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How Introverts Can Use Technology Without Getting Overwhelmed by the Constant Connection

How Introverts Can Use Technology Without Getting Overwhelmed by the Constant Connection

Introverts are not people who are a) shy or b) socially inept. Introverts are people who gain energy by being alone, and spend out energy when they are with other people. That means that no matter how much I as an introvert like my friends, after a while I need a break. This is a case when the “It’s not you, it’s me” line is actually true. It isn’t about others. It’s about me, and the fact that I need solitude – alone time, downtime – to recharge and be ready to go again.

Now at first glance it doesn’t seem like technology would be tough for an introvert, right? I mean, here’s this easy way to talk or arrange plans with people without actually being in the same room. Introverts can reach out to others but still be alone. A win for everyone!

Except that it’s not.

The two things that make technology so useful and amazing – information and connection – are also what make it draining for introverts. Here’s why.

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Too Much Information to Handle

Information overload affects everybody, but introverts tend to want details and want to research something until they feel that they have a firm grasp on it. Of course, with the Internet at my fingertips, I can research a topic into infinity and still never get to the end of it.

There is always more information.

And I want the information. I want it all. I want it organized, categorized, saved, arranged, and ready for me to browse it at my leisure. I want to annotate it and then come back and read my annotations. I don’t want to skim; I want to really understand. I want to give all the sources a fair shake, sift through and find the ones that are acceptable, and then save and read them. Deeply. Quietly. Alone.

Always Connected, Never Alone

On one hand, technology means I can make plans with my friends without (gag) having to be on the phone.

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On the other hand, technology means that anyone, at anytime, can ding, beep, buzz, or otherwise intrude into my solitude. Texting, email, and social media create communication lines that are constantly on, constantly open. And that constant connectivity means that even when I am alone, at any moment I could find that aloneness broken. I can ignore it, but the solitude is shattered.

Short of just turning all the devices off, what can we do? I want to be reachable, and sometimes I need to be available. I do like my friends, I just need my solitude.

Here are a few tips for handling tech – not withdrawing from it – but using it in a way that works for your introverted self.

1. Reduce the number of inputs in your life.

Every app you add to your phone adds another means of disruption. Why have so many? Do you really need your calendar, your Facebook notifications, and your task manager to tell you that it’s somebody’s birthday? Eliminate what you can, and close those open loops in your brain. Choose the social channels you like best and ignore the rest. This helps you reduce the mental overload of constant notifications. It also cuts down on redundancy. If you’ve heard the news or update from one source, why do you need to hear it again? Short answer: you don’t. Cut out the inputs that irritate you, and stick to using the ones you like.

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2. Guard your downtime.

Guard it like a jealous Mama Bear. Why? Because you need it. The whole world is a better place when you’ve had some alone time, so make it happen by removing all the ways you could be interrupted. That means: leave your phone at home when you go for a jog (or if you want it for safety, turn the notifications off). Take a walk with it silenced. Read a book with all the tech turned off. Get a massage, take a bath, work in the garden, sit in the corner and sob over the stupidity by which you are surrounded everyday … You know, whatever your solitary thing is, do it in true solitude by closing those open doors for a while. Otherwise you don’t get the benefit of that downtime, you just get frustrated. Be careful about tech at night, too; a lot of interaction, even the digital kind, can set your brain spinning right when you need it to be winding down. Value yourself enough to get a decent night’s sleep.

3. Don’t set a standard of instant reply.

I usually silence all the notifications on my phone in the morning while I’m working. Sometimes I forget to turn them back on, and five hours later I check my phone to see 25 texts and 12 missed calls and 200 emails. The first few times this happened, I felt terrible and sent responses out with a big, “So sorry, I forgot to turn my sound on …” disclaimer. A funny thing happened, though. Nobody cared. They all have lives. They’re busy with stuff. So the fact that I didn’t immediately answer every tweet or text they sent wasn’t the end of the world for them.

For the few who did mind, my apology was sufficient, and now they’ve come to expect slow responses from me sometimes. They know that I shut things down when I need to focus or be alone. They know that I care. They know that I’ll answer when I’m ready to be back on, plugged in. And you know what? They all survive until then, just fine. They key here is to have enough confidence in your friends that you will let them learn how you use your technology instead of feeling obligated to fulfill their expectations.

4. Don’t let unsettled things linger.

Do set your own standards. Yes. But don’t procrastinate when you need to respond to something, because it will just eat away your brain space until you’ve dealt with it. Whether it’s a work or personal matter, if there is some unresolved thing that needs to be resolved, do it as soon as possible. One sure thing that drains introverts more than interaction is the anticipation of it. Especially if there’s any sort of tension or unfamiliarity involved. If you’re ready to shut things down for a while and have some downtime, great. But don’t do it if your mind keeps meandering back to that important email you didn’t answer, or that friend’s text you ignored. Respond first so your brain can stop planning, analyzing, anticipating. Then go have that downtime.

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5. Come up with a central organization system.

All the information needs a place to go. Set one up that will give you security in knowing that your information is there when you’re ready for it. I use a combination of Evernote and Dropbox, but there are plenty of options out there. Make sure that whatever you choose is secure, has some sort of automatic backup, and is accessible via the device(s) you use most often. This will allow you to dump all the research, articles, books, references, and whatnot in there, knowing that it’s safe, and you can forget about it until you have time to come back with your full attention.

Are you an introvert? What are your tips for using tech and staying connected without being irritated or overwhelmed? Let us know in the comments.

Featured photo credit: B Rosen via flickr.com

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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