“Hell is other people” is a popular refrain among pretentious college freshmen, but maybe Sartre would have gotten farther if he’d said “Other people are just completely exhausting.” Many of us, especially now that the temperatures are starting to drop and Netflix queues are bulging with new shows, are looking for any excuse to just stay home with a hot mug.
Fortunately, science has our backs. It turns out other people may not be hell, but they really will exhaust you.
Researchers at the University of Helsinki realized that while we all gripe that socializing is hard work, nobody had actually looked at whether there was a real result or if we were just whining. So they studied how “extroverted behavior” (i.e. going out and meeting people) and conscientious behavior (i.e. actually cleaning your health hazard of a kitchen instead of ordering out) affected emotional well-being.
The bad news for your introverts is that, regardless of your personality type, it turns out that getting out there and interacting with people does tend to elevate your mood. But, as the study’s abstract explains, it also means you’ll be wiped out a few hours later, whether you’re a people person or not:
Extraverted and conscientious behavior were concurrently related to positive mood and lower fatigue, but to higher fatigue after a 3-hour delay. These relations were not moderated by personality traits. The relation between extraverted behavior and delayed fatigue was mediated by the number of people the person had encountered.
In other words, meeting people is work. Good work, work that makes you feel better, but still work, and the more people you meet, the more work it is. To be fair, the sample is small, consists entirely of Finnish college students, and is mostly women. There is also the question of the people you meet; presumably most of the people the study subjects met were pleasant and not your drunk uncle who posts nothing but memes on Facebook. The team also points out that they’ve only found a correlation, so it might be something else fatiguing people. But, hey, we don’t need a double-blind study to justify curling up and watching Glow.