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  • Emma Jane

This is the self-isolation survival kit introverts have sworn by for years

Introverts have years of self-isolation expertise to share and coronavirus quarantine is a breeze.

As the world worries about the least-infectious way to do anything short of locking down in a bunker sheathed in protective toilet paper, there's one group of social-distancing experts governments have yet to consult. I speak, of course, of introverts. Those of us suffering this much-maligned and misunderstood condition have years of anti-social expertise we'd be more than willing to share (just so long as the whole conversation is wrapped up in five minutes and doesn't take place at any sort of soiree). As one introvert tweeted recently in response to advice to avoid physical contact and steer clear of large crowds: "I've been preparing for this moment my entire life".

Introvert expertise Fact: Introverts have been doing hygienic elbow bump greetings for eons. Admittedly these have all been accidents caused by socially awkward uncertainty about whether to commit to a hug or a high five, but still. Fact: Many activities are actually lots more fun when conducted in splendid isolation. Staring blankly into the middle distance, preferring animals to people, non-tandem skydiving, pretending books count as friends, and soliloquies — to name just five. Fact: Introverts are also great at reciting lists of random facts. This is because the parts of our brains that know how to make normal conversations, with normal segues for normal amounts of time, are huddled in corners with blankets over their heads wondering why anyone would want to go big when they could go home. The jury's still out on a hard and fast definition of introversion — presumably because all 12 members of that jury are introverts who've been washing their hair that night for the past decade. There is, however, general agreement that extroversion and introversion exist on a continuum with "ambiversion" (which I think has something to do with being able to "vert" equally well with both your right and left hands) lying somewhere in the middle. The best way to diagnose where you lie on this continuum is to mingle with others at any type of social event for five minutes or so, before carefully appraising whether you:

  1. Feel energised, enthused, and busting with excitement that there are still hours and hours left to engage in running commentaries about everyone's thoughts on everything!

  2. Curled in the foetal position in a fortified pillow fort back home feeling about as animate as the average psyllium husk.

If you answered 1, you are obviously an extrovert and likely to find the COVID-19 situation extremely challenging. Please seek assistance from an experienced introvert immediately. Just don't expect to find one. (Like chameleons, our superpowers include the ability to camouflage ourselves — usually by wearing beige colours while going full armadillo against beige walls — in order to avoid predators who might try to assault us with polite chit-chat. If you answered 2, you are an extreme introvert who should… oh God, sorry but there's no way I'm up to finishing that last sentence. I reached my daily quota of saying stuff several paragraphs back and will need to spend the rest of the month recharging.

Are you a Tom Cruise or a JD Salinger? Before vanishing without saying "goodbye" (another signature introvert move), I should, however, explain that, on a scale of Tom Cruise jumping up and down on Oprah's couch and that Georgian monk who lives on top of a stone pillar with just a few 600-year-old bones for company, my natural introversion levels hover roughly around the JD Salinger mark. I like other people. I'm just not very good at them.

To borrow from this collection of introvert humour at Buzzfeed, my idea of an A-grade social encounter goes a little something like this: Uber driver: Me: Uber driver: Me: 5 stars. As the other guests at the two-and-a-half dinner parties I've attended over the course of my entire life can testify, my small talk is appalling. When people ask the standard "how are you?" question, I have a Tourettes-ish tendency to blurt out some stupidly honest answer — usually in the form of a pre-emptive apology for yet again having misread the genre of the "how are you?" question and blurted out some stupidly honest answer.

Good company

In this regard, I suspect I was separated at birth from Charles Tavis — the tennis academy principal from David Foster Wallace's novel Infinite Jest (a book much-loved by introverts on account of the fact that at more than half-a-million words in length plus 399 endnotes — some with additional footnotes of their own — reading it requires placing oneself in solitary confinement for at least a year). Tavis — who Wallace describes as "less like a person than like a sort of cross-section of a person" — is far too self-conscious and awkward to properly join social groups. Instead, he lurks creepily around the fringes listening before loudly filling some lull in the conversation with: "I'm afraid I'm far too self-conscious really to join in here, so I'm just going to lurk creepily at the fringes and listen, if that's all right, just so you know." These types of embarrassments occur to me on a daily basis and are the reason introverts have a naturally-occurring, 1.5-metre human-free radius around us at all times. In short, it's usually best for everyone if I don't attempt socialising at all. As the actor Christopher Walken put it: "I make a better impression if I'm not around."

Then there's Spotify's chief executive and co-founder Daniel Ek, who doesn't want his friends to stop inviting him to things, just so long as they know he's unlikely to show. My all-time favourite celebrity introvert, meanwhile, is former US talk show host Jon Stewart, who's basically a high-functioning hermit and—despite his ability to be incredibly funny on screen—is deliciously gloomy IRL. On the subject of email, Stewart is genuinely confused about why anyone would ever do anything that increases their contactability. As he once told the New Yorker: "When I tended bar, after college, I was always happier behind the bar, not out rocking to the band. People would be… waving their arms and shouting that chant they all knew, 'Something-Something-Get-F***ed,' and I'd be on the sidelines, thinking, 'Even drunk, I've never had that much fun in my life.'" While introverting is unlikely to come naturally to extroverts, extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. During the current COVID-19 crisis, therefore, I recommend you ensure you have the following introvert survival items: Book. Back-up book. Break-glass-in-case-of-emergency back-up book for the back-up book. Ceaseless internal monologue. Round-the-body blanket AND over-the-head blanket. Tea cosy (in case you misplace your over-the-head blanket). Over-sized and fully-fleeced leisurewear. Solid nap plan. During your official reading time (which should occupy at least 12 out of any 24-hour period), you may also enjoy these introvert-inspired coronavirus posts from Bored Panda, Vice, and BuzzFeed (the latter recommends dystopian novels and Jane Fonda's original at-home workout tapes). Finally, if the isolation starts getting you down, remind yourself that — metaphorically at least — you are not alone. Introverts have been uniting separately in our homes for years now and most of us have lived to choose not to talk to anyone in order to tell the tale. Article from ABC

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