Ted Talk, Rethinking College
Alec MacMillen, a recent Middlebury college graduate and current Fulbright English
Teaching Assistant Fellow at U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural
Affairs, shares an eye-opening experience he had during the first few months of his college
He uses this to transition into his further discussion on the differences between introvertsand extroverts—and how the stereotypes of both causes a false representation of what kinds of people are regarded as successful during and after college.
He describes himself sitting in a room with other freshman and a college advisor,
discussing their recent college experiences, and how out of place he felt once he raised his hand to admit that he had sat by himself to eat at the dining hall at least once.
MacMillen then illustrates the definitions of a stereotypical extrovert and introvert, in
which the only differences between the two are where two types generate their energy from. Thestereotypical extrovert generates energy by being focused outward—needing interaction and social stimuli to thrive. The stereotypical introvert generates energy by being focused inward—preferring solitude to feel alive. Through these stereotypical characteristics, MacMillen states that introverts are often misunderstood because they are reserved, withdrawn, reflective, and quiet.
Of course, there is always a gray area when in comes to personality traits. “We can
observe characteristics of both types depending on the time and context.”
However, “society often sends us a different message,” that there is a ‘best’ personality
type. MacMillen explains the ‘extrovert ideal’ within the American culture—“that we’ll be
successful if we are vagarious, have lots of friends and relationships, and being outwardly
engaged all the time will lead to success and happiness.” This information is absorbed by
different media, as well as through our peers, from a young age.
MacMillen continues to explain that everything that comes with networking in the real
world—self promotion, small talk, and mingling at large gatherings—give extroverts that buzz of social stimulation they thrive on. But these are difficult activities for introverts who prefer to spend time with small groups of people that they know well, and have trouble talking about themselves. So to a potential employer, the introvert might look unmotivated compared to the extrovert. This especially true for those either looking for work, or for businesses looking for employers, in the fast-paced environments of large cities, such as Oakland and San Francisco Bay Area.
“Metrics of success and failure in a setting like college are so public. So your peers will
listen to your comments in class, your friends watch you flirt at a party, all of Facebook judges your every status update and photo upload.”
MacMillen’s main focus with this discussion is not to regard the introvert as the better
type, but to highlight how society has historically looked at extroversion only through a positive lens, and introversion only through a negative lens—which creates risk that we’ll undervalue and sacrifice the equally reputable contributions of introverts.
For marketers and business owners, especially those located in the densely populated San
Francisco Bay Area, being able to identify with or cater to the lifestyle and mindset of introverts may serve as a game-changer for expanding audience reception.
The talk concludes with several calls to action, in hopes that both introverts and
extroverts can understand, and learn something from, the other type.
“The meeting of two personalities is like the contact of two chemical substances. If there
is any reaction, both are transformed.”
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