Introverts enjoy their alone time. We like to work in solitude so we can focus on the work without distractions from chatty colleagues. We are very comfortable in our homes. Therefore it stands to reason that introverts should handle the Covid-19 pandemic and related quarantines, lockdowns, and work from home better than extroverts. And they don’t!
According to a survey conducted by the research consultancy Greater Divide, extroverts fared better during the lockdowns of the Covid-19 pandemic than introverts. The survey collected data from a representative sample of 1,000 American adults. Those who scored high on extroversion were less likely to experience mental health issues due to the quarantine. Extroverts tend to experience more frequent and more intense positive emotions, which may help during isolation to stay more optimistic.
Another recent study corroborated this, suggesting that extroverts handled the Covid-19 pandemic and forced isolation better than introverts. Even though introverts reported that their moods improved a bit during pandemic and extroverts reported the opposite, the problem is that the extroverts started much higher, so ultimately introverts still felt more severe loneliness and anxiety. This is supported by yet another recent study of 484 US college students during their 2020 spring term.
There are several problems with the forced pandemic “solitude.” First, it often wasn’t solitude at all but simply jail time with your family, and that wasn’t always restful and productive. There was nowhere to escape. Second, introverts didn’t employ as many strategies to deal with social isolation as extroverts. Extroverts were much more proactive and were reaching out to others more often.
Of course, as Lis Ku, a senior lecturer in psychology at the De Montfort University, notes, personality is multifaceted. It is not only introversion and extroversion that impact how you handle lockdowns and forced isolation. It is always the combination of all the traits that drive your behavior. For example, when using the Big Five theory of personality, you also have openness to new experiences; conscientiousness and self-discipline; agreeableness; and neuroticism that each contributes. While extroverts may be associated with more healthy activities, conscientiousness is a better predictor of whether they follow through. Extroverts may have more extensive networks of people they know, but agreeableness predicts the quality of those networks.
This is being validated by the results of a study focused on how the Big Five personality traits impacted anxiety and depressive symptoms during the Covid-19 pandemic. The study showed that extraversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, and openness were negatively correlated with anxiety and depressive symptoms. While neuroticism, health anxiety, and measures of Covid-19 psychological distress were positively correlated with anxiety and depression.
And it is not just personality at play here either. It is various motivational forces, values, and beliefs that all impact how we handle solitude. So if you want to blame your personality for feeling miserable, you can really do it only with neuroticism, but otherwise, a lot is in your own hands. Herein lays also the recipe for going forward.
Putting it all together
If you are an introvert who didn’t do that well during the pandemic, learn from the experience and do something about it next time. You can check some of the suggestions of the 12 ways to cope with loneliness. Chief among them are getting off social media, changing the narrative about how you feel, having a routine, being social and showing up when you have the opportunity, exercising regularly, talking to your friends and family as often as you can, and getting help when you feel you are losing it.
What is your take on the topic? Do you believe that introverts had a harder time than extroverts during the pandemic? What are your tips and tricks on how to handle social isolation?
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We all need social contact and interaction. Being locked up isn’t natural. An introvert still likes to get out and about in nature. Something that lockdown prevented for many. Neuroticism correlates with introversion of course but I believe you’re right – it’s neuroticism that matters most when it comes to subjective well being. Great post. Thank you for sharing