Colleges should place less importance on social likeability

Graphic courtesy of Carrie Clowers '18

Graphic courtesy of Carrie Clowers '18


Among the academic world today, the concept of introverted and extroverted personalities in the classroom and in the work force is common. They were first introduced by psychologist Carl G. Jung in 1920. In simple terms, being an introvert suggests that one’s internal energy batteries (emotional and mental ones) are best recharged in quiet surroundings, whereas extroverts are stimulated by social interactions and tend to be more outgoing. People often assume that extroverts are naturally better workers for the labor force. However, with their ability to analyze social situations (even if they do not want to be a part of them) and to think quickly, introverts also have an important role to play in today’s world.

We use these words to help categorize people and better understand their inner workings or motivations. In fact, most of us often oversimplify or exaggerate our inclinations towards one or the other under the impression that our behavior and social interactions are fully determined by these two opposing qualities. In reality, most of us fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum and have both introverted and extroverted qualities. 

Both terms come with a lot of baggage, but being explicitly outgoing does seem to give individuals a leg up in social and professional settings alike. Academic institutions, for example, breed a multitude of superficial social behaviors. Students are required to appease their professors outside of class in order to get better recommendation letters, emails about specific events or competitions and to serve as a reputable contact for the future.  The preference for a specific personality type that arguably has little to do with an individual’s intellectual abilities is wrong.

There are many ways in which our world is catered towards an extroverted lifestyle. For example, activities like networking with alumni are set in semi-formal, social gatherings, instead of a plainly professional setting, which demands students to put forth their most likeable persona. The preference for these kinds of behaviors is unjust. I often hear my extroverted peers talking with our professors about their kids and personal lives, which makes it easier for my peers to develop closer relationships with them.

I, along with many other anxiety-filled college students, think of myself as an introvert. Whether or not my self-assessment is accurate remains uncertain; the introvert spectrum is wide. Some people need their alone time but still commit a great deal of time and energy to socializing. These introverts typically fall under the “high-functioning” category but I wonder in what sense this label holds true. 

As students, we all seem to get at least some amount of socializing on a regular basis, either by attending classes or simply being around other humans in the crowded Community Center. But what happens if some students lead a more isolated lifestyle than is the norm? Some students might rush back to their dorms after classes and remain there all weekend. I can’t help but worry for these students, but is this concern justified?

Still, the stereotype of introverts as social recluses being unable to function in interactive settings seems exaggerated. Many introverts possess important qualities to employers, like the ability to quickly judge a situation and adapt oneself both physically and mentally to its requirements. Less quantifiable relationships are harder to assess. The very nature of friendship requires a certain amount dedication and commitment to caring for, and by extension, interacting with another person in a compassionate and earnest way. So, if someone is spending all of their time in solitude, this relationship seems unattainable for them.

We already know that a certain type of introvert, namely the more social type, is fully able to lead an all-round balanced life. But what about the more isolated kind? I wonder if everybody requires a minimum amount of social interaction in order to lead a happy and healthy life, and what happens if they don’t meet this standard. I am also hesitant to trust all of the stereotypes presented online. The term “high-functioning introvert” may hold some merit, but I wish academic institutions would place more importance on professionalism rather than social likeability.