I just recently started reading the book Quiet: The power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. I’ve only read the preface and the first chapter, but I’m already incredibly intrigued by the book.
One of the thoughts that I keep coming back to is how the world, or maybe I should say American culture, really push people to be extroverted. Even in the field of development, there are people being pushed to speak at conferences and possibly even teach on the topics they know well. The irony, to me, is that many of these people got into working with code because it was a solitary endeavor. The could sit at a computer and make things happen. Sure, we all like to share what we’ve done, but with Github or Codepen, you can do that without speaking or having to put yourself out there in a truly extroverted way. In addition to this many of the modern work environments for developers are completely open spaces, where everyone sits together and, as I have found, there is a lot of chatter and talking. For an extrovert, this may be the perfect work environment, but for the introvert, it can be pure hell. How do you concentrate and get anything done? In my last full time position, when someone needed to concentrate and get work done, she worked from home in order to cut down the interruptions. So I am in a field where introverts are attracted to be, but the way the offices are set up and the work is done is the exact opposite of a conducive environment for them to work. Something I’ve thought about a lot over the past year or so.
What caught me about the beginning of the Cain book is that this is not how it always was. There was a Cult of Character before the early 20th century and the characteristics that were important were things you could work on and achieve, such as duty, work, honor, morals, or manners. That has all been replaced with a Cult of Personality over the course of the 20th Century where the characteristics that are valued are things that you either have or you don’t, such as magnetic, fascinating, attractive or dominant. How do you feel valued if you can’t even achieve those things that society finds valuable?
As I continue to read the book I am sure there will continue to be nuggets like these. I came to the realization that I am an introvert years ago. I like to be out with people, but it drains me, unlike quiet time; which revives me. I am OK with that but admit that I often feel pushed to be something I’m not in this culture and I battle with that still.