By Amanda Ojeda and Shriyadita Gandham
The implementation of the COVID-19 lockdown has had a significant impact on everyone’s personal and professional lives. The regulations have confined many individuals into their homes, disabling their ability to socialize face-to-face with other people for long periods of time. While it enabled some individuals to spend more time with their pets and families at home, it has also stripped many from meeting their family and friends that live elsewhere. This situation has consequently had positive and negative effects depending on an individual’s personality, lifestyle, and their perspective on socializing.
What is Introversion?
Introversion comes with numerous interpretations and, unfortunately, many stigmas. First, let us start with how an extrovert is defined. An extrovert is described as someone who has a sociable and gregarious personality and is usually accompanied by a very active social lifestyle. On the contrary, an introvert can be described as a socially awkward, reticent individual that finds comfort in a solitary lifestyle.
Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions regarding the spectrum of introversion and extraversion, particularly concerning those on the introverted end. One prime example is the idea that introverts fear social gatherings. Introverts may experience anxiety, stress, and panic attacks when exposed to socially interactive environments, however, this certainly doesn’t hold true for the majority of individuals that fall under the introversion spectrum.
Another misconception regarding introverts is that introverts are intrinsically shy. The assumption of introverts fearing large social gatherings disregards the fact that most don’t prefer situations concerning large groups, similarly to how most extroverted people don’t usually prefer being alone. Another misconception is the correlation between extrovertedness with happiness, and introvertedness with sadness. This notion of a certain type of personality being synonymous to an emotion is one of the biggest misunderstandings of the personality spectrum. Yes, certain personalities may express certain tendencies, however, when people generalize these tendencies and associate them with certain groups, therein lies the real issue.
COVID-Lockdown and Introverted East Students
March 13th, 2020, marks the last day of normality for the students at East. After being informed on the school announcements on the end of March 13th, that the Williamsville East would continue its normal school day teaching until further notice from the district, school closed the following Monday. Today, a little over a year has passed since the last day of true normality. While some individuals are still currently in personal lockdowns due to health issues, a majority of the East student body have ended their lockdown. In order to have a deeper understanding regarding the effect of the COVID-19 lockdown on the East student body, we conducted a survey that focused on social skills and its effect on the mental health of individuals during an environment that restricted social interactions. As society and American culture deems an “extrovert” behavior as ideal, we specifically focused on the impact the lockdown had on introverts at East High.
The first question of the survey’s purpose was to gather what percentage of the Williamsville East student body fell on either side of the spectrum. “Would you consider yourself more of an introvert or an extrovert?”. A whopping 48.5% of them answered ambiverts, landing in the middle of the spectrum. Meaning, that most of the students at East feel as if they express both extroverted and introverted qualities. 28.3% of the participants identified as introverts, leaving 23.2% as extroverts.
To better analyze the impact covid lockdown had on the social lives of introverted students, we asked the students to describe their social life in three words (before the lockdown and after the lockdown)
Common responses among introverted students when describing their social life before the lockdown include:
- Bland, lonely, depressing
- Sad, alone
- Non existent
- Forced stressful boring.
- Empty boring small
- Decent, not too busy, I was taken.
Common responses among introverted students when describing their social life after the lockdown include:
- Improving (with the help of my friends)
- Quality not quantity
- Limited, restricted
- texting, small, empty
This signifies that the introverted population of East’s social life either improved or remained the same as a result of COVID-19 lockdown. Various factors must be taken into consideration when analyzing these results. The individuals whose social lives did improve, found comfort in online interactions or/and improved their relationships with their families. These individuals’ anxiety and stress due to social interactions diminished, helping them feel more relaxed. However, some introverted students’ social lives remained the same, and went on with their lives. A huge reason for this lies in the fact that they had online interactions prior to the lockdown and didn’t experience drastic change in lifestyle, the exception being less social interactions. In addition, isolation contributed to one’s loneliness, making them feel worse.
The initial COVID-19 lockdown responses varied greatly among East students. While some were eager to enter a “vacation” mindset and enjoy a break from the stress that comes with school, others simply had no opinion, and a majority were disappointed to leave behind the school’s social scene. 36.4% of people felt disappointed with the news of a lockdown, 23.2% felt relieved, another 22.2% were happy, and 18.2% had no opinion on the matter. Overall, it is fair to say that while there were various mixed opinions, a majority of the students were upset to not be able to return to the school environment.
As we would later learn, there were some challenges that also came to lifting the lockdown and having some of the students return to school. Technology has been a crucial part of this return, especially for virtual students. While it is certainly different from an in-person learning environment, there have been ups and downs for both hyflex and remote learners. Due to safety concerns, less group work has taken place during the 2020-2021 school year, causing an increase in individual projects, which may not be the most favorable form of schoolwork for some. Other issues during the return were figuring out how to go about the teaching process this year, along with the push to incorporate technology into the classroom, as some students were completely virtual. Alongside that, teachers had to take into consideration that some students have different learning styles, and the situation that they are in may not be ideal for their learning processes. Though it was not without drawbacks, East students and faculty have made the best of an unexpected and difficult time.
Mental health was another major cause of concern that people had during the quarantine. As shown by the survey above, almost ⅔ of East students have had a decrease in their mental health due to the quarantine. 26.3% were not affected, and only 11.1% experienced improvements during this time.
Social interactions generally remained the same for introverts during this time, and many of them have found this time peaceful and a good opportunity for them to endeavor in some of their own personal projects. However, there was a drastic decrease in mental health for the overall East population which has been greatly affected by many factors. Some of which include, schoolwork, college applications, prepping for AP exams and regents, and other personal matters and circumstances. Many students have also expressed that their schedule has been increasingly tight after the quarantine. If you wish to talk to someone we have many resources here at East which may be able to provide some comfort and ease this year, including our school psychologist and the school’s social worker.
The difference in perception of social interactions lays the basis for the spectrum of introversion. An introverted Williamsville East student shares his perspective when faced with the question “How did you feel about social interactions before covid?”. He states, “I guess it’s needed and I know I have to do it but I just hated it, socializing with anyone other than my friends is stressful.”
While few introverts hate all forms of social interactions, many prefer being in proximity with their closed ones. Prior to the lockdown, a huge percentage of introverts deem social interactions as a necessity for an individual’s growth and development. However, they can’t help despise the feeling of stress and anxiety that accompanies the action. This led to many terming social interactions as “something to be avoided”.
However, the COVID-19 lockdown changed some introverts’ perception on social interactions. Many were relieved to meet their close ones again but a significant percentage of individuals believe social interactions to be unnecessary.
A major reason for this new term accompanying social interactions is due to the realization that many mentally felt the same or even better due to the lack of social interactions. This correlation between an individual’s mental health improving in the absence of social interactions contributed to this new perception of social interactions that couldn’t be disregarded by the society.
9.2% of introverted individuals found the sudden chore to socialize with others after a long period of isolation super stressful.
The COVID-19 lockdown impacted all WIlliamsville East individuals in one way or another. However, the purpose of this article is to focus primarily on the percentage of the student body that falls under the introversion spectrum. Did the lack of social interactions, a day-to-day task not favored by introverts, affect introverts positively or negatively? Although most introverts claimed to have had an improvement in their mental health, the majority of the participants expressed a decline. Introverts explained further that they enjoyed the social interactions between their close family and friends during this time of quarantine, and that it was beneficial for them to take a break from larger social interactions, such as the ones presented in school. In conclusion, although the effect of social isolation presented by the COVID-19 lockdown helped a certain percentage of the introverted individuals at East, it’s also accountable for worsening the social skills and anxiety of many more students.