What is a Social Introvert—and Could You Be One?15 November 2021 / By Nathan Falde Clinically Reviewed by Steven Melendy, PsyD. on November 15, 2021
Under the right circumstances, an Introvert can enjoy socializing just as much as an Extravert. An Introvert who enjoys it immensely can be classified as a social Introvert, in recognition of their need for regular and stimulating interactions with other people.
The social Introvert is still not an Extravert. But their need for social contact is undeniable, and that motivates many of their actions.
The Social Introvert in a Nutshell
Like others in the Introvert category, the social Introvert must often expend a great deal of energy to function in social situations. After their interactions end, they might feel quite drained and express a need to escape from everyone for a while.
And yet, these interactions are vital to their health and happiness. No matter how exhausted a particular social encounter might make them feel afterwards, the social Introvert will always go back for more.
The price they pay in expended mental, physical, and emotional energy is worth it to them, because they find the results of their interpersonal interactions so fulfilling and rewarding. They need people in their lives and would feel empty and deprived if they lost contact with those who bring them the most joy.
In some ways, the social Introvert is like the person who takes up skydiving, mountain climbing, bungee jumping, hang gliding, or car racing. They might get nervous before doing these things and feel relieved when it’s all over. But the exhilaration they experience inspires them to return to the sky, ledge, mountainside, or cockpit again and again.
That’s how it is for the social Introvert. Depending on their personalities and preferences, they can gain tremendous enjoyment from socializing with close friends, cherished family members, interesting neighbors, fellow volunteers, community activists they admire, teachers of various types, or fascinating characters with amazing stories to tell.
Despite their Introverted natures, social Introverts truly appreciate the opportunity to be around other people—not all of the time, but a decent amount of the time.
The Unique Characteristics of the Social Introvert
While the social Introvert does share some characteristics with Extraverts, there are some important differences. Here are just a few:
The social Introvert prefers to interact with people they already know
An Extravert can potentially thrive and feel comfortable in most all environments. But a social Introvert will have clear and definite preferences. They will usually feel much more comfortable and at ease with people they know, and with whom they’ve interacted with and spent time with in the past.
A social Introvert may feel inadequate and intimidated in environments that expose them to many new people. They may avoid conversation rather than jumping into the mix, even though deep down they might like to participate. When they’re with the people they care about the most, however, social Introverts can be enthusiastic and effusive. They will gladly initiate and guide the discussion if no one else is doing so.
A social Introvert favors group outings and activities
When they’re out with others who share their interest in movies, games, sports, weekend retreats, or any other activity organized for the group, a social Introvert will feel fully in their element. In these situations, the activity draws everyone’s attention. The conversation tends to flow naturally and easily as a result of the shared focus.
For social Introverts, group activities are ideal ways to get together with others. The energy is positive, as everyone enters excited and ready to have a good time. The social Introvert won’t have to carry the conversation, but can simply enjoy being an observer and occasional contributor.
The social Introvert shares the typical Introvert’s distaste for small talk
Introverts in general are notorious for their dislike of small talk, and the social Introvert is no exception. They see small talk as a waste of time and energy, and as an obstacle that prevents the conversation from going to the next level.
Unfortunately for the social Introvert, most new relationships start with small talk. It can be a necessary burden sometimes, which is why most social Introverts will try to develop their casual conversation skills to at least some extent. Nevertheless, when they’re forced to engage in small talk, they don’t see it as a really good chance to get to know more about someone. For the social Introvert, small talk is a survival strategy at best.
The social Introvert loves social situations where talking is unnecessary
A social Introvert will enjoy a good conversation, as long as it is with people they know or who otherwise make them feel comfortable. But these interactions can still be stressful, which is why social Introverts especially enjoy shared encounters where the need to speak is limited.
For example, many social Introverts like to attend concerts, plays, sporting events, or lectures. In these environments they can be part of a large crowd, enjoying the action or entertainment as they feed off the energy of the group. They are motivated to contribute to that energy, which is why they will often be among those who clap, cheer, or react most enthusiastically.
The social Introvert has their boundaries and wants them to be respected
An Extravert is usually open to conversation at any time and any place. They gain energy and motivation from socializing, and while they don’t have to be talking all the time to be happy, they won’t pass up the opportunity for an invigorating discussion when it arises.
A social Introvert, on the other hand, prefers to control their level of social involvement. Social interactions require energy to get through, and the social Introvert can only invest their energy in these activities for a while before they need to escape and recharge their mental and emotional batteries. Consequently, they won’t always be receptive to the efforts of others to strike up a conversation, and will let others know about it by retreating when they want their privacy.
The social Introvert will seek out Extraverted friends to help with the conversational heavy lifting
A social Introvert gains pleasure from socializing. But they aren’t the type that wants to initiate and carry the conversation all the time (or even most of the time). While they can be effusive with their very best friends and most beloved family members, in general they would prefer to listen a lot while contributing to the discussion more strategically.
For this reason, social Introverts usually enjoy spending time in the company of Extraverted friends or loved ones. They can let these individuals take the lead in group activities, which reduces the pressure on them to be initiators. A social Introvert isn’t looking to remain on the periphery all the time. But they don’t desire to be the center of attention all the time, either. In a variety of social environments, Extraverted companions can help them find a nice balance between overexposure and underexposure, both of which will make the social Introvert uncomfortable.
Still Not Certain if You’re a Social Introvert? Here are Three More Ways to Tell
You might recognize yourself as a social Introvert from some of the traits and behaviors already mentioned. But if you still aren’t certain whether the social Introvert label really fits you, there are some clear indicators that can reveal the truth.
One way to know is to ask your friends and family members for their opinion about your personality. If they can all easily identify you as Introverted, it's much less likely that you’re a social Introvert.
Even the shyest Introvert will enjoy some degree of socializing. So, your willing participation in some conversations will not be enough to qualify you as a social Introvert. You must demonstrate an interest in socializing that is clearly greater than the typical Introvert to fit that classification, and if you do there’s a good chance that some of your friends and family members won’t recognize your essential Introverted nature.
Another indicator is your attitude toward events that Introverts frequently avoid. These would include large parties or holiday gatherings, family or school reunions, conferences related to their profession, or other events where a person would be expected to have a lot of interactions with many different people, including many who they know only casually or not at all.
If you actually enjoy attending such events, at least on occasion, this could be a good indicator that you’re a social Introvert.
One final sign would be your willingness to take social risks. A true social Introvert needs other people, enough so that on occasion they will initiate a dialogue with someone even though it makes them feel uncomfortable. If they don’t have a friend or close relative around to lean on, they will start the conversation anyway, if they find a potential companion interesting enough.
The social Introvert won’t be a frequent risk taker in social situations. That would simply be too difficult for them to handle. But their desire for a vibrant social life is strong and irrepressible, and if they’re without meaningful human contact for too long they will take bold steps to end their isolation.
Jena Ryplanski (not verified) says...
I agree with everything you said . I am a social introvert . I do enjoy being around other people but still need my space and time alone
Frieda (not verified) says...
Awesome! I love what you wrote as I am an introvert, yet many people confuse me for an extrovert due to my deep seated need for people at times. My preferred social setting would be a movie night with friends as we are socialising but with little interaction. However, I am confused whether I really am a social introvert because I can be a risk taker in social situations and introduce myself to new people.
literally just found myself. my closest friends know im an introvert, but my not as close friends literally cannot tell.
Amony (not verified) says...
I'm glad I've found your post! I have known I'm a social introvert since a while now, but I still learnt something in your paragraph about attending concerts and game nights, lectures and so on ! So that's why I prefer this kind of activities! and that I'm so energised and cheerful. I enjoy them so much, even though there can be many people, while I don't like cocktails and parties, and barbecues.
One thing I disagree with, is this "THE SOCIAL INTROVERT PREFERS TO INTERACT WITH PEOPLE THEY ALREADY KNOW ". I like talking to new people in settings where I'm comfortable. It's just that I'm always on guards because when you don't know who you're going to talk to, you don't know if it's someone who will match your energy and respect boundaries, or someone who will suddenly exhaust you and ruin the rest of energy left for socialising that day 😅. You've said it yourself : THE SOCIAL INTROVERT HAS THEIR BOUNDARIES AND WANTS THEM TO BE RESPECTED. So I always need to evaluate the social situation and balance the risks. If I'm already a bit drained or know the day will be long, I tend to stay with friends I know. If it's a new moment or a short slot, I dare to explore new souls :)
I also love to talk. It's just that I'm so exhausted afterwards, and sometimes even during conversations. I literally lose my breath sometimes, it's weird.
Another good point you make is about group activities. For example, I love learning languages : well, there's a lot of cheap solutions nowadays to have a teacher for one-on-one virtual classes that are compatibles with your agenda... Still, I choose to go to a school, on-site, at fixed hours that I can't choose, because I just love interacting with a group in this kind of activities.
It's interesting being a social introvert. With a complete introvert, a shy introvert or a hermit introvert, extravert people don't really question their behaviour or violate their boundaries even if they find them weird (to extraverted standards of course). But being a social introvert means that sometimes people misunderstand you : they see you this open and talkative and interactive. And suddenly you disappear, sometimes for days, or you refuse to follow up with another meetup just after a day of shared activities. Some of my new acquaintances were so confused and it's hard to explain to them that really, I'm an introvert before anything else. I need my time alone.
Leave me alone. :D
Keith Reeder (not verified) says...
"No matter how exhausted a particular social encounter might make them feel afterwards, the social Introvert will always go back for more."
Nope. That's not close to true for ACTUAL social introverts.