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    Thinking Through The Introvert Advantage {Technology, God’s Mercy, and Rest}

    March 25, 2010 by Brandy Vencel

    The Introvert Advantage:
    How to Thrive in an Extrovert World

    by Marti Olsen Laney, Psy. D.

    There is a scene in the book Henry and the Great Society where Henry freaks out concerning the installation of a telephone. Henry, for those of you who haven’t read the book, is living on the brink of Industrialism. He himself is a traditional agrarian, watching all of the world about him transform into a New Economy. His wife and children swallow the new culture with its new indulgences whole, leaving him essentially alone, both physically {due to the invention of the car} and relationally {because they fail to really understand how hard the transition of the entire world weighs upon him}.

    So, as I was saying, Henry is troubled by the telephone. He realizes its magnitude in a way few of us do: anyone, anywhere, with a phone has access to his house–even people he doesn’t know and would never invite inside. The idea that millions of people have the potential to invade his home and interrupt his meals, to force themselves upon his solitude, troubles him to no end.

    Today, we face even more such intrusions, and yet I still believe the phone–in all of its forms, such as cellular phones, satellite phones, and my personal favorite, landline phones–is perhaps the most potent. After all, the computer can be turned off and email ignored. Likewise, the television does not turn itself on and demand our attention.

    But the phone? The phone is altogether different. It is one of the only technologies I can think of which forces itself upon us. It rings, demanding our attention. It has no regard for the fact that one of your children just fell down and is in tears, or you are in the middle of a lesson and someone just had a light bulb turn on in their head, or your hands are covered in raw chicken residue. The word “call” is an appropriate term, for the phone indeed calls us out of our lives. It beckons, and it has trained us to respond quickly to its demands.

    Today, during morning lessons, my phone rang four separate times. Once, a debt collection service called our number because we are fortunate to have someone using our phone number when they apply for debts they never intend to repay. Next, we had a doctor’s office call to confirm an appointment for tomorrow. And then we had two hang-ups.

    This is typical.

    With the invention of the car phone, which eventually became the cellular phone, the phone became capable of actually following us out of the house. Now, it didn’t just interrupt our home life; it interrupted our drives and later all of life. I do not have a cellular phone because I do not want others to have that sort of access to me. There is no increase in virtue resulting from having constant technological noise surrounding us. Who can complete a thought, who can build a meaningful relationship with their child, when every single time something important is about to happen, the phone beckons once more with its siren song, promising something urgent and important on the other end?

    How I wish that Dr. Laney had attempted to broach the topic of the impact of technology upon introverts. My guess is that it is technology, more than anything else, which has so many of us running for cover.

    I am reminded of a line from How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Oh, the noise, noise, noise, NOISE! Dr. Laney explains that introverts are energized by thought and solitude, but never questions their relationship to television shows, social media, or the internet in general. Could the “relational energy” of a very extreme introvert be used up by watching a sitcom or a drama? Could it be that it is to the detriment of our families some of us hop on Facebook and open the tap, letting our energy spill out in the most frivolous places?

    I do not claim to know, and my hunch is that it is probably different for each person. However, I wish that Dr. Laney had asked the question and investigated to see if there was any research upon the subject. She mentions popular culture several times, but only in the sense in which one would identify it or take for granted that one exists within its flow, rather than in the sense of questioning its contribution to the dis-ease often suffered by introverts.

    I would also be interested to know if such technologies, specifically texting and cell phones, overstimulate extroverts, but that would be well outside the scope of a book on introverts, I know.

    Dr. Laney did briefly mention the phone. She discusses something she calls “phone phobia,” and she explains:

    Here’s how most introverts view the phone: It’s an interruption that drains energy and requires losing internal focus, which you have to gain again; it requires expending energy for “on-the-feet-thinking”…

    Homeschooling adds another layer to this, because even if the mother is an extrovert who isn’t the slightest bit rattled by a phone call in the middle of lessons, her children may not be able to recover as swiftly as she, if at all. And at the end of the day, extrovert or no, continuing a thought to its end is an undervalued act in our culture and should be treasured by the monasteries of home learning.

    Dr. Laney gives permission for something all of us should do at least some of the time: let the phone ring. Let the caller leave a message. Screen your calls using an answering machine, even, and “don’t let people make you feel guilty for not picking up the phone.”

    Reading history can help us gain some perspective. Throughout all of history, the world beyond the walls of home did not have unlimited access to the inside whenever it liked. Dr. Laney mentions that she once found a calling card belonging to her grandmother’s era which stated:

    I Will Be Receiving from 2 to 4 on Sunday Afternoon.

    Do you see the difference? Perhaps once weekly, the home opened its doors to the outer world and invited it in. Throughout the week, women and families would call upon each other whenever a house was open for receiving. But today, the existence of cell phones and home phones is as if we’ve held out a calling card which reads:

    I Will Be Receiving at All Hours, Day and Night, Forever.

    When we hold technology up to the light of history, it is easier to throw off its nonsensical demands. The phone was invented and put into our homes for convenience, not to dominate our lives. Carrying them in our pockets is a sure sign that Neil Postman’s technopoly is alive and well.

    The Mercy of God

    There have been times where modern life has felt absolutely crushing to me. The demand for attention is oppressive. Everywhere, something in the landscape screams to passersby, “Look at me! Buy me! Covet me! Think about me! Me! Me! Me!” Where are we to hide from this culture? The introvert is, perhaps, the likeliest victim of modernity, in the same way that perhaps an extrovert would suffer if condemned to life in a convent, complete with a vow of silence.

    Even though last week I made the case that introverts can be well-spoken, too, and perhaps a little rhetoric training is in order, this doesn’t mean that the introvert {or anyone for that matter} is obligated to walk in lock-step with popular culture.

    I am reminded of this verse:

    A bruised reed He will not break
    And a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish…

    Isaiah 42:3

    God has a strong right arm, yes, but He is also tender and merciful. He is a refuge in the chaos. His burden is light, and even at that He gives us the strength we’ll need to carry it.

    God does not demand that we keep up with the racing world. He doesn’t demand that we utilize every new technology debuted on Main Street. He only asks us to follow Him and fulfill the purposes to which He has called His people: to love one another, make disciples of the nations, to do good works, to glorify our Father in heaven.

    We all need rest. The only true rest is in Him.

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  • Reply Sallie@aquietsimplelife April 3, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Late to the conversation, but that was the kind of week we had. My brief and random response…

    We made the choice not to be enslaved to a phone and so our cell phones are like Ellen described. No one else has the number because I refuse to be that accessible.

    We don’t answer our landline just because it rings. And we run a business from home. The person calling has no idea if we are there. For all they know we are with a client or out of the house at a business meeting.

    Re: introverts and technology in general… I guess my own experience has been different. I’m extremely skeptical of using technology because I know what a time and energy sucker it is. That’s why I refuse to even consider being on Facebook. That would sap the ever living life right out of me. I just don’t have the energy or time to care what anyone else eats for breakfast. πŸ™‚

    Henry and the Great Society was an interesting and very sad book.

    Like I said… random thoughts!

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts March 30, 2010 at 4:03 am

    The more I read everyone’s comments, the more I realize that the phone was the beginning of technopoly. It was the original demanding technology. Remember, Postman theorized that technological societies became technopolies when the technology ruled. In other words, instead of the tools accomodating themselves to the user, the user began to accomodate himself to the tool. To the extent that we allow a tool to rule our lives, we live enslaved to technopoly.

    I am trying to figure out what other tools so easily enslave…

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts March 30, 2010 at 1:53 am

    You know, any phone call that starts with “Hello, it’s Granddad,” is always welcome, especially by certain short people who shall remain nameless.

  • Reply Anonymous March 30, 2010 at 12:58 am


    Hello its granddad

  • Reply Victoria M March 29, 2010 at 5:07 pm

    ***wild applause for your post*****

    The telephone is the most intrusive, rude, and energy draining appliance ever installed in the home for my *so-called* convenience. Thanks!

  • Reply The BadgerMum March 28, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    In the movie “First Monday in October” Walter Matthau plays a Supreme Court justice who gets my favorite line in the whole movie. He’s sitting in his chambers listening to a guest when the phone rings. Matthau just sits there, but the guest stops talking, waits for him to answer it, and when he doesn’t finally says, “Aren’t you going to answer it?” Matthau’s response: The phone has no Constitutional right to be answered.


    When my answering machine broke I didn’t bother replacing it. My friends know to let it ring seven to ten times. I have one phone, a land line in the dining room, so it takes awhile for me to decide to answer it, then get there. I let it ring at least five times before getting it, which automatically screens out people who don’t know us well enough for me to care to talk to them.

    When we’re at prayers we take it off the hook.

    We also have one cell phone, but use it like Ellen does — whoever happens to be out of the house (we have four-soon-to-be-five drivers now) takes it along, but no one ever really calls us much on it. Well, except for my son’s co-workers if they need him to fill in for them.

    I do feel sorry for people who are absolutely enslaved to their phones.

  • Reply Rahime March 28, 2010 at 12:15 am

    Yes, if my landline rings, invariably it’s a solicitation call. If it’s a friend, more often than not, they’ll try my cell phone.

    Come to think of it, I don’t do much of anything alone!

    I suppose not! πŸ˜‰

    Mystie, I like the idea of categorizing things as urgent/not-urgent and important/not-important and then minimizing the urgent-unimportant. That’s a great way of looking it.

  • Reply Mystie March 27, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    I completely understand. It takes a tremendous amount of willpower for me to place a phone call and to answer the phone. We have cell phones only and no landline, and we even just switched to pay-as-you-go cells because we use the phone so little. The cell has the benefit of caller ID, so if the number is one not in my address book and I’m not expecting a call from an unfamiliar number, I let it go to voicemail. Also, cell numbers aren’t publicly listed and so I get zero telemarketing calls.

    My speech class for which I never had to speak was actually still a beneficial class. 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was our “textbook,” and in that he has a section on classifying tasks as urgent/not-urgent & important/not-important. The goal is to spend most of your energy on important and not-urgent so as to prevent important & urgent crises. What stuck with me most was that he specifically targeted incoming phone calls as not-important and urgent, which is the category you want to minimize. Ever since then I have never felt bad about letting the phone go to voicemail. πŸ™‚

    With that thought sustaining and justifying me, I refuse to be ruled by the impudent phone. It helps that when it’s in my purse and I’m out and about or if it’s in the kitchen and I’m in another room or if it’s anywhere but right next to me and a child is crying or several children are making noise, I can’t even hear the phone. Yes, that means I almost never hear the phone when it rings, but I also only get maybe 3-5 calls a week. I communicate through email with even most of my local friends, and by Google Talk with my mom (who has a practically-laptop phone always with her) and husband (who works at a computer, online, all day).

    I was even thinking of changing my voicemail message from “I am unable to answer the phone right now….” to “I have either left my phone in my purse in the car, or the baby is crying, or I’m changing a diaper, or we’re doing school, or the house is too noisy to converse anyway, or I didn’t get to the phone in time…” πŸ™‚ Maybe, in light of the “receiving” quote I should add, “I return phone calls between 1 and 3 and 7:30 and 8:30pm, because that’s when life isn’t crazy around here.” πŸ™‚

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts March 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

    Rahime, I can see how the cell phone would actually assist you in keeping a landline from invading your home. I think I’d be more attracted to cells if I had drives alone. As it is, I don’t really drive anywhere alone. Come to think of it, I don’t do much of anything alone! πŸ™‚

    Jennifer, What you are saying made me think: did you feel this way about phones before you had children? I am just wondering about something the author metioned, that extroverts tend to get more introverted (even though they may never become extreme introverts) as they age.

  • Reply Jennifer March 26, 2010 at 3:49 pm

    Your extrovert, weighing in: telephones do not stimulate me in the least! They drain me like nothing else. I hesitate to answer my cell phone quite often, dreading the “I’m just calling to say ‘hi'” that is a possibility on the other end. I balk at the intrusion of strangers upon my life at home, and I feel no remorse about interrupting telemarketers and asking them to remove me from their list. I used to hear them out. I can’t handle it anymore.

    I love the bygone idea of a calling card…i never knew where the term came from! However, in society today, this would be superfluous, just another intrusion upon an already-harried it seems to this seasonally-tired mommy : )

    I did have a phone a few years ago that had an option for a “silent ring”. It was quite useful during Bible studies and joint napping times with my first baby. I have sorrowed over the passing of that phone as I have not found another one like it at Costco since. (I refuse to buy electronics anywhere else as their return policy is amazing!) So if you have access to a phone like this, it virtually eliminates the phone-interruption problem. Simply delete unwanted messages and keep the ones you want.

    Great post. Have a blessed weekend.

  • Reply Rahime March 26, 2010 at 5:31 am

    I hate the phone (esp. the land-line). I hate making calls–especially to strangers–and oftentimes I hate answering calls too.

    BUT I love my cell phone. I don’t feel a bit guilty about not answering it when I don’t feel like it. Primarily, I love being able call my family when I’m driving (mainly b/c I spend an inordinate amount of time in my car), so talking on the phone with distant loved-ones doesn’t take up my valuable “at home” time.

    I think if I didn’t work, I wouldn’t be as attached to the cell phone–I may even be inclined forgo having one, but I can’t begin to count the hours & hassle I’ve saved in my work b/c of the cell phone and text messages.

    It would indeed be very interesting to know if/how technologies impact introverts differently than extroverts. It seems like they would.

  • Reply Brandy Afterthoughts March 25, 2010 at 11:37 pm


    My husband has a phone like what you mentioned, but I think it costs more than yours…maybe we should look around again. I agree that it can really save a person in a bind. I DID have a phone like that myself back when I was pregnant/nursing for that exact reason.

    For me, I just have to remind myself that technology is my tool, and not the other way around. πŸ™‚

    ps. I still subscribe to your blog, FYI, even if you are happy and contented. Ha. πŸ˜‰

  • Reply Ellen March 25, 2010 at 11:32 pm

    I have a cell phone, but I think I’ve figured out a way to have one without really “having” one. It’s a cheap, pay as you go, Virgin mobile phone. It costs me about $7 a month to use it. Nobody has the number except my husband, and I only turn it on when I’m going to be out and someone might need something. It has saved me extra trips to the store and from getting horribly lost. But I’m not part of the cell phone culture. It’s for useful info and emergencies only, not for endless chatting. And it almost never rings because everyone knows I don’t really use it.

    And I love caller id and using the answering machine. I’m not going to get the phone if we’re in the middle of something, and I shall not feel ashamed. =)

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