Why Social Distancing is Hard on Introverts Too

Dawn Bevier


During the onslaught of these difficult times caused by the Coronavirus, millions of funny memes and tweets are being made about how this time is an "introvert's paradise." After all, what could be more rewarding for introverts than social distancing?

Supposedly, this virus allows us to “live the dream” and spend precious moments reading books, using our creative powers to make art, being alone with a good cup of coffee and our favorite Netflix series, or simply sitting in silence and contemplating all the philosophical questions that usually run through our introverted heads.

However, the more deeply I am immersed in this new work from home lifestyle, the more I see this as a bit of an illusion.

As a matter of fact, I’d rather be at my job as a teacher — a seemingly ironic profession for a person who prefers solitude to socialization.

And while some introverts might not share my feelings about this imposed social distancing, I bet many of them do.

So, here’s why social isolation may be the opposite of what an introvert actually needs or wants right now.

For introverts, alone time is ironically now at a minimum, with children, husbands, or lovers at home too, due to closings and shutdowns.

Unless you live alone, social distancing is not quite what it seems. In “lockdown,” you are constantly surrounded by your immediate family. Introverts are usually highly sensitive, and the chaos and noise that this involves can feel like being trapped.

And being a mother with a husband and two teenagers, the activity and overload of sensory stimulation involved in being cooped up together with nowhere to go is stifling.

For example, when my family went to school or work, they came home wanting alone time after interacting with people all day. Because of this, I could escape to my writing room and be alone with my thoughts.

This is no longer the case.

The television is now blaring as my two children watch their favorite show, laugh uproariously as they share the latest memes or YouTube videos, or yell at the computer screen as they play video games with their friends online.

And actually, these actions are the least intrusive, because when they are not engaged in these activities they come to me, expecting me to turn the house into some sort of amusement park to entertain them. They plop themselves down on the couch and whine and complain that there’s nothing to do. I tell them to read or go outside, but if you know teens today, this is not their “cup of tea.”

They want to go places, to see their friends, to go to the movies or the mall. And for some strange reason, they believe I can somehow make this possible because I am “mom.” And boy do I ever wish I had these superpowers, but I don’t.

In addition, most introverts are often highly attuned to the feelings of others, and they usually internalize others' emotions and angst as well as their own. For instance, I want to be a “helper” and fix my children's misery, but I can’t. So this places another burden on my already taxed emotional well-being.

Before, when I was out at school or in other places, I could still manage to distance myself. Now that my family members are trapped together within these four walls, my own special ways of “escaping” are lost.

I used to go out to shops when I needed a breather. I used to light a few candles and read or write when my children were occupied with sleepovers at friends’ houses or school athletic events. These respites are no longer possible. As a matter of fact, there is less distance for me than ever before.

The irony is others are actually easier to escape from than your own family. And though it sounds harsh, an introvert’s need to be alone doesn’t only apply to social acquaintances and friends, it relates to all people, even the ones we love most.

Introverts now have all the time we want to be in our own heads — and that’s not necessarily positive.

As introverts, most of us are deep thinkers who like to ponder life’s big questions. Many of us also share another common trait: a tendency towards anxiety. When you put these two things together, it is often a powder keg for emotional upheaval.

What is the result of this toxic combination?

An inability to escape from the physical and psychological factors that often control our emotions. And when one aspect of my being is at peace, such as the few moments when I am alone and my family is engaged in other pursuits, the other aspect of introversion attacks: my mind.

Even introverts need people.

Though introverts covet time alone, they often have a few select group of friends to which they are extremely close. And not being able to see these people hurts. I miss my sixty-six-year-old mom and seventy-three-year-old father, but I won’t dare go near them for fear of endangering their lives. I miss their smiles and their companionship. They are the people that truly know and love me for who I am — and I need them desperately.

The simple truth is all people need people. And not being able to see those few whom we really care about is painful. Even for secluded introverts.

The bottom line:

I think this pandemic is showing us that no matter our preference, either for social gatherings or for time alone, there are certain things that the heart craves that this tragic virus takes away from us all. And as frustrated and trapped as I sometimes feel in this new situation, I am eternally grateful.

Because the people I love most are here and safe and nothing matters more. And when the time is right and my days are mine again, I will wander the sidewalks alone and think about how beautiful life truly is when you can have your cake and eat it too.

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Sanford, NC

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