A Guide For The Introverted Blogger

Filed as Features, General on January 27, 2007 2:39 pm

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Only about 25% of the population are introverts, so we’re clearly in the minority. I’m not sure how well that percentage translates into the blogosphere, but I’m sure it’s probably a bit higher because of the good fit that blogging offers for the introvert’s tendency to work in physical isolation.

What I want to do over the next few months is explore what it means to be an introverted blogger, how bloggers can use their introvert tendencies to enhance their blogging, and how to overcome the most common stumbling blocks that an introvert faces when writing material for public consumption and comment.

So what exactly is an introvert? Being an introvert involves many of the following characteristics:

  1. you prefer to be alone, rather than in groups
  2. you are extremely sensitive to criticism
  3. you have a lower than average self-esteem, and strong feelings of incompetence (may feel like a fraud)
  4. you feel cautious at sharing ideas (a big stumbling block for bloggers!)
  5. you prefer a concise/precise writing style
  6. you rarely feel confident in your knowledge, even of topics on which you are legitimately an expert
  7. you need coercion to offer opinions or make contributions
  8. you hate small talk, but desire serious & in depth discussions
  9. you pursue opportunities to work in isolation
  10. you respect the opinions of others and consider them carefully
  11. you use the internet as a comfort/buffer zone to explore how ideas are received
  12. you tend to think at length before speaking
  13. you notice yourself entering and exiting periods of low energy levels, which, when severe enough, can paralyze your productivity

Many of these characteristics have negative connotations, and this has a lot do with the fact that the majority of people, the people who set the norms of society, tend to be extroverted. One of the keys to dealing with introversion is to differentiate the positive attributes from the negative attributes. Once we’ve done this, we can then embrace and leverage the positive qualities while working to overcome the negative qualities.

Let’s begin by considering an obvious example of the negative characteristics of introverts in the context of blogging. Sensitivity to criticism can obviously have paralyzing effects and lead to avoidance behavior. It might cause you to stop blogging for several days or even weeks. It may also cause you to blog only on certain, non-controversial topics. Some introverts that I’ve known have even turned off comments altogether, or at least ignored them.

To overcome this negative characteristic, you might remind yourself of certain facts (much in the same way that you might remind your child that “it’s just a movie, no need to be scared!”). For example, you can tell yourself things like “rabid, vitriolic criticism is beneath me, and I need not be affected by it” or “good criticism gives me an opportunity to improve, and I need not take it offensively.”

In future articles, we’ll dive into more depth on how to overcome negative introverted qualities.

So what does an introvert have to contribute as a blogger? Introverts usually bring a long term vision to their blogging. They tend to plan things out meticulously and speak only when they have something important to say. Introverts tend to think twice before blogging an idea, and this can be a filter against junk. Introverts also tend to offer positive feedback to other bloggers, something our community certainly needs more of. None of these positive attributes are bad in themselves, though they can be overdone. Too much discrimination and too much planning can also be paralyzing and result in terrible productivity. Eventually, the planning and discriminating need to come to an end, and the implementation and execution need to occur. Nothing is perfect, no one is a perfect expert minus mistakes, so the introvert needs to find balance and be willing to make mistakes.

To conclude this article, I’d like to give you a sense of where future articles will be going. For the most part, I will lay heavy emphasis on overcoming introvert-specific roadblocks to blogging. We’ll look at ways to motivate, ways to increase your energy level, ways to overcome psychological defects like hyper-sensitivity and a lack of boldness. But we’ll also discuss, in more detail, how blogging is a great fit for the introvert, whether because blogging provides an ideal opportunity to work in (physical) isolation or because it provides an outlet for all those brilliant pent-up thoughts that you’ve been holding onto for years.

(oh, and by the way, no criticism on this post;-)

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  1. By John Wesley posted on January 27, 2007 at 3:22 pm
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    You write about introversion like it’s a disease.

  2. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 27, 2007 at 3:35 pm
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    I think I’m pretty clear that there are both positive and negative aspects to introversion. Not sure where you get the impression that I write about it like a disease, as diseases are things to get rid of, whereas introversion is something to be embraced and enhanced. It is only the debilitating aspects of introversion, in their extreme forms, certainly not introversion itself, that you might want to address like a disease.

  3. By Beau posted on January 27, 2007 at 4:34 pm
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    It’s probably of benefit for writers or bloggers to understand their own psychological profile, and how it impacts on their writing, and communication skills, so the post has some relevance IMHO. I do question the source or scientific validity of the so called “characteristics of an Introvert” mentioned in the post. Many of the mentioned characteristics are generic generalizations, and overlap with many different personality types. Do these characteristics come from a survey, poll, valid study, or some other pool of data that analyzes introverts? How do we define an Introvert? Different sources would probably provide different characteristics. A “depressed Extrovert” would likely have many of the characteristics mentioned in the post.

  4. By Beau posted on January 27, 2007 at 4:35 pm
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    It’s probably of benefit for writers or bloggers to understand their own psychological profile, and how it impacts on their writing and communication skills, so the post has some relevance IMHO. I do question the source or scientific validity of the so called “characteristics of an Introvert” mentioned in the post. Many of the mentioned characteristics are generic generalizations, and overlap with many different personality types. Do these characteristics come from a survey, poll, valid study, or some other pool of data that analyzes introverts? How do we define an Introvert? Different sources would probably provide different characteristics. A “depressed Extrovert” would likely have many of the characteristics mentioned in the post.

  5. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 27, 2007 at 5:31 pm
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    As any FYI, I’m drawing a lot of my information from “The Introvert Advantage” by Marti Olsen Laney

  6. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 27, 2007 at 6:01 pm
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    Beau,
    Any kind of categorization is going to make generalizations. That’s exactly what categories do: they quantify over sets. The key thing to remember is that “introvert” is a cluster concept….this means that you’re not an introvert in virtue of having only a small set of these characteristics, only a small percentage of the time.

  7. By Mark posted on January 28, 2007 at 1:32 am
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    OMG Micah, is what I am mouthing, while I read this. Truly, this post has sent me spinning. Much of what you describe does sound like a “dis…ease” with oneself, specifically bipolar. And if I’m right on this point, would you agree that the sometime OTT extrovertness one witnesses in blogosphere is the flip side of this same phenomenon? From the interviews that I have seen on 1938media, for example, being an introvert/extrovert online certainly doesn’t translate into the same offline personal make-up!!

  8. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 28, 2007 at 2:08 am
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    Mark,
    Honestly, I’m not sure, but I suppose you are right about the fact that online and offline personality types aren’t always consistent. However, in my own case, my introvert tendencies are present both online and offline.

    However, I was wondering where you see bipolar here? My wife tells me that bipolar is quite a different monster characterized by ups and downs (she’s a mental health therapist, who gets to practice on her husband from time to time;-). I’m an introvert but I don’t go through the highs and lows of bipolar. In other words, my introversion is fairly steady state and not characterized by depression. Rather, I hate large groups (but love small groups), love time to myself (and get energized by time alone), yet rarely feel like I know anything deeply enough to speak with an expert voice (I’m a perpetual skeptic), and prefer not speaking/writing at all to acting more confident than I really am.

  9. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 28, 2007 at 2:19 am
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    Mark,
    My wife points out that there are certain things about online communication that can bring an offline introvert to reflect strong extrovert tendencies. Things as simple as not having to be concerned with the tone of one’s voice, or not having to physically exert oneself in speech. But she thinks that more than anything, the lack of *immediate* facial and vocal feedback removes 2 of the major queues for the offline introvert and emboldens actions that would otherwise be restrained.

  10. By Mark posted on January 28, 2007 at 3:09 am
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    Micah- let me put in context my OMG reaction as one of “this is fantastic!!” I believe it’s just the sort of question and self-analysis, as a community, we should be asking ourselves, i.e: if it’s not comfortable- it’s probably spot on. I have had personal experiences with loved ones who suffer from bipolar, as well as addiction. And the parts of your post which talked about “lower than average self-esteem”, “you rarely feel confident in your knowledge”, “isolation”, “low energy levels” and so on- it just rings a bell of a state of depressive illness, and then it is my own assumption that these things are, in short spats, interspersed with high, manic energy and huge “I can conquer the world” type behavior. I’m sure you know what I mean, though, with the adrenalin in the buying and selling of websites!

    All that aside, what would blogging fulltime (being in front of computer screen for …hours every day) do to the most social and gregarious of individuals?

    And I think your wife is 100% correct there as well. This would seem a positive equalizer in the honest exchange of ideas, no? Although a great deal of people, who are very intelligent, suffer from dyslexia.

  11. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 28, 2007 at 9:46 am
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    “This would seem a positive equalizer in the honest exchange of ideas, no?”

    Yes, I think that is exactly right, and a point I hope to develop on in future posts.

  12. By Micah Sparacio posted on January 28, 2007 at 9:49 am
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    “I’m sure you know what I mean, though, with the adrenalin in the buying and selling of websites!”

    I don’t know what you’re talking about dude ;-)

    (Of course you’re right – or even spikes of traffic, AdSense, TLA, etc.)

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  14. By Martie Groenewald posted on January 29, 2007 at 6:10 am
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    You’re not describing an introvert for the most part, but someone with a social anxiety. Being introverted is not the same as being shy or lacking self-esteem. Being introverted is certainly NOT a disease, it is just misunderstood.

  15. By Kristin posted on January 29, 2007 at 7:51 am
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    I agree with Martie here, that being introvert is not the same as low self-esteem or being shy.

    And actual I think blogging and the web in general help introvert people to express themselves, because as you write, small talk is not what we’re good at.

  16. By Susan posted on January 29, 2007 at 3:13 pm
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    The whole tone of the article talks about being an introvert like it’s something you have to overcome to function well. That’s just not true. I am aware of the introvert tendencies that I have, and I make sure that they don’t hold me back or make relationships with colleagues difficult. But I embrace the advantages I have as introvert. I’m afraid this article will give readers a very inaccurate idea of introverts, which I find extremely disappointing.

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  18. By Coyote posted on January 29, 2007 at 4:55 pm
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    I’m an introvert and have read the book, “The Introvert Advantage” as well as another great book called, “Party of One: The Loners’ Manifesto” by Anneli Rufus. I was pleased to learn that the brains of introvert process information differently than those of extroverts, as is explained in the first pages of “The Introvert Advantage.” I wish I had my copy, so I could quote a part of it, but it’s an actual physiological difference.

    The classic hallmarks of introversion is that we become exhausted after interacting with our fellow humans, and need ‘alone time’ to recharge. Conversely, extroverts become energized by interacting with others. It’s just the way we’re built.

    I’ve read a lot about introversion, and find the subject both fascinating and reassuring. It’s nice to know there’s nothing wrong with me, even though I’m not a party animal. Most every person who has made a significant contribution to science/technology, medicine and the arts is/was an introvert. They used their natural inclination toward solitude and deep thinking to perfect their theory, experimentation and craft. I’m proud to be a part of that ‘genre’ of human.

    Here’s a link to a humorous article called, “Caring For Your Introvert,” originally published in The Atlantic: http://www.learningplaceonline.com/relationships/friends/caring-introvert.htm

    I look forward to your next installment !

  19. By gerg posted on January 30, 2007 at 6:54 pm
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    Semantics and sensitivity aside, I very much enjoyed this first post and I’m looking forward to the series.

  20. By Dan posted on January 31, 2007 at 5:50 pm
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    Coyote’s absolutely right – Introversion has to do with where you get your energy.

    I think what Micah is describing may be more accurately categorized as others have listed above: social anxiety, some depression, low self-esteem, etc.

    For anyone who feels like an introvert, you should know there’s absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be alone. I’m an introvert and I haven’t doubted that for years, but I have almost none of those characteristics mentioned above.

    In fact, when I’m in public most people would think of me as an extrovert. I tend to be the life of the party. It’s only when they see that I’ve disappeared after an hour, completely worn out, that they begin to understand what an introvert really is.

    I’m intrigued by this idea (a guide for the introverted blogger) but thus far it seems a bit too author-specific. I’ll be interested to see where it goes, however.

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  22. By Parallel Divergence posted on February 7, 2007 at 5:53 am
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    Oh crap. That’s me!

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