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Introversion and Social Needs -or- Why I Like Parties
I am an introvert with high social needs. That means that social interaction, like exercise, takes energy in the short term, but if I'm regularly getting an appropriate amount I have more energy and feel better overall. More is better pretty much up to the point where it's too much, so my ideal range of social interaction is very small.

Andrés, for reference, is an extrovert with low social needs. He's happy with a level of social interaction low enough to distress me and also happy with a level high enough to entirely overwhelm me.

Fig. 1:
A: . . : : :::|||||||||||||::: : : . .
T:    . . : : :::||||
   social interaction --->
(Higher density is better; note the abrupt drop-off at "too much".)

Interacting with people takes a varying amount of energy. The most important factor is how well I know someone or how comfortable I am with them (those aren't quite the same thing, but they're closely correlated). Interacting with someone I don't know well takes a lot more energy than interacting with someone I do know well. Interacting with several people I don't know is lots more effort than interacting with one person I don't know, but interacting with several people I do know is only a little more effort than interacting with one person I know. This makes hosting parties a very efficient source of social interaction -- it takes only slightly more effort than having one or two people over and results in a whole lot of social interaction, giving it a very high return on investment. (Going to parties is less efficient, because other people's parties usually include people I don't know, sometimes in large numbers.)

I have been skating on the edge of cranky-introvert-needs-alone-time-now for the last two weeks. I was all proud of my introversion management at apc16 -- "I'm not overwhelmed at all!" -- but I neglected to figure that unusual social energy expenditure into my plans for the next while, plus I got a number of exciting social situations dropped in my lap all at once (a small number, but they interact in interesting ways). Also I owe a bunch of people e-mail (::waves at some of the people -- most of them, come to think of it::). Now I am feeling weirdly insecure about whether people like me and stuff, which I think is about equal parts (a) having overdone it socially this week[1] and (b) basically all that socializing having been with the same people (who are lovely people I like hanging out with, but who I don't know all that well and who are part of one of the exciting social situations, which makes hanging out with them a little stressier than it might otherwise be). And this isn't letting up anytime soon. Last week I was thinking "Gosh, I haven't seen [long list of specific people] in a while -- time for a party!" but it's going to be a while before previously-planned things let up enough that I'll have the social energy to plan a party.

This is annoying, because I'd like to see the various specific people (hi, people! ::waves at the half of the list who are probably reading this::), but I would also like to avoid messy brain explosions. I think I surface some time in March, which is not so very far away. I shall try to plan ahead enough that there is not too long a gap between previously-scheduled things and theoretical party (busy is good), but I have to leave enough of a gap for my brain to settle down enough to handle planning (not too busy). Must aim carefully!

      . . : : :::||||
                   you are here

[1] Somebody somewhere sometime between last month and last year explained that when they had a sudden burst of "These people hate me!" in the middle of a convention it meant it was time to go sit quietly in an empty room and coddle the introvert. Thank you, somebody -- it's a very useful signifier, and much less distressing when recognized as a temporary symptom.

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I've been having a similar post-apc16 situation, where I didn't really factor in the drain the con would put on my social reserves and had a bunch of other social stuff planned for when I got home, resulting in me now being completely past my social comfort zone and only just starting to back toward it after a week of being mostly alone.

*nods* Me, too, though not on the social-stuff balance so much as on the balance of "active doing-things time" versus time de-stressing. Part of this was that I've been spending a fairly good bit of time and energy on work lately; part of it was the idea of "I'll just work Saturday the weekend after the con, instead of taking a vacation day for the drive home Monday." Which -- given that, as a telecommuter working flex-time, having tiredness crashes means making up the time later in the week -- meant that I didn't really have Sunday as much of a weekend day either, and so I started out the next week pretty drained. Yesterday was basically the only weekend day I've had since the con, though I have high hopes for next weekend.

Edited at 2008-02-20 07:11 am (UTC)

Whew, a whole week of still-overloaded! That is a lot. Poor you. ::introvert anti-hug::

I usually recover pretty quickly as long as I don't have to talk to anybody, which definitely makes it easier to get back to a nice calm relaxed state. I may not be up for more socializing for a longer time, but I do at least feel better after just a few hours of alone time.

This is one of the best explanations for how I work that I've ever seen! Thank you for writing it, it's going straight into my 'memories' folder on here.

Heh. Neat.

I had gotten the impression that both the extent to which how well I know the person matters and the extent to which the number of people doesn't matter (as long as I know them) were pretty unusual.

I discovered - very very recently - that if I'm hosting I can be much more social for much longer with more people. Going to parties is very stressful unless I know that I'm going to know the vast majority of the people there quite well, but hosting something with mostly people I know well is WAY lower stress.

I think I realised this about 3 weeks ago, so I may not have had such a strong 'yes, that!' response before then :-)

I love figuring that stuff out.

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