Why This Generation Has Gone Overboard On Personality Labels

by Celeste

It's easy to spot trends through article shares on Facebook. It's also rather easy to analyze someone's aspirations and thoughts based on the kind of articles they share because they serve to affirm people's existing beliefs.

This is the primary reason why I click on a person's links: to understand an acquaintance's desires and personality.

People share articles that inform them about their intelligence, to be tongue-in-cheek. A recent article share about intelligent people sleeping later consoled many night owls while efficiently categorizing me as possessing a "very dull" IQ.

People never like to be classified with the mainstream, or in extremes. An extroverted personality has recently declined in vogue, with the rise of people proudly proclaiming their social awkwardness, and serious books written about the power of introverts "in a world that cannot stop talking."

No, it's not cool to be sociable, a party-goer, talkative and approachable anymore -- all common traits associated with extroversion. Suddenly, it's cool to be an over-thinker. People want to be introspective. They want to be reflective and sensitive.

Introversion is on the rise. Yet, it's not cool to be completely associated with introverted traits, either. You still want to have a tight clique of friends in school, not eat meals alone and be cool and casual in your own way. You just don't want to be an everyman like an extrovert is.

This trend and our desire to diagnose our personality traits (most of us are still obsessed with the MBTI, despite its criticisms) has led to a new wave of online articles and ensuing Facebook shares, where people have started labelling themselves a selectively social extrovert, ambivert/ extravert, or even outgoing introvert.

Suddenly, extroverts are proclaiming that because of certain traits they have, they're not complete extroverts; likewise, introverts dislike their popular portrayals. Now, people want to meet in the middle.

And, guess what? No matter which label you use, which qualifier you choose to attach to your personality type, all of these "new" personality descriptions sound the same.

Based on the multitude of online articles recycling the same content, I realized these so-called "selectively social extroverts" share the same personality traits as "outgoing introverts" or even "ambiverts."

What gives? If you are seeking to be different from the dichotomous mainstream, congratulations; all of you have formed your own "in the middle" mainstream.

Here is my simple analysis: Implicit in these article shares are people's acceptance of personality traits as mutually exclusive. Extroverts have their own set of traits, and introvert theirs.

And, when you happen to have a trait (or two) which supposedly belongs to the other camp, you suddenly become ambiguous toward your identity and think you're different from the category to which you have been assigned.

But, my question is this: Don't all extroverts need their alone time, too? Don't tell me no introvert has never been in a social situation where he or she was so comfortable with the crowd he or she almost became the life of the party.

Are extroverts supposed to jump at every chance to attend such a party, while introverts shy away from all parties? As an extrovert, are you supposed to be promiscuous in all the friendships you make and not be selective about your friends?

Are no introverts outgoing at all, which would lead someone to believe an extra modifier, "outgoing," has to be attached to the category introverts to differentiate themselves from the other introverts?

Must extroverts be able to sustain small talk all the time, and must introverts always think deep thoughts and be immersed in their private worlds?

Not that I don't believe there are truly people who lie in the middle, these ambiverts. But, it seems everyone else is heaving to jump onto his or her bandwagon before critical introspection, and examining whether he or she truly deviates from the norm of a personality category.

And, if we don't believe in these extremes, why do we bother distinguishing ourselves from our fellow extroverts or introverts and seek a new space to create a new identity?

Here's my hypothesis: In today's day and age, all of us, no matter how fulfilling our social lives may seem to others or how painfully average we can be at times, don't feel like we truly belong anywhere.

In our perspective, people look like they happily settle into the loose categories to which society has informally assigned them. We're just the odd ones out. Or, maybe, we're projecting our wishful thinking that in a world of seven billion people, we're special little snowflakes.