On being a bitrovert

As is well known in the Lib-Dem-and-hangers-on blogosphere (rather more hangers-on than Lib Dems these days, and soon presumably just hangers), James Graham is a genius. So it need surprise no-one that he coined a term only this morning which was swiftly adopted into the Official Permitted Lexicon of the People’s Republic, thus:

Several things could drive this campaign, I think. The first and most obvious is that people like narratives and categories and shorthand; it makes them feel in control, it gives them a handle on what to do in conflict situations. What can be named can be manipulated. The second is the ubiquity of personality profiling systems like Myers-Briggs, ably skewered (again) here, but still widely used by businesses, cod psychologists and bullshitting dilettantes who like nothing more than to rub bits of the abstract world up against each other “to see what happens” even though what invariably “happens” is that you have used a gerbil to nail a blancmange to a gas bill, intellectually speaking, and wasted half an hour of everybody’s time and easily two of your own.

There is a third force at work here though, and it is encapsulated in books like Quiet and The Highly Sensitive Person (are you too sensorily overwhelmed by particularly violently patterned supermarket flooring? do you too spend entire evenings round your friends’ houses wondering twitchily why they don’t sort out the harsh overhead lighting because IT’S MAKING EVERYBODY EDGY? Then congratulations, sport, you’re as fucked as I am.) You might, cruelly, characterise this trend as the Nerd’s Revenge. “Introvert” is one of those terms that is being reclaimed by the people who were originally saddled with it as a perjorative. Certainly I spent my first twentyish years convinced I must be an introvert, and I can absolutely see the appeal of having my inner child cosseted by New York Times bestsellers which tell me how veh, veh speshul this makes me.

To be honest, though, I think my wholly introverted behaviours as a child were mostly down to the fact that, frankly, most of the people around me were quite rubbish, apart from the few friends who got me, and rubbish people were, and are, tiring (note how this alternative reading is still based on the premise that I am veh, veh speshul). And the further forward you go in life the more you tend to be able to select the people you keep around you, so the less the introvert thing is in point. Whether or not your introvert behaviours are set in stone by then really depends on a lot of things, your innate capacity/desire for reinvention, the environments you regularly move in, the extent to which you have tied your sense of self to certain of life’s routine fixtures and fittings &c.

But clearly I can’t escape the introvert label altogether because I absolutely love bitrovert, and logically I don’t see how they can exist as concepts without each other. Bitrovert perfectly expresses the finely balanced forces that alternately cause me to talk bollocks to total strangers in the hope that this will somehow make the world a better place for both of us and sit in corners silently howling GO AWAY AND LEAVE ME ALOOOOONE. I like that it communicates a sense of being genuinely both things (usually, indeed, in the course of one evening), and being mostly rather happy about that. It is nice to feel well-tuned, and if I spend too much time performing the introvert or too much time performing the extrovert, I get out of tune. And so interestingly we run up against the familiar tension, don’t we, in that logically both “things” have to exist as culturally constructed entities for you to be able to identify with both of them. There’s probably queer theory stuff I need to read about this so that I can talk about it on the internet some more.

Now piss off.

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