Becoming a Quiet Activist

Two weeks ago, I was introduced to the idea of quiet activism and began to question my view of digital activism as somehow lazier or less effective than ‘louder’ forms of activism such as marches and protests. These notions were challenged by this piece which argues that introverts may not necessarily feel comfortable going out in public and being around large crowds to show support for causes they care about. Rather, the author of the piece defines an activists as “individuals who are actively working to make problems and injustices known and pushed to the forefront of people’s minds.” Over the past two weeks, I have begun to engage in quiet activism by favoriting and Retweeting content from Susan Cain (@susancain) and the Quiet Revolution’s (@livequiet) Twitter pages.

Looking over what I have Retweeted the past two weeks, I noticed that I was most inclined to Retweet content that I most closely related to. For instance, I Retweeted the below Tweet because it recounts an experience that not only has to do with my being an introvert, but my being an introvert with an Asian heritage as well.

I found the Tweet incredibly compelling because it brought attention to a frustration I have long felt but almost never seen discussed. I personally view my introversion as a personality trait that I have in common with my father, who is introverted and Caucasian. My mother, by contrast, is Chinese and incredibly extroverted. It bothers me that the combination of my Asian descent and my introversion could potentially perpetuate a stereotype even though in reality I know these two facts about me are completely unrelated.

I also Retweeted the below tweet about the power writing as a means of communication for introverts. I did so because I similarly view writing as a powerful medium through which I can express my inner thoughts and feelings.

Lastly, I Retweeted a Tweet about the potential pitfalls of being a night owl because I am one myself.

After noticing that I felt most compelled to Retweet content I found relevant to my own life, I find the messages we have been hearing the past two weeks about the importance of knowing and connecting with your audience in a podcast all the more meaningful. For example, Episode 25 of the podcast This Rhetorical Life features individuals who discuss what they have learned through podcasting and share the elements of making podcasts that they particularly enjoy. Karrieann discusses her experience of learning how and to what extent she should adjust her accent while podcasting. In sharing this story, the part of the audience Karrieann will most relate to is likely those who have had similar experiences in their lives. She explains that she tries “to connect the topics we discuss with whatever exigence I can identify that would help give voice to marginalized groups.”

Other podcaster-specific examples of audience could be discussed here, but what I particularly appreciate about This Rhetorical Life is its recognition of the fact that not all people prefer to process information aurally. Transcripts are posted alongside each episode, which I personally found incredibly useful in following along with the podcast. By recognizing that people are different and making an effort to accommodate multiple preferences, This Rhetorical Life embodies the notion of authenticity that I feel underlies much of the content posted online by the Quiet Revolution.

For instance, the above Tweet about being a night owl does not necessarily have any direct relation to introversion. However, I believe it was posted because it presents a dilemma similar to the one many introverts face. Just as many introverts are learning and working in classroom and business environments not suited to their personal preferences, night owls may be on daily schedules that are not suited to their personal ‘chronotype.’


Introverts on Twitter

For the past two weeks, I have been following The Quiet Revolution (@livequiet) on Twitter, as well as Susan Cain (@susancain), the founder of the movement. The main objectives of the Quiet Revolution are to question society’s current preference toward extroverted personality types in both workplace and classroom environments, and to raise awareness of the many benefits of being an introvert. In other words, The Quiet Revolution hopes that we will begin to not only acknowledge, but embrace the power of introverts, as opposed to making introverts question themselves whenever they are in environments designed for extroverted thinking.

In some sense, the Quiet Revolution emerged out of the frustration introverts faced from having their fundamental narratives questioned. This dilemma is thoroughly described in Jim Corder’s piece “Argument as Emergence, Rhetoric as Love,” which explains that each person has their own story and beliefs, and that conflicts arises when we encounter individuals whose stories cannot be reconciled with or infringe upon our own. This is an experience that introverts likely encounter every day, when they are asked to discuss their ideas in class before having an idea to think deeply about a task individually, or when charisma seems to be a larger factor in promotion for leadership positions than quality of written work. The Quiet Revolution can therefore be interpreted as a defense of the narrative of an introvert, as many of the Tweets I came across advocated that we begin to foster the natural talents of introverts, rather than viewing these talents as weaknesses.

The extrovert ideal has likely been sustained by our tendency to “sometimes judge dogmatically, even ignorantly, holding only to standards that we have already accepted or established” (Corder 16). Not only is the dilemma introverts face in line with what Corder describes, but the approach the Quiet Revolution takes in raising awareness and evoking change is similar as well. But rather than forcefully attack those who currently ascribe to an extrovert ideal, the Quiet Revolution takes a more thoughtful approach. This approach not only embodies the essence of introversion, but also captures the value of proceeding with love. Corder writes that “argument is emergence toward the other” and that it “is a risky revelation of the self, for the arguer is asking for an acknowledgment of his or her identity, is asking for witness from the other” (26). In embarking on the Quiet Revolution, introverts are asking to be seen and accept for who they are, rather than being asked to abide by the standards and structures currently in place that are often catered for extroverts.

However, rather than ostracize extroverts, the Tweets I looked at often emphasize authenticity and inclusivity. In other words, the Quiet Revolution seems to not only fight for an introvert’s right to be themselves, but for the rights of all individuals to unabashedly be themselves. This was clear in the fact that the Quiet Revolution also posts Tweets relating to other causes such as racial injustice, and in the fact that Susan Cain not only posts about introversion, but about other aspects of our personalities that we should strive to connect with more. 

Perhaps the most thought-provoking Tweet I came across was the one above, which introduces the idea of quiet activism. The piece the Tweet links to seems to complicate the debate raised by Malcolm Gladwell’s piece on the power of Twitter to produce change. A simplified version of the debate involves Gladwell viewing in-person protests and marches as more ‘revolutionary’ or fundamental to change than the spreading of information and raising of awareness over Twitter. However, the Tweet above notes that introverts may not necessarily feel comfortable engaging in the type of protest Gladwell favors. I found the idea that even activism may be subject to an extrovert ideal incredibly interesting. Though part of me has always viewed sharing news on Twitter as ‘not enough,’ I suppose that it is more important to encourage introverts to participate in activism in this way, rather than convincing them the method of participation they feel most comfortable with is insufficient.