The coronavirus lockdown has revealed many truths, one of them being that people will always find a way to feel superior over one another—even during a worldwide pandemic. Without hesitation proud introverts began to bash extroverts online with “You ok, Sis” memes and “I’m just fine” status tweets that crossed the line from humorous quips to finger-pointing, “Nah, Nah, Nah” schoolyard cruelty. To ignore someone’s concern because it doesn’t fit into your private perspective is a failure to understand that anxiety is a two-way street.
Belief in stereotypes is a validation of one’s own experience wrapped in small doses of truth and insecurity. The extrovert is often perceived as a carefree individual whose only concern is their social status, while an introvert is seen as a socially detached bookworm who would rather have a conversation with a plant than a person. The judgment often comes from overused film tropes that depict some extrovert dragging their introverted friend to a party, only to abandon them at the entrance gate for much cooler friends. Anyone who has experienced that awkward feeling of navigating through a crowded room of obnoxiousness and hard liquor can relate to such a lonely image on screen. The misconception is that introverts are bullied outcasts who deserve all sympathy, while extroverts usually are overconfident jerks who have earned whatever cruel hand life deals them.
The problem with typecasting an individual based on perception is that it leaves no room for growth and understanding. The reality is, although an introvert’s headspace is a private paradise, they too enjoy human interaction—just at their own pace. And an extrovert who’s energized from being around others can often be at home for days after a night of socializing until they feel the need for a refill.
Few took the COVID-19 lockdown seriously for the first two weeks. It wasn’t until each state began to place movement restrictions with no specified end date that reality set in for most. To wake up daily and see an increase in infections and deaths displayed on CNN’s daily count poll is enough to make even a robot anxious. Watching the latest VERZUZ battle on IG or funny Tiger King commentary may provide short doses of satisfaction, but ultimately it falls short compared to the shared smiles and laughs from bonding in person. Virtual happy hours may take the edge off for some. But for others, it pales next to the joy of Saturday afternoon get-togethers with loved ones—complete with warm hugs and the smells of family recipes wafting from the kitchen. Being together is as good for our hearts as it is for peace of mind.
There’s no place for favoritism in mental health. The freedom of choice is familiar ground for both extroverts and introverts, in which both can suffer under the conditions of lockdown. If prior to COVID-19 you were someone who preferred to have a stay-at-home brunch, then you shouldn’t be ridiculed any more than a person who dines out. Neither choice makes one better than or superior to the other.
Anxiety is fear of the unknown, and the effect of the Coronavirus lockdown has brought a level of uncertainty not experienced for generations. Concerns over job security and health in addition to movement restrictions could create uncomfortable stressors that can lead to depression. In these unpredictable times, it is best not to assume anything. So, if pre-COVID-19 you ever checked in with a wellness shoulder-tap to a stand-offish friend at a social gathering, then be sure to extend some virtual grace to a friend during the lockdown—it could save a life.