, your internet friends will be there for you. And they will help. They might even save your life.

But there’s a difference between having a chat partner at 2AM, and having someone you can share a beer and a profanity-laced conversation with on a Tuesday evening. It’s the difference between surviving and thriving. It’s the difference between just feeling heard, and feeling like life goes on. It’s the difference between being plopped into a vase before you wither, and being rooted.

The internet has given us shy folk an unprecedented opportunity to make connections. But it has also given us ample excuses never to make real-world, hugging, glass-clinking, snort-laughing, high-fiving, companionable-hiking, thoughtful-silence-sharing buddies.

Don’t believe the memes. Don’t wait wait for trauma to force your hand. Don’t make my mistakes.

Give yourself the gift of a safety net. No matter how painful and unnatural it feels, cultivate local friendships.

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