Imagine that you had an exhausting week. If you could do whatever on the weekend, would you spend your time alone or hanging out with your friends? Your answer to this question most likely determines if you are an introvert or an extrovert. Introverts are people who lose energy, or get tired from social interactions. On the other hand, extroverts gain energy from social interactions. According to research by the Myers-Briggs organization in 1998, the ratio of introverts to extroverts is 1:1. The survey that was carried out among high school students in ISSH, too, showed that 50% of the participants consider themselves to be introverted.
Due to COVID19 precautions, students at ISSH participated in E-learning from March to June 2020 and for four weeks during the 2020-2021 academic year. Since the environment for learning was completely different from what we usually experience at school, E-learning was a major challenge for many students. I heard many of my classmates complaining about how difficult it was to concentrate in class, technical difficulties, and so on. However, as an introvert myself, I could not fully criticise E-learning because it felt relaxing to have less need of social interaction compared to physically being at school. Several introverted students I know felt the same way I did. I came to wonder if there was any connection between introvertedness/extrovertedness and the amount of stress caused by E-learning.
According to the data collected from a survey carried out among 54 ISSH students to investigate the trend, intriguingly, introverted students tend to find E-learning more relaxing for emotional reasons compared to extroverted students.
As a clear cut beginning to the investigation, students were asked if they found E-learning relaxing, stressful, or somewhere in between. Of the participants that answered that they found it relaxing or somewhere in between, 63% were introverts. Looking into that result more closely, it was discovered that more than 80% of introverts did not find E-learning completely stressful. This number is 17% higher than that of extroverts.
However, this information is not enough to prove the trend, since the reasons why introverts found E-learning less stressful might not be related to introversion at all. In order to collect more data about the reasoning, the survey also asked participants why they found E-learning relaxing. There were several options to choose from: physical reasons, such as no commute time or increase in time for sleep, and emotional reasons, like the decrease in the amount of socializing. Of the introverts that found E-learning relaxing or somewhere in between relaxing and stressful, 52% said it was relaxing because less socializing was required, while 43% chose physical reasons only. This might not seem like a significant difference. However, only 14% of extroverts chose emotional reasons; in other words, 86% of extroverts found E-learning relaxing for physical reasons only.
Similarly, students who found E-learning stressful were also asked to clarify their reasoning. While 69% of extroverts answered that it was stressful because there was too much alone time, only 25% of introverts found it stressful for the same reason. In fact, 69% of introverts responded that the cause of stress surrounded technical or academic difficulties only. This shows how introverts tend to not mind, or even prefer being alone, while extroverts miss socializing with friends at school. One introverted student specifically answered that they feel stressed from socialization at school all the time, and it was nice to get away from that environment for a while.
Furthermore, I investigated how students found group work during E-learning, since group work made socializing inevitable for both introverts and extroverts. According to the results of the survey, it seemed like more than half of the students did not find group work during E-learning any more stressful or relaxing in particular. However, of the students who answered that group work during E-learning was stressful, most were introverts. One possible reason might be that introverts prefer to work individually. In fact, the three students who found E-learning especially stressful because there was more group work were all introverts. Introverts tend to find it more relaxing when there is less socializing, and when there is more socializing than usual, they find it more stressful.
The results of the survey uncovered an intriguing trend that introverts tended to find E-learning relaxing due to less socializing being required. On the other hand, extroverts tended to find it more stressful because they could not socialize enough.
Some information from a recent longitudinal study that followed 484 US college students corresponds with the results of this ISSH survey. The study showed that extroverts tended to experience a decline in mood during the early pandemic period, while introverts experienced a slightly improved mood. However, the article “Have Introverts Really Fared Better in Lockdown?” by Lis Ku, a senior lecturer in psychology at De Montfort University, wrote that as the pandemic progressed, introverts experienced increases in stress.
“The purpose of school should be to prepare kids for the rest of their lives, but too often what kids need to be prepared for is surviving the school day itself,” said Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. For many introverted students, possibly, E-learning was a silver lining during the pandemic with numerous hardships.