Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Introverts as Activists

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I hate people, or that I am socially awkward, this just means I need time on my own to recharge. To recover from times when I am social.

No big deal, right?

Except it ends up being a big deal, because we live in a fast-paced society where we spent at least 40 hours per week at work. Surrounded by other people. At least, that’s how it is for me. My work situation happens to be crowded, I’m in a pod situation. I can hear the conversations of people halfway across the room.

When I get home, I’m done. When the weekend comes, I’m really done.

It seems that every week I get an invitation to leaflet or go to a vegan social hour or something along those lines. I delete them all. It’s something of a relief to know that my bike commuting means I can’t get home in time for them anyway.

I’m often surprised that other people socialize during the week. And then I remember that not everyone needs to recharge the way I seem to. The way other introverts need to as well.

I could force myself to do some of these things, and I’d even enjoy them, at least up to a point. But I’d get more and more exhausted. My temper would fray, my tolerance for small annoyances would decrease, and I’d slip precariously closer to depression. Been there, done that.

As an activist, introversion feels like a liability. How do we reach people if our free time is spent recovering from our work week?

I tweeted a general question on activism to someone who writes a blog for and about introverts. A mutual friend, PeaceChicken, joined in the conversation. She tweeted that “some of the the best activists were/are introverts, in my opinion.”

I found this interesting. Could she be right?

I often describe my own activism as indirect. My sanctuary work, my photography, the blogging, the calendar, it’s indirect. I leaflet once in a while. But I hate it. I table sometimes, and I don’t hate it, in fact I often quite enjoy it, but after just a few hours I end up with what I call a social hangover. (Low-grade headache, and I feel a bit punchy and desperate to get out of there.)

PeaceChicken agreed with me that for introverts, the indirect forms of activism are the right way to go.

And supportive rolls are important, there is no denying that, but still, as an activist, we’re concerned with whether our activism is effective. How often are we encouraged to have that conversation about veganism with at least one person every day? How often when I hear that do I mentally flip off the person telling me to engage in yet another conversation? (Every time.)

I am reminded of a post over at Striking at the Roots featuring an interview with Carol Adams. It’s a great article/conversation/interview, and I highly recommend everyone go read it. I need to read her books…soon! But in the meantime, here’s some food for thought, on activism:

When I mentioned that some activists feel we owe it to the animals to watch such videos, she said, “Again, it’s a male model of change versus a feminist model of change. It’s not about owing. It’s about asking, ‘How can I nurture the best relationship possible for all animals?’ I’m an animal, too. I do not need to inflict suffering on myself if the consciousness of what’s going on is already there. I think women often are going to be more obedient to these exhortations because, again, of the sexism in our society. But if a lot of women already are socialized to care, then our experience of those videos may be drastically different, and I think that needs to be acknowledged. Extraordinary expectations do not need to be laid down on animal activists. We’re already there. We should ask, ‘What’s the best I can do as an individual linking up with others?’ Everyone answers that differently, but our answers become part of a chorus that’s the same.”

Besides videos, then, what tools for change does Carol recommend? “In Living Among Meat Eaters I ask, ‘How do we know how change happens? Why do we think there’s one model for change?’ I think we fail to recognize that the right brain can also bring about change. That you can incubate and you can be stimulated by art to change. I think because activists are often more likely to be left brained and rational, they fail to take account of the way the right brain can be enlisted to help people change. In the book I say that meat-eaters are perfectly happy eating vegan meals, as long as they don’t know that’s what they’re doing. What I mean by that is people hate being self-conscious about what they’re eating. Eating is supposed to be directly experiential — it’s not supposed to have a theory to it. People think vegans are going to examine everything. One of the most important things I think we do is just having vegan meals for people. They leave and think, ‘Gee, Carol’s a vegan. That was a really great risotto; it was so creamy. So…that was a vegan risotto.’ So I’ve given them a chance to incubate, and the next time they come back to me they’re not as threatened, because I’ve enlisted their right brain to work with me rather than just arguing with the left brain that might not want to change.”

Not that I’m likely to start hosting dinner parties, but overall, I like where she’s going with this. I too often feel that there’s a prescription for activism that is pretty much a nightmare for me to contemplate. I’m sure I’m not the only one.

Introvert activists, speak up! What do you do in lieu of the traditional extrovert-based activism?


53 responses to “Introverts as Activists

  1. Stephanie E. November 10, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Love this post. Too tired tonight to say anything more thoughtful than that, but as someone who’s mostly an introvert — an introvert often mistaken for an extrovert, at that — I appreciated this post.

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 6:45 am

      That’s a really good point about introverts sometimes being mistaken for extroverts, because that does happen fairly often! We can even mistake that in ourselves. (I did for years!) It’s all about where we get our energy (or maybe what we need to recharge from).

      I’d be curious to hear your thoughts on whether you have more energy for being social as someone who works from home!

  2. Janessa November 10, 2009 at 10:54 pm

    Really good post. As someone who is more of an “extrovert activist” I really appreciate those who do more introverted work. I personally love talking to people about veganism, but I’m glad to know there’s other people out there who focus on other, quieter, aspects.

    Great post!

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 6:47 am

      Likewise! I’m so glad there are others out there who can be social more and take on the conversations. Let’s us introverts off the hook a bit! 🙂

  3. Kelly November 10, 2009 at 11:13 pm

    What an intriguing post. I’m a new vegan, but have already begun to feel some sort of indirect pressure to become more of an activist. For now, I guess I’m most comfortable engaging in the “indirect” activism you mention. Blogging and feeding delicious vegan cupcakes to omni friends is so much more appealing to me than attending a protest or even tabling. Introversion and social anxiety just don’t make that sort of activity appealing at all! It’s funny, though – like the above commenter, I bet that a small amount of people see me as much more extroverted than I am. But all that socializing takes a toll and results in the need for much more alone time than usual just to recuperate! So, ultimately, I think that Carol’s comment on not needing to inflict suffering on ourselves is a really great point. To each her own, and perhaps all our individual styles and approaches to activism ultimately result in something comprehensive and all-encompassing.

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 6:51 am

      Kelly, congrats on the new veganism! And yes, we definitely all need to find our own styles and strengths and do what works best for us. Otherwise burnout will approach at lightening speed, I think, and burnout is already a real issue for activists. We definitely need to take care of ourselves.

      Feeding delicious vegan cupcakes to omni friends is huge, actually. A friend, another culinary activist like you, once made a really good point, that feeding people vegan food gives them a time and space when they’re not engaging in the very acts that we advocate against. So they’re going to be less defensive, and more open (even if unconsciously) to the message while being fed the vegan treats. Vegan cupcakes WILL take over the world! 🙂

    • b November 11, 2009 at 11:11 am

      Welcome to the fold Kelly! As I wrote, one of my best friends inspired me the most by just eating around me. I think feeding people IS activism. 😀

  4. Sorrow November 10, 2009 at 11:15 pm

    How about an introvert artist activist? Do a show? I am drained for a week. Did a potters for hunger, and I just wanted a glass of red wine and a good book, for about a month.
    Oh yeah.. I hear this. I could never be a social activist. It would put me in the looney bin. But I work my ass off and give as much as I can, and in my own ways. Just finished ” half the sky” and I am banging my head on the key board wishing I had it in me to do more. I just know my limits.
    It’s about being okay with what we can do sometimes I think.
    great post! let us introverts all sit , at home alone together and chill….

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 6:54 am

      I can’t even imagine doing a show! You encouraged me to do a show a few months ago, and I got what you were saying, but just the thought of it was enough to make me want a nap! In fact, I sometimes wonder if being self-employed would be more draining than otherwise, because of all the networking that seems to be required for “success”. Would love to hear people’s thoughts on that!

      It’s really good to know our limits. Getting out of our comfort zone isn’t bad, pushing ourselves can be good once in a while, but in the end, we have to know when to retreat.

      And you’re right, a lot of it is acceptance. That we’re doing what we can, and that what we can do is good enough.

      To get at your original question, “What about artist activists?” – I think this is more important than we recognize, at first glance. Carol talks about it (the power of interacting with the right brain to plant seeds, essentially!), and I know so many people who will mention artists (musicians, often) who have had a big influence on them. Artists, and the social consciousness they can help foster, are really important! Thanks for all you do, Sorrow, I know that you give probably more than you have and still try to find more to give.

  5. Marika November 10, 2009 at 11:38 pm

    I identify. I’m an introvert, most definitely. Mostly, I try to spread information. Education. Because that’s what made the difference for me. The Carol Adams passage above really resonates with me, because I often wonder if my (vegan baking) blog makes a significant enough contribution – through it, I strive to offer a positive example of how fulfilling veganism is – how it is without deprivation, dispel the myths. I try to answer questions that come my way – help those who may be a few steps behind me on the same path. I’ve always thought that different types of people are suited to different types of activism – that there are important roles to be filled, both on the front lines and in the back trenches. I’ve never seen myself as the juggernaut – but I hope to be a light along the path for others. Really great post, thank you.

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 6:59 am

      Spreading information and education is so important. This makes educating ourselves important as well, which is great for introverts who love to read because now we have an excuse! 😉

      But seriously, I wonder if any activist ever feels that they’re doing enough, making a significant enough contribution. I bet most of us, no matter what we do or how many people we reach, feel like we should always do more.

      I think vegan food blogs are really important. Culinary activism is important, for the window of opportunity it presents where people will have a more open mind. And I hadn’t thought of it as right brain vs left brain before reading Carol’s thoughts, but that’s important to consider.

      A good friend often talks about “planting seeds.” I think sometimes we have to be content that we’re planting the seeds and doing what we can to nurture them!

  6. The voracious Vegan November 11, 2009 at 2:17 am

    This is AMAZING, I can’t wait to share it with my husband. We are both extreme homebodies and decided introverts. People often comment that we must be so bored to stay home all the time….actually, it is the exact opposite! I feel bored in most social situations, or annoyed, or grumpy. Cody and I always comment about how drained and grumpy and discomfited we feel at the end of an evening out or after we’ve entertained guests.

    I love having friends, and I love having them over….occasionally. But at the end of an evening with a group of other people I literally find myself trembling in exhaustion, even though we’ve just been sitting around talking. It is SO draining!

    It is nice to know that other people feel this way!

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 7:30 am

      It’s funny, I think people are so flummoxed by the fact that I don’t have a TV (“what do you DO if you don’t watch TV?”) that it never occurs to them to wonder if I’m bored staying home! lol. But yes, I definitely enjoy staying at home, just reading, doing all the lovely at-home things.

      The boredom in social situations is interesting, because until recently I denied it. (It took me a long time to realize I am an introvert!) And even now when I feel the pressure to be a social activist, the feeling is so strong that I “should” (dreadful word!) enjoy these social settings that I still end up ignoring the fact that I am often bored when I’m in these social situations!

      I do love my friends, though I seem to have arranged it so that I have wonderful friends all over the country and the world, but very few closer than a couple hours drive away! 😀

  7. b November 11, 2009 at 4:42 am

    Oh Deb… you so hit the nail on the head this time. You can’t imagine how much this has been impacting me lately—nearly everything you touched on.

    If you think you’re a ‘bad’ introvert for not wanting to leaflet, I can beat that: I recently quit the only day job I could find in this town b/c the people made me get daily migraines. It was more than pods; it was everyone’s desks pushed together (and add to the fact they were all crazy bigots, some of the most ridiculous racist freaks I’ve ever met… wtf). It was like being forced to sit six inches from Fox News all day AND participate. I left after six weeks of hell to go back to freelancing and running a pet care business full time. I don’t make as much consistent income, but who cares?! Best. Decision. Ever.

    Does it have a lot to do with my introversion? You bet! Now I don’t see anyone all day! I get to spend time with animals. I channel all my braininess into writing. Perfect. I’m so much more healthy as a result, and I often think of something Dave said to me when I was visiting y’all earlier this year. I told him I get bad migraines, and he said, “I used to get migraines too.” I asked what made them go away, and he said that once he left his job away from the sanctuary, they vanished. How f*cking profound. I’ve thought about that so many times since then.

    This week, our cat had surgery (nothing big, but he has to wear a neck cone to keep from licking his stitches), and I stay home as much as possible because I have an awesome excuse to both avoid other people and spend my time hanging out with my buddy. Andreas and I agreed to go out to dinner with some veg folk in town tonight, and even a shared meal that should be exciting is a chore. I’ll be itching to come home to Malcolm the cat!

    I combat feeling guilty about not being at a rally or leaflet event by stocking up on knowledge. I read and read and listen to podcasts and get myself in a place where, when challenged, I won’t feel defensive or uncomfortable. People at the day job I left made me their freaky outcast and would say the most condescending shit to me about how they felt sorry for me because I couldn’t eat the junk they would bring in to share. Honestly, it wasn’t the only thing that made me snap, but it was a huge part of it. It made me think a lot about how vegans can go to work with non-vegans and not feel polarized… or if they do feel that way, how they manage it. It was also solid practice for the conversations people want to have about how ‘sheep aren’t hurt by shearing’ and ‘we need to milk the cows.’ By spending the bulk of my time learning alone, I was able to thoughtfully deconstruct their points effortlessly. I wasn’t in fighting mode; I just had more information than they did, and I was right. They shut up and listened more after that.

    It isn’t that I’m trying to be the overly sensitive one (none of us are!), but I wonder when it stops being my job to be tolerant of their lack of understanding. Will it be different when I’ve been vegan for ten years instead of two? I don’t think it will. And I think what most people don’t realize is that it isn’t some misdirected hubris. When people tell me they want to go eat turkey or wear fur, I think about Victor and the rabbits I have known in my life and I am deeply hurt on their behalf. It isn’t about me; it’s about the animals. I couldn’t ignore that pain at the job—and I can’t when I’m in other social situations where similar things happen—so in a way, being vegan has made me even more antisocial than ever before. Yet I think that’s important and valid. It isn’t a weakness. It’s about self preservation and living my truth.

    This is the thing that comes back to me again and again: the person who influenced me to become vegan is the most taciturn person I know. He rarely speaks, and he never once brought up his veganism without me asking. He’s one of my best friend’s partners, and after hanging out with them for about three years, I sought out the information myself. I showed him the books I was reading, he would always be very interested, and I’d watch him order at restaurants. And then one day, it all came together. He was the person I knew who was most sensitive about my special needs pets. He was the most kind and thoughtful person I knew (still know!). And I tell him as often as I can, even though he currently lives a continent away, that his quiet example made all the difference. It did more for me than any rally or horrific video (and I don’t watch those either, btw). I think about my quiet friend, and I have hope for what I’m doing, even if I’m not out screaming into a bullhorn and throwing red paint at fur store displays.

    • Deb November 11, 2009 at 8:33 am

      I read on your blog about someone (didn’t know it was Dave!) having migraines until he worked at the Sanctuary full time. That really struck me, and I’ve thought about it a lot since.

      Such great points about educating ourselves so that we can effectively answer the questions, and make the points, when we need to. I think this is probably something that doesn’t get enough focus, in general.

      As for being oversensitive, or being tolerant of their lack of sensitivity, I’ve listened to a couple podcasts where they’re talking about this. And things Carol has written talks about this also. And what it seems to me is that often (not always) their comments aren’t quite what they sound like. I’ll have to dig up the podcast I’m thinking of from animal voices, and the rest, so you can take a look/listen and see what you think.

      To some degree, though, I think that the people around us are sensitized just by being around us. I’ll have to think more on this though…

      Do you read Lagusta’s blog? I want to ask her something…she said, in a post a few months ago, that she converts people by “leading by impeccable example.” And I’ve been thinking about that ever since, and trying to figure out *how*! lol.

      Glad you left your migraine-inducing job. That sounds like hell, and hopefully if you have to pick up another full time job someday you’ll have better options! In the meantime, the pet sitting and freelancing sound wonderful!

      • b November 11, 2009 at 11:38 am

        Oh, and I meant to say that no, I don’t read Lagusta’s blog, but I really should get more vegan folks in my blog reader. I basically read you, Mary (who has no idea that I do that), Veg Blog Ryan, and veganarky. I think keeping a bit out of the loop helps me stay grounded, but that said, I’m open to new reading material 😀 Bring it!

      • b November 11, 2009 at 11:40 am

        And Vegans of Color. Good lord, I forgot my other fave. Breeze was even kind enough to grant me an interview this past week for an article I’m writing!

      • Deb November 11, 2009 at 11:52 am

        Lagusta’s blog:

        She’s really interesting, and she doesn’t talk about the issues all the time, but when she does, I pay attention because I love the way she thinks and expresses things!

        The specific post where she talks about convincing people by impeccable example is this one:

        Read her about page too! I think you’d like her. 🙂

        I don’t read as many vegan blogs as I sometimes feel I “should” (I’m trying to eradicate that word from my personal usage, actually!), and I am not sure why. Maybe trying to stay grounded? Or just trying to limit how crowded my google reader is. If I had just one interest, it would be one thing, but I’ve got the photography and cycling blogs too! 😀

      • b November 11, 2009 at 12:48 pm

        Ah ha! So it IS the Lagusta of Lagusta’s chocolates! Very cool! I’m the same on filling up the reader. Cleaning it out is very good too, though. I’ve been purging lately with excellent results.

        Some of the people I worked with—one in particular—was very open to listening to me. He would make an offhand comment about how shearing sheep was good for them, and so I would gently say, “Do you want me to break that down for you?” He didn’t even realize that veganism was a lifestyle choice, but he was great about listening and thinking. I’ll try to focus on remembering people like him instead of the scary vicious ones 🙂

      • Deb November 11, 2009 at 3:01 pm

        I think there is something to be said also about spending our time on the people who *are* open to hearing what we are saying. The vicious people might be open someday, but maybe not today. The thoughtful coworker who would hear what you have to say, on the other hand, is not only going to be more enjoyable to interact with, he’s worth the effort of having those difficult conversations.

        Oh, you already know about lagusta then! I haven’t even had any of her chocolates yet. I need to get some to try, after hearing so much about them behind the scenes! lol.

        Plus, she’s really focused on the labor/environmental/etc issues with regards to her sources, so that’s really cool too!

  8. Deb November 11, 2009 at 8:36 am

    Both surprised and happy at what a chord this post struck with so many people! Thanks for all the comments, everyone! I love the conversations that commenting makes possible.

    I also wanted to point all my new introvert friends to the website I was reading recently on/for introverts: There’s a lot of great information in the posts and the comments about (essentially) dealing with work and social life as an introvert. I’ve found it a great read!

  9. Mary Martin November 11, 2009 at 9:17 am

    “Caring for Your Introvert” by Jonathan Rauch in The Atlantic from 2003 is a great, funny article on introversion. I am often mistaken for an extrovert because I can be “on” when I need to, which is basically like acting (and Rauch mentions that). Of course, I need to nap for about 6 hours for every hour of extroversion.

  10. Deb November 11, 2009 at 9:37 am

    @Mary – I love that article! For anyone who hasn’t read it yet, this is it: Caring for your Introvert

    Being “on” is how I describe it as well, and I can feel the shift in myself, even though I don’t consciously do it. But it’s why I both enjoy talking to people and am exhausted by it. And likely it’s why I feel like I get a bit hung over from things like tabling, even though I (mostly) enjoy it while I’m doing it.

    I used to describe it as sensory overload – as far back as high school, I’ve hated malls because it was too much stuff and too much going on for me, and would give me a headache. I wonder now if part of why it is tiring for us is that we don’t filter in the same way? (Or maybe that’s just me!)

    It has been shown that there are differences in the parts of the brain that are accessed between introverts and extroverts:

    I’d been wondering about you and whether you are an introvert or not! You do a lot more social things than I do, but then again, you’re usually working from home, so maybe work doesn’t use up your social energy.

  11. Stephanie E. November 11, 2009 at 9:43 am

    I love that Atlantic article too, which I didn’t see until the last couple years. And “sensory overload” is just how I describe it too. An almost panicky, must-escape feeling builds. My tolerance for that overload has steadily decreased while my introversion has steadily increased over the years.

  12. Deb November 11, 2009 at 10:18 am

    @Stephanie – my prescription for helping to deal with the overload? A camera! (You knew that was coming, right? lol.) Seriously, the camera helps me focus on smaller pieces of the whole, and the camera lets me block out or filter what I can’t do on my own. I think this is why I love short depth of field so much! Ah, bokeh!

    Not that this is applicable in every situation, but it works more often than not.

    I only saw the Atlantic article in the past year, and even so I read it every time it gets brought up again, because it is refreshing to read.

  13. b November 11, 2009 at 11:00 am

    I’m like Mary in that I’m mistaken for extrovert because I’m super friendly at an initial meeting and then people assume I’m always like that. I also don’t pace myself, which you probably noticed when you met me Deb. I get very revved up, especially when I’m doing or meeting something/someone I really like. My acupuncturist in Boston told me I was messing with my adrenals because I could never keep a steady pace 🙂

    I definitely believe we sensitize people just by existing. So far though, I generally have had bad experiences with this because people who say things like, “Oh, I’m totally an animal person” because they happen to have two dogs meet me and completely freak out. I flip their entire perception of themselves as “animal people,” as I’m sure we all do, and that seems to really undo them and make them attack me.

    On the flip side, because I don’t wish to bring that out in people, I avoid a lot of situations where I could probably be very effective as an outright activist or even as a quiet example. Some friends invited us to a Thanksgiving dinner (which disturbs me to no end – we aren’t even in the States – let it go people!!), and while I like the people involved, I’m pretty sure they’ll make a turkey. I would have taken my own food anyway, and they’ll make stuff we can also eat, but I don’t think I can sit in a room with a dead bird and have an appetite. I used to say I was one of those vegans “who doesn’t care what other people eat,” and by and large, I still believe that I’m tolerant. But it’s definitely shifted for me to the point that I don’t feel like being the accepting one anymore. I’m not sure what that implies yet.

    Going to read the Atlantic article now. Oh, and as for working at home, I’m more of a homebody than ever! Once you stay in for this long, you never want to leave!! 😀 When I do, I also keep my camera close at hand. Excellent avoidance device when needed!

  14. Deb November 11, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    @b – I didn’t notice when we met, but then we’re alike in that way! 🙂

    As for the attacks because of them being confronted by what it means to be an animal person who doesn’t hurt *any* animals, I think that’s something to pay attention to. Not because they’re attacking us, but because their defensiveness (turned offensive) might just mean that when they’re not feeling on the defensive, they’re the most likely to listen.

    I’m saying this because I’ve heard others have had good success in asking the right question to kind of turn things around for people, but myself I’ve had no experience with it. I am trying to look at things differently, when people say or do certain things. (First step: perspective!)

    Over time, though, I’ve definitely become less and less accepting/tolerant of being around the dead animals. To a degree, I have to put up with it and can still block it from my mind, but it’s never just a dead bird or whatever animals. I have the personal connections to the representatives – to Victor, for example – which makes it feel extremely personal to me. Food to them, friends to me. It is difficult to navigate. Not being very social means perhaps that my ability to ignore the unpleasant is like a muscle that’s not getting a workout.

    (I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, either. Just something to think about.)

    You have confirmed what I fear, to a degree – if I had a chance to work from home, I could easily become a hermit! Not that hermitude would actually be healthy for me. Introverts or extroverts, we’re still social animals in the end.

    • b November 11, 2009 at 12:52 pm

      I responded to part of this above. Woops!

      My homebodiness is reflective of my cultural displacement as much as it’s about my introversion. I think it would be very different if I were in Boston. I used to do the coffeeshop-to-work thing, and now, that’s just so grossly overpriced and stressful to communicate that I don’t bother (plus I’d rather be home with the cat, so I guess that circles back to my true nature). But regardless, I’d leave more if other things were different, I suspect. Not having a car, much as I hate to admit it, does keep me from moving about as much. I love my bike in a way I never thought I would, but when it takes so long to go so little distance and you add the risks that public space offer when you don’t speak the language… well, you get the idea 😉

      I’m working on a blog post about some of this stuff. I’m so enthusiastic about my introversion today thanks to you!! LOVE the article in The Atlantic 😀

      • Deb November 11, 2009 at 2:57 pm

        I’m glad this has made you enthusiastic about your introversion! 🙂

        And do check out as well. I have been feeling positive about the introversion thanks to reading more on that site. I think it is really important that we remember that introversion isn’t bad or good, it just IS, and putting a descriptive label is just a way to better understand ourselves.

        Plus, look how many of us there are! I’m starting to think that everyone I know online is an introvert. 🙂

    • b November 11, 2009 at 3:12 pm

      My oldest and best friend is an introvert—an INTJ—and so is Andreas! I’m an INFJ and yes, I’m absolutely convinced we flock together (if not in person, at least online). But then, the internet breaks down a lot of the reasons we don’t meet in real life! 😀

      Time for me to go read introvertzone. We had a dinner date with people tonight and cancelled because we just couldn’t take socializing tonight. How oddly appropriate.

      • Deb November 11, 2009 at 5:22 pm

        I think I’m an INFP (not sure if I’m P or J) and I don’t know what most of my friends are! I’m only just finding out today how many people I know online (some offline too) are definitely introverts! A lot of my friends are, I think, what I’d call gatherers. I think about the people I keep in touch with from the various places I live, and mostly it’s the people who seem to gather assorted people around them, which is interesting to think about. Handy, too, because even when I sort of falter in the effort I make, they’ll pick up the slack often enough that I don’t lose touch with them entirely. (Or at least not forever!)

        Too funny that you canceled dinner plans to read introvertzone. 😉

        Check out this funny “prayer” for MBTI types:


      • b November 12, 2009 at 5:02 am

        LOL! Those prayers are right on. Also, you were spot on: I am loving Lagusta, esp. the piece about nesting dolls. What a hysterically funny way to talk about something that can be so deadly serious for us! I read that entire comment section too, and save maybe here and a few other vegan spaces, I almost never wade into comments anywhere. They’re usually so toxic.

        My dad used to be obsessed with Myers Briggs, which was how I figured it all out pretty young. Mine changed dramatically though a few years ago or else I got a better sense of myself and answered differently. A lot of my friends are Capricorns too, something I didn’t think mattered until I was surrounded by them! Combined with our MB types, it’s the loyal thinker type, it seems 😀

  15. WizardParadox November 11, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    I think I am extrovert in the workplace yet socially introvert. I also end up snoozing the weekend recharging after a week of persona at work.
    Personally when it comes to raising issues that I feel matter then blog and Twitter are good tools.

    I agree there is no point in our consciouness suffering and the point of feeling forced into an event. As change starts in our mind this backs only one starting point where introverts tend to be paradoxically active.

  16. Mary Martin November 11, 2009 at 12:50 pm

    Sorry I didn’t include the link!

    Great discussion!

  17. Deb November 11, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    @WizardParadox – I think that most of us (maybe all) can definitely act extroverted / social in the situations that require it, but it’s when we need that recovery time from the socializing that marks us as introverts. It can be confusing – I’m pretty chatty, which made me think I was extroverted for a long time!

    I think it is good to understand ourselves so that we know what we need to do to take care of ourselves. And the better we understand our strengths and weaknesses (not that introversion is a weakness!) the more effective we can be by choosing to do the things that make the most sense for us.

    @Mary – no problem! And I don’t know what I expected (crickets maybe!) but this has really been an amazing discussion. 🙂

  18. veganprimate November 12, 2009 at 12:17 am

    Great post! I, too, am introverted, and I just cannot deal with people after working with them all day and all week. I just can’t!

    I liked what Carol Adams said about watching those videos. I am traumatized again and again by watching them. I need to stop for my mental health. Seriously.

    I sometimes feel like I’m not doing enough, but there’s only so much energy I have. I sponsor Colleen of Compassionate Cooks, b/c she’s out there doing what I can’t. And I live my life and so it’s an example to others (although not a perfect example). But I can’t do anything that involves talking to strangers. No way.

    • Deb November 12, 2009 at 8:26 pm

      Yes, avoid watching the videos! You already have the information, and it is a very real trauma that you are doing to yourself, and to what end? pattrice jones wrote about that in “Aftershock” as well, which is another book I always recommend people who … well, who are. It is directed towards activists, but honestly in this world we live in, trauma is an every day thing, and learning to deal with it, to recover from it, etc, is very important, activist or no.

      It sounds like you’re being smart about where you do spend your energy. I think no one ever feels they are doing enough, so you’re not alone there! And the reality is that we all have finite amounts of time and energy, we need to be a bit picky about how and on what we spend it. Sponsoring Colleen sounds like it fits right in with what’s possible in your life.

      As for not being able to talk to strangers, I’ve come to believe more and more that it’s our friends (and people we’re otherwise in contact with on a regular basis) who we have the most influence over, and who we should therefore focus the most on. (Even if that “focus” is primarily being a good vegan example.) So, knowing you are not at your best when talking to strangers, also know that this probably doesn’t make that much of a difference. It is true that etting the information out there is important, and in that sense handing leaflets to strangers is bound to make a difference in a certain percentage, but…there are others doing that kind of activism.

      I think of it as a relay race, to some degree. We just have to figure out where we are strongest, and make sure we pick up where others leave off. 🙂

  19. b November 12, 2009 at 5:06 am

    @veganprimate: I really like the Compassionate Cooks podcast. I thought about sponsoring but the money just doesn’t feel like it’s there right now, so I’m glad to know others are doing it when I can’t! The information she puts out in those talks has been really invaluable to me and so helpful as a relatively new vegan (not quite two years in) who is still learning about the ‘lifestyle’ aspects I always took for granted (down comforters, wool, beeswax). I hate to be picky, but I do think her work tends to lack larger structural analysis of race/class privilege. That said, she’s helped me realize that things are much more complex when it comes to animal use and abuse than I’d thought. It’s nice to have her work, along with Animal Voices, to carry with me on public transit. Sometimes it can be too difficult to listen for too long, but I tend to think that’s okay. But then, I don’t watch the videos 😉

  20. KJ November 12, 2009 at 8:26 am

    I’m a computer nerd, and I’ve found that nearly everybody needs some computer help. In most organizations it involves minimal human interaction and sometimes can be done remotely. Even if I were more outgoing, I’d still be a nerd, but it happens to lend itself to solitary work. Somebody mentioned artists, and I concur. I’m not very useful as a web developer without the help of a designer to make things palatable.

    More broadly, any introvert who can perform some kind of skilled labor – electricians, lawyers – can probably find their niche in any area of activism they choose to engage in. While some might need to work with or answer to a small group of people, I for one find that much less exhausting than the hoards of strangers you encounter tabling or protesting.

    • Deb November 12, 2009 at 8:32 pm

      That’s a great point. We can often use our skills and/or interests to either support groups/organizations we believe in, or to do other kinds of activism.

      It’s hard for new activists, I think, because if you try to get involved you’re just going to be invited to a protest, or to leafletting, or tabling. Great, if those are things that aren’t awful experiences for you, but most of us are on our own to find other ways to make a difference.

      I also want to mention that we don’t have to do work that is tied to an organization. It can be extremely hard to find a group that we agree with enough to spend our time/effort on, and if that is the case, then we can always look outside the formal organizations and find other ways to apply our talents.

  21. Pingback: brittany shoot » Blog Archive » Perfecting aloneliness

  22. Laura November 12, 2009 at 9:41 pm

    Great post! Suffice it to say, as an INFP, I definitely prefer online to offline with any activism. Of course, I’m a computer geek, so I can build websites and post on Facebook & Twitter all day.

    Not to mention that I can speak my mind/heart/conscience when I’m typing, but put me in front of people and I freeze. A couple weeks ago I went to a Q&A with Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society and it took everything in me to get in front of the mic during Q&A to ask him why HSUS doesn’t promote veganism more. A simple question for sure, but anything to do with public speaking scares the heck out of me. It was only by thinking about the millions of animals that need our help that I was able to muster the guts.

    Like everyone else has mentioned, I too get worn out by being surrounded by people all day at work. I usually don’t make social commitments because it totally depends on how I feel that day, there’s always a high possibility I just won’t feel like being around people. Glad I’m not the only one!

    AND I totally agree with the comment on watching videos by veganprimate, I’m the exact same way. I *know* how horrible it is, why do I keep watching them? All it does it bring me to tears and depress me for the rest of the night. It’s masochistic indeed.

    It’s so hard to judge the effectiveness of *any* activism, I don’t think that’s only a problem with introverted activist roles.

    Have you ever read Lifelong Activist? One of my favorite books, highly recommend it.

    Sorry if my reply is random and confusing… long day at work. 🙂

  23. Deb November 14, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    @Laura – I can relate to the difficulty in asking a question during the Q&A session! That’s not easy, at all. (And curious: what did he say?)

    I haven’t read Lifelong Activist, though I have it on my mental to-read list!

    It seems to me that burnout is such a real danger for activists. No matter what we do (even if we are lucky enough to have the kind of feedback that tells us we *are* making a difference) the scope of the issue, especially when seen as a collection of inter-related issues, is just so incredibly huge, that is it ever possible for any of us to do “enough”? And therein lies madness. Or at least burnout!

    Which is why I recommend “Aftershock” to everyone. We need to be good at taking care of ourselves, and usually it’s something we need to learn.

    And I think for introverts, we likely have many years of denying our need for downtime, which makes it all feel much more complicated. (Or maybe that’s just me!)

  24. johanna November 18, 2009 at 5:37 pm

    I’m borderline introvert/extrovert (when I was younger & did those Myers-Briggs tests I came out on the extrovert side but as I get older I’ve come out just on the introvert side) but I definitely still need time to recharge from having to deal w/people (particularly people I don’t in general like v. much) all week at work! Particularly when there’s been conflict at work–I don’t necessarily feel ready to possibly be in situations involving conflict at a protest or even by tabling.

    My partner, who is more strongly introverted, recommended I read The Introvert Advantage to understand the way his mind works better. It did shed a lot of light, hehehe.

  25. Deb November 18, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    @johanna – I tested once as an extrovert as well. And that was with the workshop (it was part of a new employee thing at my last job), which I felt validated me being an extrovert. But in retrospect I don’t think it was accurate. It was confusing for me because I do enjoy talking to people, and I will get energized by it. It’s like a switch, I can turn my social persona “on”. And by the end of the day/evening/whatever, I feel like I just need a giant three day long nap, I’ve burnt that bulb right out. It’s the need for the nap/recharging after being “on” that makes me an introvert, even though I’m fairly comfortable expressing my social persona. A lot of this was masked to me for a while because I have almost always lived alone, so I have all this wonderful recharging time, but I never thought of it that way, so I only noticed the socializing I’d do.

    Conflict at work is so horrible, imo. We are stuck there before during and after, at least that’s how it is with office jobs.

    I’m tabling soon for the sanctuary again, but I’m really really looking forward to it – I’ll be at a vegan bakery! The only conflict will be whether to have *another* cupcake. lol.

    Thanks for that book recommendation! I’ll have to check it out. Sounds very interesting!

  26. Ashley Watson November 23, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Great post! I am definitely an introvert but also feel the compulsive need to be an activist in my own way….I have channeled this desire into my art practice where I focus on the inter-related oppression of women and animals, inspired by Carol Adams work. I try to get my work out there, to also get the message out to others, like me who learn visually. If done right getting an animal-rights message out through art can seem less combative or hostile, allowing people to come to the meaning in their own way. I also started a local animal-rights group…we did the normal leafletting and outreach(draining for me) but we’ve also done community work like painting an enrichment mural for rescued chimpanzee’s. The group has really helped act as a supportive base, a safe place to vent and share in good vegan food which is a less tiring way to socialize for an introvert! 😉

    • Deb November 23, 2009 at 8:18 pm

      It’s so great to hear people doing creative things like you are doing! Especially good to hear about intersectionality focuses. I looked through your site and the ‘a bird at my table’ images were very powerful. I can see how that could (hopefully!) get people thinking about the issue in perhaps a different way than if they were faced with words.

      Sounds like you’re really finding a good balance! And I love that you mention a “safe place”, because I think that’s so important for all of us, whether it is an actual physical space, or a virtual one. Have you read pattrice jones’ “aftershock”, by any chance? That’s one of the things she talks about! 🙂

  27. Gary November 23, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    Your blog and photos are two shining examples of how “introverted activism” can be powerful! 🙂

    At Compasion for Animals, we’re trying – as time allows! – to come up with volunteer “activities” that might attract people who don’t go for leafleting and protests, either because they’re introverts, or don’t want to be in a conflict situation, or other reasons. We still have a way to go on that, and still have much to learn, but I am seeing that there are lots of potential “activists” who are enthusiastic about doing types of activism that best fit their personalities and life situation. With a little creativity and exploration (and support), I think all of us can find a comfortable and effective niche.

    (BTW, I don’t mean to sound dismissive about leafleting and protests; I have the utmost respect for those two activities and still participate in them – leafleting especially is a good fit for me.)

    • Deb November 23, 2009 at 8:24 pm

      Thanks Gary! Though I often feel that I mostly just make vegans feel good, and have no impact on others! 🙂

      That’s great to hear that you’re looking to incorporate other activities. I agree that there are a lot of potential activists who are somewhat stymied by the traditional / standard forms of activism (leafleting and protests) but would likely give quite a bit if they found something that fit better.

      It’s awesome that some people do just come up with great ways to do non-traditional activism (like Ashley just talked about in the comment above yours), but not having to come up with your own idea can be nice too. Like your vegan bakesale!

      I’ll be interested to see what else you come up with!

  28. Karstan November 24, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    It’s nice to know there are others out there like me.

  29. Deb November 24, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    @Karstan – I was surprised at how many people joined in the dialogue when I posted this – I think we were all happy to know that there are others like us. It’s definitely a good feeling to know we’re not alone! 🙂

  30. Pingback: Using Art to Confront the Absent Referent: ‘a bird at my table’ « Animal Rights & AntiOppression

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: