Personalities and the Pandemic

How has two years of online learning forced students to adjust?

Kyra+Kolim

Kyra Kolim

Yujeong Ok and Brooke Anderson

Personality can be measured on the personality continuum scale, with extroverts on the far right, introverts on the far left, and everyone else fluctuating somewhere in between. Whether one is extroverted or introverted can be determined by factors of sociability and social endurance. Sociability is a measure of one’s tolerance for others regardless of duration. In contrast, social endurance measures how long one can enjoy sustained material interaction.

Extroverts enjoy spending long durations of time with others. Before the pandemic, someone more extroverted could find themselves taking on leadership positions, actively participating in class, and staying on campus for hours after school.

According to freshmen Abby Allerton, being an extrovert entailed a constant and sometimes insatiable desire for interaction. When describing her day-to-day life on campus before the pandemic, Abby stated, “I would go to school every day, see my friends every day, and I would talk to people.” Her daily routine preceding the lockdown included remaining on campus for hours after school as a way to surround herself with the energy of a group.

Yet, during the pandemic, Abby admits that her level of effort in online classes has been “[dependent] on what class it [was]. She added, “If it’s a class that I enjoy, then I’ll try to speak up more.” Abby’s recount of class participation prior to the pandemic illustrated that her engagement and energy levels were contingent on the subject at hand. This may imply that her sociability is circumstantial, and that her extroverted personality relies on having the proper motivation.

Unlike extroverts, introverts prefer focusing on their inner thoughts they draw energy by spending time alone and can remain content with time by themselves. Due to the predisposition of personal security and self-control, they are more prone to quality independent work both prior to and within the pandemic. They can be good listeners due to their attentiveness. One may find an introvert inclined to commit to a tight-knit group of friends. As reported by senior Keeren Setokusumo, “I socialize with people by simply listening to their concerns, with the hope that I can help their situations, and being a welcoming person.”

AMIDST THE LOCKDOWNS

Multiple students described their transition into lockdown as challenging, to say the least. Extrovert Abby Allerton summarized her time with her thoughts as “lonely” and “depressing.” After a full year of online learning since the initial lockdown in March 2020, numerous students have expressed their hopes of returning to campus. “I would love to meet all the new students and my friends again!” Emily Teo, a recently elected member of the grade 10 class council, stated. Keeping this in mind, a majority of introverted students have disclosed a longing for face-to-face interaction with their peers and teachers. Sophomore Dain Choi said, “in-person school provides more opportunities to socialize, grow, and learn.” Meanwhile, a few others went so far as to describe their online experience as rather “dull” or “mediocre.” These students also expressed their difficulties with Zoom fatigue taking a toll on their physical and mental health.

Recent studies also support these claims made by JIS high school students. According to a study conducted between late April and early May 2020, introverts craved more social interaction than extroverts. Some even faced high levels of loneliness, anxiety, and depression. A variety of other studies showed similar results, but each conveyed that introverts have struggled to cope with their newfound isolation as much as extroverts. We have to keep in mind that millions of people around the world endured an assortment of mental health difficulties over the past two years. The social withdrawals people endured were unexpected and hard to navigate, not to mention the anxiety attached to a deadly virus that is also somehow political.

SHIFTING IN THE CONTINUUM

The world we are returning to is not the continuum same world we left. Everything has changed, and so have we. So what does that mean for our defining personality traits? David Brooks, a writer for the New York Times suggests that the pandemic will ultimately change us for the better. In the years to come, the impacts of the pandemic may become more apparent: it is predicted that people will obtain a heightened sense of maturity, social sensitivity, and self-confidence.

Online learning has its drawbacks. However, we must consider those who may have benefited from this experience. JIS high school students across all grade levels have provided various responses on adapting to the pandemic. In an environment where students have the option to turn off their micro phones and screens, some claim it has become easier to adopt introversion. When asked to describe her personality after online learning, Keeren explained, “I grew more introverted after going through online learning, but I don’t see that as a negative…I do enjoy texting and talking to my friends once in a while, but being at home with my family and having my own downtime is something that I also prioritize.”

In contrast, a few other students felt that the online experience did not differ much from the campus experience. Nonetheless, a large number of introverts revealed that they have become more sociable over the duration of the pandemic. In fact, many of them admitted that the pandemic brought out an unknown extroverted side of themselves. Granted, this personality change divulged in a way that their introversion and extroversion were balanced. This led to an improved social life and active participation within JIS leadership and academic opportunities.

When summarising her own experience, senior Dabin Choi said, “This goes against the typical line of reasoning, where one might think that being alone will make someone more introverted. Online learning [has actually] made me ask more questions and less reluctant to talk in front of the class. I think that both these factors [have] made me a more extroverted person.” Other self-professed introverts also expressed an uplift in confidence. Interacting with new people seemed less demanding behind the comfort of their screens and the security of their homes.

Nadyne Apung, a sophomore MUN delegate, concurred. Nadyne expressed how “the online environment taught [her] to be more approachable and easier to talk to.” She described her whole online experience as “eye-opening” in regards to adapting to a virtual setting. When asked to convey her adjustment to blended learning, she claimed, “I talk to way more people now, and I genuinely think I became a more approachable and humorous person.”

Out of the students polled for this article, 87% reported dra matic sociability and social endurance changes on both sides of the continuum. Many attributed the shift in their character to the increase in isolation, online communication opportunities, and a new awareness of how tiring direct social interaction can be.

Kyra Kolim

THE NEW NORMAL

Although unintentionally, the pandemic has highlighted stigmas and misconceptions surrounding extroversion and introversion. Regardless of these two personality types, socialization and personal space are necessary for maintaining our mental wellbeing. These components have enabled students, both extroverted and introverted, to adjust and adapt their interpersonal skills during the span of online learning. The human animal is a social animal, and the restrictions during the pandemic have forced us to be more attentive and adaptable to how we socialize. This leaves the question: how will we continue to practice these social skills in the “new normal” setting?

STUDENT ADVICE

“Focus on yourself and cultivating good relationships
with the people surrounding you most often. For me,
it was my family.”

– Keeren Maria Setokusumo

 

“A strategy or tactic during online learning is to ask
as many questions as you can…during this time it can
be hard to reach out to teachers, so what I got was to
just ask whenever you have a question, and never to
keep it in”

-Emily Teo

 

“I don’t know if this counts as a “strategy” for cop-
ing, but I found that playing large amounts of online video games helped me.”

-Michael Eagle

 

“I think that it is beneficial knowing when I need to
stop working and socialize.”

– Shelly Shelby