Groupthink or Solitude?

Author Susan CainIntroversion expert Susan Cain has written a great Op-Ed piece in the New York Times Sunday Review exploring introversion, groupthink, and the benefits of solitude. As a self-professed introvert, I found the piece compelling reading and I highly recommend it.

Here is an interesting excerpt:

People in groups tend to sit back and let others do the work; they instinctively mimic others’ opinions and lose sight of their own; and, often succumb to peer pressure. The Emory University neuroscientist Gregory Berns found that when we take a stance different from the group’s, we activate the amygdala, a small organ in the brain associated with the fear of rejection. Professor Berns calls this “the pain of independence.”

The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

What a great description of the power of the Internet! It is indeed a miracle of communication in the midst of solitude, and thank goodness for that! For introverts and people suffering from social anxiety disorder the Internet is a great way to connect with other people and also preserve a measure of solitude. With books, websites and blogs we can asynchronously connect with each other through space and time. In a way, great thinkers like David Hume and Immanuel Kant are still alive today. We can still connect with them through their writing and the miracle of communication not only transcends solitude, but death as well.

To all of you out there reading this blog post, I’ve enjoyed spending this time “alone together”. By the way, Susan Cain just released a book exploring more of these ideas. I look forward to reading it. Check it out if you get a chance.

Posted on January 26, 2012, in Introversion and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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