I find the traditional introversion / extraversion spectrum used in Myers-Briggs personality test to be inadequate to understand my social energy. When I took an online assessment years ago, I was smack in the middle: 50% introverted, 50% extroverted. To say that I’m “drained” or “recharged” by either social or alone time is over-simplified to the point of being confusing—I’m all of the above in some way.
Instead, I’ve found a more useful model for social energy: creating several ‘buckets’ of solitary and social time that I want to fill with time at different rates.
For alone time, I divide it into structured, task-oriented time, versus unstructured creative or restorative time.
For social time, I consider the size of the group: 1:1, small group (3-5 people), and large group (6+ people). I also consider the level of intimacy: intimates (family & close friends), new acquaintances, or strangers.
For me, the largest bucket is structured alone time, of which I need 1-8 hours per day. I need roughly 1-3 hours per day of unstructured alone time.
For 1:1 or small groups with intimates, I need about 5-20 hours per week, and say 3-10 hours of large group time per month with new acquaintances and strangers.
I sometimes enjoy mass events, where a crowd of strangers is feeling the same thing. It could be a concert, sport, or political rally. It’s enjoyable and innervating, as long I as don’t do it more than 2-3 times per year, after which it’s draining. OTOH, I have friends that enjoy that multiple times per week!
If you ever played The Sims, I picture myself with one of those glowing plumbob mood meters. If I’m putting time in each bucket at the right frequency, I’m green. But if one of the boxes is neglected, I go yellow or red—my life feels unbalanced and less fulfilling. That’s my cue to schedule the appropriate kind of event to restore my energy.