As an introvert, I know there is no single definition of the trait.
I am not antisocial. I enjoy conversation, big and small. I just take longer than most people to lose my reserve with a new acquaintance. I excel at maintaining formal and semi-formal relationships, but it takes me months to be unguardedly friendly with someone after I have met them, and only when I spend most of my time with them.
It is easy to infer from this that, ever since the pandemic began and people started quarantining, I have not really made any new friends. At least, no one I can call up just to talk about how my day went.
I formed my closest friendships in secondary school and during my bachelor's degree program in India. Only a couple of them are in the U.S., and not a single one is in Arizona. To talk to the rest of them, I have to factor in the time zone difference and our often conflicting schedules. So, even though theoretically they are dear friends of mine, we really only talk once or twice a month.
I have come across quite a few memes about how this must be a great time for introverts everywhere. "Finally, what I've always wanted" is what the introvert stick figure usually says in these memes. Even though I can't speak for all introverts, I myself have not enjoyed the isolation.
As I said before, I am not antisocial. I enjoy familiar company more than anything. Once I have formed a close personal relationship with someone, I am always eager to spend time with them. So it is a strange and weakening feeling to know that there are about three people on this continent whom I can call my loved ones.
This year, many people have found solace in online hobby groups. There are Discord servers for people who are interested in cooking, reading and other activities. Although this is a very healthy approach to finding people with similar interests, as an introvert, it has not been a successful way for me to make deep connections.
In my experience, lasting friendships are formed on shared emotional experiences. A hobby group can be a good place to meet new people. But those friendly acquaintances can turn into friends only if you connect with them on a deeper level than just the activity itself.
As I am reluctant to open up emotionally to a virtual stranger I am not going to meet in person, it is increasingly difficult for me to be friends with anyone I meet through these groups.
This also applies to my classmates this semester. It's usually smooth sailing when it comes to group projects and discussing coursework with them, but that tends to be the extent of our interaction. Given my experience from the summer semester, these semi-formal friendships will very likely fizzle out after the semester ends.
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In light of this, I have had to come up with ways to deal with my loneliness.
I have taken advantage of the flexibility of my schedule. I now plan my activities on a daily, as well as weekly, basis so I can track all my free time. I do this in a way that allows me to speak to my family every day at a time that suits all of us.
As for my closest friends, we plan a week in advance when we want to have a video call. These plans don't always come to fruition, but we make sure to never lose touch, texting when we can't call.
It is a difficult time, but I keep myself motivated with small milestones to achieve. I also try to stay cognizant of the news in the United States as well as in India. This makes it easier to plan my next trip home.
As I will probably graduate before the pandemic is over, I don't see myself forming close friendships in the foreseeable future, although I am hopeful of meeting new people. So, the light at the end of the tunnel for me is the next time I go home.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow @AbhilashaMandal on Twitter.
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