An open letter to Google from an introvert

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Dear Google,

Let’s be real, I think you’re pretty great. In fact, I’d have a hard time living without you. When I came to the end of season two of Orange is the New Black and I panicked, a Google search immediately comforted me by providing the release date of season three. When I got lost driving to a friend’s old house, Google Maps guided me without even making me feel bad.

But we need to talk. There’s something that’s bugging me. When I google “introvert definition,” this is your web definition result:

A shy, reticent person; a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.

You’re not the only one with an outdated definition. This one from Cambridge Dictionaries Online is worse:

Someone who is shy, quiet, and unable to make friends easily.

Not only are those definitions hurtful to an introvert like me, but they’re also inaccurate.

I’ll be honest and tell you that I’ve had moments of shyness, and at times, I’ve struggled to reach out to others and make friends. When I’m in a room full of people I don’t know well, I may not say much. Yet these things don’t define my introversion. According to Susan Cain, TED speaker and author of Quiet, shyness and introversion are completely different things. She writes, “Shyness is the fear of negative judgment, and introversion is a preference for quiet, minimally stimulating environments.”

Sophia Dembling, Psychology Today blogger and author of The Introvert’s Way, writes, “The number-one misconception about introversion is that it’s about shyness. The best distinction I’ve heard comes from a neuroscientist who studies shyness. He said, ‘Shyness is a behavior – it’s being fearful in a social situation. Whereas introversion is a motivation. It’s how much you want and need to be in those interactions.’”

You can be an introvert without being shy, like Bill Gates. There are even extroverts, like Barbara Streisand, who are shy.

Reticent… hold on, I need to google that… oh, it means “not revealing one’s thoughts or feelings readily.”

I’m not that either. I’m opinionated — just ask my boyfriend or my former roommates. Wait, on second thought, don’t ask them, because I don’t really want you to know about all the times I’ve been an ass and stuck my foot in my mouth.

Plus, aren’t I sharing my thoughts and feelings with you and the whole Internet right now?

As for that last part — if I cared more about my own thoughts and feelings rather than external things, I wouldn’t have bothered to write you this letter.

Google, I don’t want you to forget how much I love you, but I have one request. Please change that definition. I’m asking others as well, such as Dictionary.com, the Oxford Dictionaries (which Google uses for its web definitions), and of course, the Cambridge Dictionaries Online.

This definition would be more accurate:

An introvert is someone who has a preference for minimally stimulating environments, due to a difference in the way sensory input is processed in the introvert’s brain.

Google’s own co-founder and CEO Larry Page has been described as introverted. So Google, you understand, right?

Still quietly your biggest fan,

Jenn Granneman, founder of Introvert, Dear 

(and introverts everywhere)

 Sign this petition asking Google and other dictionaries to change their definition of the word “introvert.”

We promise not to spam you or share your email address with others.

Introvert Redefined

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Read Introvertology’s Thea Orozco’s reaction to the “introvert” definition here.


9 Comments

  • Bobby-Jo D says:

    Thank you for writing this! I recently highlighted the very same thing about the google definition on my own blog!

  • […] the negative connotations associated with introversion. Sign this petition asking dictionaries to change their definitions of the word […]

  • […] For an excellent article on the topic, click here. […]

  • Kenii says:

    Regarding the proposed definition: “An introvert is someone who has a preference for minimally stimulating environments, due to a difference in the way sensory input is processed in the introvert’s brain.”

    I think: “An introvert is someone who has a preference for minimally stimulating environments” is sufficient. I’m not a fan of the the second half of the definition for a few reasons:
    1. It’s still stigmatizing because some people could misinterpret that to suggest that there’s something wrong with an introvert’s brain, and that’s because…
    2. The explanation is vague, which makes it wide open for misinterpretation. For example, I could just as easily say that I have a preference for pizza over pasta because of a difference in the way my sense of taste is processed in my brain. But that’s not much of an explanation for someone who wants one, and redundant for someone who doesn’t need one.
    3. The explanation is redundant because all preferences are due to differences in the way sensory input is processed in the brain.

    My point is that I don’t want people to read that definition and say, “oh that’s why you’re introverted; it’s because of your brain.” I’d rather they just understand that by calling myself an “introvert” it simply means that I prefer “minimally stimulating environments,” just like the way calling myself a “pizza-lover” implies that I prefer the textures and intricate flavours of pizza (over other foods). Somehow that sounds more satisfying than saying that I’m a pizza-lover because my brain processes taste differently.

    • Kerri says:

      I agree with you 100%, you start saying it’s about my brain and some people think “there’s something wrong we have to fix”, which is totally untrue. Thanks for writing it out so perfectly.

  • […] can take the first step toward helping eliminate those negative connotations by signing the Introvert Redefined petition, which asks dictionaries to change their definitions of the word […]

  • […] that introversion is about energy response is starting to gain ground.  The joint petition from Introvert, Dear’s Jenn Granneman and Introvertology’s Thea Orozco that I posted about last year now has nearly […]

  • […] are not synonyms, though some dictionaries claim otherwise (and currently some bloggers are trying to fix this). I’ll admit that I was shy as a kid and teenager—getting over this was beneficial. But I know […]

  • Suzanne says:

    Well, at least Urban Dictionary has got our backs…
    “Contrary to popular belief, not all introverts are shy…” Rest of the definition here:
    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=Introvert

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