Picture this: you’re at a party, and someone introduces you to a stranger, and after the usual greetings, they ask you, so what do you do? Do you tell them that you’re currently freelancing, or working a temp gig, or even working on a project? Which they hear as “I'm not successful or impressive”. Or do you tell them excitedly about the book you just published? If you’re anything like me, you would do the former, and then kick yourself later for not mentioning the book.
Susan Cain’s wonderful book “Quiet” points out that introverts and/or people who are “sensitive” are temperamentally diametrically opposite to extroverts, who have no problem going up to strangers, loudly engaging in small talk, and selling themselves at every opportunity. When I meet people I don’t know, I simply freeze up, and when asked basic questions about myself, I can't remember anything remotely interesting about myself to share, and my biggest flaws and drawbacks (that I'm not sure about my career path, that things haven’t been as smooth as I like) are the only things that come to mind.
I promptly forget the wonderful conference I attended in picturesque Siem Reap, Cambodia, where we dined with local dignitaries, including an actual Prince. I forget the fact that I spoke at the launch of a project in Jakarta that I had worked on for over a year, a project that was innovative and cutting-edge. I blank out the book projects I am currently working on. Instead I stand there stammering, and wishing the floor would open up and swallow me, Sita-style.
With the advent of the internet, even if I can't tell people my accomplishments, I can use social media to put my accomplishments out there. Okay, so I am still not able to declare to my entire friends list on Facebook that I just aced my presentation, but I can create projects on LinkedIn to illustrate my diversity of work experiences.
That’s the thing about the internet - there are various levels, and one can always find a niche that fits. Even if you’re not the sort who chronicles every single meal and passing thought as a tweet or status update, you can still take advantage of the power of the internet to craft a more complete profile of who you are. You can write a blog to express your quirky, off-the-wall ideas, the ones that your social circle either pooh-poohs or you aren’t able to get across among your louder and more extroverted acquaintances. You can showcase your wonderful artwork or photography as an online portfolio. You can list your accomplishments in various projects on LinkedIn, or your own blog or website. While conversations in social occasions often come with only one speed, the Internet has many speeds, and there is always one that’s just right for you.
Already, as we all know, the internet has made collaboration amongst people from far-flung corners of the globe possible. Geographic barriers are no longer sufficient to hold people back from exploring opportunities. I believe the other great accomplishment of this global connectivity is that it allows not just people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds opportunities that they may not have had previously; but that it allows people from different temperaments, the voices that may have in the past been hidden underneath the cacophony, to emerge, with their unique insights and contributions. We may have more global problems than ever before, but I believe we also have more opportunities to hear from those who may find the solutions.