Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Social Economics: How I Explain Things To My Extrovert Boss

Essentially Selfish: Social Economics

Your capacity for social interaction is a type of currency. It’s the only type of currency, in fact, that is universal and globally traded. And, like when you were trying to learn about the stock market in high school, everyone begins with an inherent amount of it. 

Some people have more. We call these people extroverts; like their monetary counterparts drive the material economy, they drive the social economy because they have a high capacity for both consumption and donation. The quality of their social interaction is not the question nor the defining factor of their ‘class.’ Rather, they are able to handle volume. They can ‘buy’ expensive social interactions – multiple people, loud settings, frequent interactions – because they have that amount in their social bank accounts.

Introverts can and do also participate in the social stock market, but they don’t have the capacity of an extrovert. Both their input and output is limited – they can only buy so much, but they can also only sell so much. If they deplete their account on, say, a large party, then it takes time to build their reserves back up. 
This is where introverts and extroverts fail to understand each other. 

An extrovert responds to the poverty of another extrovert by quickly loaning them capital. Because of the way the extrovert-driven economy works, they have no reason to doubt that they will be paid back. The market is open and honest, and no one is ever destitute because the currency is in a constant flow. 

Even if offered a loan, however, an introvert simply does not have the internal capacity necessary to store the amount an extrovert who wants to help would offer without thinking. They must build their reserves in order to participate in the economy, but are only capable of making small trades that allow them to build them over time. They may even initially want to take what the extrovert is offering, but will quickly find themselves overwhelmed and facing overdraft fines that leave them just as impoverished as when they began; a little bit of social currency is forever removed from the system when this happens, so that extroverts feel slighted because they did not get their full repayment, and introverts feel guilty for defaulting, or bitter that they were given an amount they were not capable of controlling.

For this reason, a lot of introverts read extroverts as greedy, or hoarders, when extroverts are really just expecting a higher capacity exchange. So they take a lot and in fact are giving a lot, but the introvert they're giving to can't receive it. So the effect is draining but it's not the intention. 

There ARE people who just take, without a reciprocal exchange, but they'll impoverish even an extrovert eventually. A truly extroverted participant in the social economy can be seen as a free-flowing conduit. They are both energized by and energizing to those around them. A social hoarder will take all that is offered to them – dinner invitations, sympathetic ears, compliments – but then make no attempt to reciprocate. Extroverts sometimes begin to see introverts this way, because they are so accustomed to larger gestures that they barely even notice the smaller ones introverts are able to make. In this way, both groups mistake each other for economical non-participants. This generates acrimony and eventually leads to economic shut down – i.e. the termination or dissolution of friendships.

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