Digital Extrovert ≠ IRL Extrovert
a personality scale for internet-natives
Sup nerds, you're reading Cyber Patterns. If you want to join 1,000+ patternists learning about emerging patterns in tech every week, subscribe below.
If you're out with good friends for 3 hours, do you want to go home or keep the night going? I would choose GO HOME 99 out of 100 times. This is the mark of the introvert, says Quiet author Susan Cain.
"Hell is other people."
I love hanging out with friends, but I need to recharge after a few hours and read, write, or walk my dog. I was known for skipping parties in college to read or work on a project. It took me a while to realize this isn't weird — I'm just an introvert.
I think it's important to understand where you lie on the extroversion/introversion scale when choosing friendships, romantic partners, and workplaces. Like anything in life, it's all about balance. I'm dating an extrovert now and she helps me get out of my shell.
Weird thing — my girlfriend is an extrovert, but only offline. I found this strange until I realized IRL extroversion and digital extroversion are completely different. So to supplement the ancient extroversion/introversion scale, I've made up a couple new terms that are made especially for internet-natives like us.
A digital extrovert is comfortable meeting new people online whether that be through gaming, social media, or online collectives. He or she is fine messaging people they don't know, hopping on video calls, and making content on social media. If you know someone who doesn't get Zoom Fatigue, there's a good chance they're a digital extrovert.
A digital introvert is someone who doesn't like meeting new people online. They find it strange and prefer to consume content and be alone. They may post on social media, but 99% of their online interactions are with their IRL friends. The digital introvert would find it weird to send a cold dm and may complain about how dating apps feel "fake".
While understanding IRL extroversion/introversion is important for IRL relationships, understanding digital extroversion/introversion is important for online relationships, picking careers, and choosing social media platforms to create on.
I've made this little chart cross-referencing the two scales below. Check it out to see where you lie (and try to see where your friends or popular influencers lie).
Digital Extrovert x IRL Extrovert
This combo is someone who is both the life of the party online and offline. An easy archetype would be someone like Jake Paul or Doja Cat. They're cool running around with their clothes and off and hitting up anyone online or offline.
Even the most extroverted tech nerds are typically more reserved. The best example in tech is someone like Morning Brew's Alex Lieberman. He can run a company IRL, grow a Twitter account, and film TikToks in public.
Digital Extrovert x IRL Introvert
This is me. While I'm a digital extrovert and make a living writing to people on the internet, I'm an IRL introvert. I'm cool messaging strangers, making decentralized friendships, and putting my thoughts online in front of thousands, but I get exhausted around people.
Put me in front of a laptop and I feel energized — like I can create anything, learn anything, and talk with anyone. Put me in an office or meeting room and I'm out of energy within an hour or two. Put me in Times Square for more than 10 minutes and I'll have a toddler-level temper tantrum.
Digital Introvert x IRL Extrovert
He's the life of the party, but is afraid to tweet a joke. In person, he could walk up to the prettiest girl in the bar, but he finds social media and online dating "fake." If he knows you make friends online, he'll call it "weird" (although he goes on Tinder dates 2x per week).
This is someone who is accustomed to making friends IRL and finds it very unnatural to socialize with strangers on the internet. This is a traditionally-minded person who thinks the Harvard Club is the only way to network with millionaires.
Digital Introvert x IRL Introvert
This someone who prefers being alone online and offline. I immediately think of a scientist I dated who spent her days in a lab and nights reading research papers. For her career, this was 100% fine (and encouraged until you're a professor).
In my opinion, it's the worst combination if you want an internet-based career, but it's not impossible — many digital and IRL introverts fight against their introversion to fulfill their internet dreams.
Overcoming Digital Introversion
As I discuss in 10+ Years Losing on The Internet, I started creating content at a young age. I made videos on YouTube in middle school, sold $40,000 worth of stickers in high school, and ran a music magazine in college. All eventually failed.
Failing in public is why I'm succeeding now. It's not that every failure taught me some bullshit fairytale lesson — it's that I've failed so much that I don't fear failure as much.
I failed on the internet more times than I can count and yet nothing terrible happened. My ego is still in tact, I've got a job, and I haven't been ostracized from my family. Everyone who has made anything cool has at some point failed miserably.
Sure, I felt like a dumbass for a bit, but at this point, I've had enough exposure therapy to digital embarrassment that I can try just about anything. If it fails, I'll still be affected, but feeling like a dumbass is just another passing emotion like happiness or hunger.
Notice how Eric keeps doing shit he thinks is cool even after his dad calls him a dumbass. Be like Eric. Keep making shit you think is cool even when the world slaps you in the back of the head and calls you a dumbass.