Your friends are lying to you

For most of my life I felt like the odd man out. I was shyer, more anxious, and less social than any of my friends. To some extent things have changed over the past few years as I've dealt with social anxiety and learned to better accept myself. But I still find that I'm the quiet one in virtually all of my friendships. I always took this for granted, thinking that I must really be in the 99th percentile of shyness. But when my boyfriend and I had dinner with a few of his college friends last week, I started reassessing.

One of his friends was quiet. Very quiet. It's rare that I meet someone shyer than myself. But then I started thinking back to a few weeks prior. I had brunch with an ex and his new boyfriend: also very shy. In fact, Myers/Briggs reports that the population is split virtually half and half between introverts and extroverts. So where were all these shy folks all my life when I was feeling like a social outcast?

The answer is in the Friendship Paradox: your friends are likely to have more friends than you do. This is a selection bias effect. No matter how shy or introverted you are, your friends are likely to be extroverts because those are the people most likely to be seeking friends. So where are all the introverts? They've been here all along hiding in an extrovert's world. I'm an introvert, and I generally still find extroverts easier to make conversation with. They ask more questions and are better at keeping the conversation going.

I saw Susan Cain's TED Talk a while back, but I never really groked it until now. Even introverts have a bias against introverts. We're quiet and it's time to shout it from the rooftops.


Posted by Abraham