Extroverts Long for Alone Time, Too

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Photo: Sam Bloomberg-Rissman/Getty Images/Blend Images

While Carl Jung, who coined the terms extroversion and introversion, thought that nobody was really just one or the other, pop psychology has nonetheless set up an unhelpful dichotomy between introverts, who are conceptualized as drawing their energy from solitude, and extroverts, who are thought to get their fires stoked by parties, networking, and other hypersocial situations.

But the actual research indicates that the intros and extros among us have more in common than the binary model would suggest. Science of Us has reported on how extroverts find it draining to be around their fellow humans for too long, too. “Everybody sometimes gets tired from too many social interactions … ,” psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman observed. “Just some of us are consistently more so on a regular basis than others.” Indeed, a new and gigantic global survey suggests that when it comes to needing to be alone, we’re all in this together.

The survey — snappily called the Rest Test — was carried out by the BBC and Hubbub, a group of academics, poets, mental-health professionals, and the like led by Durham University. The survey had over 18,000 self-selected respondents from 134 countries (that’s over two-thirds of the worldwide total!). A full 68 percent said that they could use more rest, and what’s pertinent to our intro-extro explorations were the rest activities they pursued. Reading was by far the most common response, followed by being in the natural environment, spending time alone, and listening to music. Seeing friends or family or drinking tea or coffee were at the bottom, along with gardening.

Not because, the BBC’s Claudia Hammond thoughtfully notes, they didn’t like doing these things; it just wasn’t very restful. The top rankings were similar for extroverts and introverts — hell yeah, reading! The extroverts did finding hanging out with their born or found family more relaxing than the introverts did, though still not as relaxing as solitary pursuits.

From the span of the survey, it appears to be a global truth: If you’re going to really relax, you need to be on your own.