Pandemic Diary 1: Of Jokes and Introverts

In this era of pandemic concerns, rumors and memes are more easily communicable and travel more quickly than that airborne virus which we must each dodge like Neo in the first Matrix film. Here in my hometown of New Paltz, NY, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases escalated from one to many long before (well, days before) one was confirmed.

(We now have several, and a town whose boundary is within walking distance from my house is my county’s current coronavirus hot spot. Well, yay! us.)

When New York State imposed a stay-at-home quarantine for anyone deemed “not essential” by employers on the night of March 22—two long weeks ago—a variation of a meme about introverts proliferated: “When you find out your normal daily lifestyle is called ‘quarantine'” read one popular meme over a children’s show character’s reaction to something. (Below.)

I do not know the name of the character or the story line behind this character’s reaction, which is a frequently seen meme with various captions. Feel free to fill me in, as we have all day here, and tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after …

Another meme features several photos of Tom Cruise in frantic laughter under the caption, “Introverts watching the phrase ‘social distancing’ trend in 2020.” Hardy-har-har.

Almost all of these social media memes mis-characterize introversion or even shyness. There is no club of introverts (of course) that (doesn’t) meet to ridicule extroverts in this quarantining month-plus. There is no glee in IntrovertVille, now that so-called extroverts must spend time alone. Most of those social media memes are from extroverts who claim to be introverts anyway. (“Introverts of the world unite, separately, in your own homes,” is one slogan that has been around since before social media.) Most introverted people do not proclaim their introversion, after all; they simply are.

Many of us want to be the thing that we think we are not. Some extroverted sorts associate introversion with intellectualism, I suppose, and many introverts associate extroversion with general success in life. I have characterized myself as an introvert from the moment that I encountered the term (in the womb; my mom was and is a strong believer in education), but like many things that I believe about myself, this characterization is only partway true.

In the Mythology of Mark (not yet published) that I carry around with me everywhere, there is a self-belief that I am a complete introvert: shy, withdrawn, not outgoing, a professional at the drab or even bad first impression. Every once in a while I am forced to look at my self-beliefs. Last night was one of those occasions. Several friends of mine and I were in a chat (by video, of course, because we are introverts and under quarantine) and we discussed what we are each doing to cope with the current isolation.

After I described myself as an introvert to these friends, who have each known me for years, one responded: “You’re the most extroverted of the group of us.” Each one of us in the conversation last night considers himself an introvert, is considered to be an introvert at times by others, and I know that each one of us prizes our solitude and can enjoy his own company, but each one of us deals with the public quite often, in successful professional lives, and quite well. All my life, I have pursued extroverted activities out of a desire to “get over my shyness.” I remain profoundly shy, yet I continue to pursue extroverted activities. So I am a combination of the traits, as we all are.

One mock public service announcement that appeared on Facebook and Twitter asked “introverts” to check up on their extroverted friends in this time of need, this moment of imposed isolation. This joke comes closer to the truth of our shared moment of separate quarantines. That one word, “imposed,” is what the laughter about introverts lately is about. No one wants to be forced to be or do anything, other than masochists, I’d guess.

A Young Adult writer named Meredith Ireland best captured quarantine life in a Tweet she posted earlier today:

Those two bunny rabbits with their eyebrows up in quietude or down in frustration: That’s life right now, whether one enjoys solitude or not. I enjoy my own company, but I hate this momentary life of video chats with friends and long walks alone. I can not hang out with just anyone, can not ask a friend for a ride into town, must plan everything.

Ms. Ireland wrote in a further tweet, “I keep seeing these think pieces like ‘this is great for introverts!!!’ Nope. It’s great for misanthropes. That’s about it.”

One of the other Myths of Mark that I carry around in me is that I am a misanthrope. Perhaps I aspire to be one, but deep down, I love humanity and quite a few of the individual members of our species, but I am so frequently disappointed by us that I must be a humanitarian. Love is sometimes only apparent when it is thwarted.

* * * *
Perhaps it is an April Fools Day prank from our friends at WordPress, but the reappearance of the Daily Prompt is a welcome one, for this diarist at least, even for a month.

The WordPress Daily Prompt for April 1, 2020, asks us to reflect on the word, “Joke.”

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  1. Frank J. Tassone · April 1, 2020

    Being equally introverted and extroverted, these times are fearfully and wonderfully made me for me. Still, I miss eating out, and Easter without the massive family get-together? Sigh!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · April 1, 2020

      I think I’m 50/50, also. I miss restaurants right now, too, and I look forward to dinner in the locally owned ones here. Sooner than later, I hope.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Arbie · April 1, 2020

    This is brilliant. I was an extrovert up until mental illness clobbered me over the head and I became an introvert ever since (possibly, maybe agoraphobia or mental illness just doing its do). What you said about being a misanthrope also rang very true. Anyway, came for the bunnies and loved the article!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Mark Aldrich · April 1, 2020

      Thank you for the compliments, Arbie, and I have empathy for your challenges. I’m happy you came by to visit the site!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Janelle Visser · April 1, 2020

    I’m an introvert but close to the line, the best description I’ve heard which I think matches what you’re describing about being an introvert yet dealing with the public often is “Performance Extrovert” – basically, an introvert that can pull off an appearance of extroversion when the situation calls for it but, whereas extroverts recharge by being with people, they are still introverts and still need time to recharge alone. I’m a tour guide so it’s my job to be with lots of people ALL the time… except at the moment when tourism is cancelled… and people think this makes me an extrovert. What they don’t see is how much it takes for me to recharge in between. Anyways, take care my fellow misunderstood introvert! Haha. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Relax... · April 1, 2020

    Good to see you’re ok, Mark! From daughter and others, I think the most apt and consistent descriptor I’ve seen is that while extroverted folks re-/energize in the midst of others, introverted people re-/energize when alone (or nearly so).

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Lani · April 2, 2020

    This “Many of us want to be the thing that we think we are not. Some extroverted sorts associate introversion with intellectualism, I suppose, and many introverts associate extroversion with general success in life.”

    I have analyzed introvertedness vs extrovertedness enough, but your explanation perfectly sums it up!

    Liked by 1 person

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