In the last year or so, the term “ambivert” — describing someone who is neither an introvert nor an extrovert, but instead a mix of both — has been making the rounds, much to the delight and profound relief of those of us who never felt quite right with being labeled either “intro” or “extro.” From the days of our '90s-fueled adolescence, we wondered how we could be craving solitude one moment and company the next, how we could flit back and forth between hiding in our rooms to sob along with Jewel and partying like it was 1999. It turns out we were ambiverts all along.
If, from the beginning of this post, you’ve been thinking, “Hold the phone. What are you even talking about?”, here’s the deal: Famed psychiatrist Carl Jung popularized the idea of personality types — specifically introversion and extroversion — in the 1920s. He maintained that no one was entirely one type or the other, but that people typically fell closer to one end of the spectrum or the other. Contrary to popular belief, being an introvert isn’t about being shy, and being an extrovert doesn’t mean you have unlimited confidence. These types are actually defined by how people draw energy. An introverted person might enjoy socialization, but finds that social situations pull energy away from them; in response, they need time alone to “recharge.” Extroverts, in contrast, gain energy from external sources, such as entertainment or interacting with others, and while they might enjoy time alone, they don’t find it energizing in the same way that introverts do. An ambivert exhibits traits of both introverts and extroverts, and can draw energy from both internal and external forces. Which type dominates can change according to the setting and situation.
Elizabeth Bernstein at The Wall Street Journal reports, “Experts believe that the personality traits on the introvert-extrovert spectrum remain stable throughout life — they appear as early as infanthood and are difficult to change.” Do you know what that means? OK, yes, it means that you should probably make your peace with whatever personality type you have because you’re probably stuck with it. But also: If you’re an ambivert, you’ve probably always been an ambivert, long before you even knew that was a thing. Who knew that, all along, your tastes in 90s media and pop culture, you choice of activities, and your adolescent habits were declaring you innate ambiversion? Here’s how:
1. You Were An Early Adopter Of The Internet — Because It Provided The Best Of Both Worlds
These days, it’s hard to imagine the Internet being strange, unknown territory, but back in the mid-'90s, the idea of being able to communicate with people — even strangers — via computer was sort of mind-blowing. And as an ambivert, you loved it. With chat rooms and AIM, you could socialize with people to your heart’s content, while at the same time getting to be alone at home. It was the first step into an environment that’s so familiar now we don’t even notice it — the state of being simultaneously alone and in a (virtual) crowd.
2. Your Ultimate '90s Heroines Were Cher Horowitz And Kat Stratford
Cher and Kat would probably hate each other, but you want to be best friends with both of them. Cher speaks to all your extroverted tendencies, but there are times when you’d like nothing better than to take on Kat's fearless “I hate everyone” attitude.
Actually, how amazing would a buddy comedy featuring Cher and Kat be? They could be randomly assigned college roommates, who barely tolerate each other, but who for reasons I haven’t figured out yet are forced to drive across the country together in Cher’s Jeep. There would be much fighting over music (The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Bikini Kill???), Cher would try to give Kat a makeover (Kat would refuse), and they’d have wacky adventures all over the place, until ultimately they realize that, despite their differences, they are in fact best friends for all time.
Seriously, I would pay tickets to see that movie. Hollywood, get on that.
3. Fancy Coffee Shops Were New, And You LOVED Them
The coffee house scene was just picking up steam when you were a teenager, and your ambiverted heart could not get enough of it. Coffee shops gave you the perfect settings for socializing with friends and listening to vaguely angsty acoustic music, but they were also great for sitting alone with a book, observing the world without having to interact with it. And you didn’t mind the caffeine drip, either.
4. Daria Spoke To Your Soul; But Then, So Did Friends
You had a deep, abiding love of Daria Morgendorffer. Daria wasn’t shy about expressing her intolerance of other people’s stupidity (and other people more generally), and her constant sense of alienation mirrored your own need to sometimes tune out the world.
But even as you felt your abiding soul-bond with TV’s most dedicated loner, you also found yourself singing along every time a certain theme song from The Rembrandts came on. How could you resist Friends? It was about a group of mostly extroverted people (with the exception of Ross, maybe?) who constantly pulled energy and hilarity from each other’s shenanigans — hanging out together, living together, pivoting together.
5. You Had 2 Separate AOL Screen Names: One For Social Time And One For Alone Time
You loved chatting with friends (both ones from real life and ones from Internetland) online, but sometimes you needed time to travel the information superhighway without people trying to talk to you. The solution? Two screen names: one for “company,” and one just for you.
6. These Songs Were On Your Favorite Mix CD:
REM, “Everybody Hurts”
No Doubt, “Don’t Speak”
7. But These Songs Were ALSO On Your Favorite Mix CD:
C+C Music Factory, “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)”
Ace of Base, “I Saw the Sign”
Montell Jordan, “This is How We Do It”
The '90s was responsible for gloriously broody grunge rock, but it was also the heyday of boy and girl bands — for every Radiohead, we had a Spice Girl, and for every infectiously poppy party anthem, we had a weirdly catchy ode to disenchantment. Your ambiverted self loved both.