A Virtual Introvert in Search of a Remote Control
Guest Blogger Liza Grantham shares her personal story of connection in a remote world
The 20th to the 26th of March is National Introverts Week, a time to celebrate introversion, remove associated stigmas and preconceptions, and encourage introverts across the world to achieve their full potential, standing proud and tall. The world in the 21st century can be a threatening place for introverts. Each year it seems to grow bigger, brighter, and louder; so much so that raising awareness is more relevant today than ever.
Technology, for many introverts, exacerbates the problem, with public places invaded by the constant ostinato of electronic devices and the relentless glare of screens. As a technophobic introvert, I have had to adapt my coping strategies. This is the story of how I found my virtual comfort zone in my struggle to meet the demands of an increasingly digital world.
A high achiever since childhood, I had always felt at ease in the classroom. The structured activities and the quiet, orderly environment, along with constant success and praise, made it a comfortable place to be. I passed exams, went on to university, and eventually trained as a teacher. I was committed to making children’s learning the positive experience it had been for me.
I adapted quickly to my role and felt comfortable in my professional persona. I was creative, flexible, and motivated by the energy of those around me. I was fulfilled by the knowledge that I was helping others and making a difference in their lives. Long holidays and weekends gave me plenty of opportunities to recharge my batteries, to the extent that I could function as an extrovert within the parameters of my professional world.
My life might well have ticked along in the same way until retirement, but everything changed when, at the age of forty, I fell for my now husband who already had plans in place to go traveling for a year. When he asked me to join him I was faced with a huge dilemma; my life was built on security and structure, yet I was tempted to spread my wings. As an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs system, an open-ended trek around the globe clearly wasn’t for me. Thankfully, years of self-reflection, together with a well-honed survival instinct, gave me the confidence and conviction to voice my concerns. Eventually, we reached a compromise; I’d continue in the vocation that I loved, but in a warmer climate overseas.
Six months later we relocated to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Our apartment overlooked a beach where the breeze drifted in off the ocean, rippling the fronds of the palm trees and the sun shone down almost every day of the year. To begin with, I appreciated my new environment, but after two years the novelty began to wear thin. The constant roar of traffic, the toxic fug of the city, and the oppressive glare of the sun was overwhelming. There was no time out, no quiet place, and no green oasis. The sensory overload was more than I could cope with and it was time to accept that it wasn’t the life for me.
Craving a break and a change of scenery, we opted for a long weekend in Galicia, a region renowned for its greenery, in the northwest corner of Spain. Captivated by the landscape and pleasantly surprised by property prices, we decided to relocate. We invested our savings in an ancient stone house and embarked on a journey towards self-sufficiency in a tiny hamlet surrounded by forests and fields. With few residents, no shops, and no traffic, this was my idea of paradise. I could lead an almost hermitic existence amidst green pastures, shaded forests, and sunlit glades. The remoteness of our location meant having no phone or internet signal. Far from being problematic, this was a further advantage. Life in rural Galicia was my dream come true.
Our new lifestyle, though tranquil, was full of adventures. It was extraordinary, surprising, and often hilarious. With blood-thirsty cockerels, menacing cheeses, and cows running amok, it had all the ingredients of a great read. Eight years after making the move I decided to write my story. As the book began to take shape, I joined a local writers’ group and was encouraged to self-publish. Depending on friends and Wi-Fi bars for internet access, I finally launched my memoir, paying little heed to the fact that it would be live in marketplaces across the globe. Family and friends bought it and gave me fantastic feedback. Inspired by their comments, I decided to continue the story and, on the launch of the sequel, my sales began to soar. As both books crept steadily up the best-seller charts, I was thrown into panic. Never before had I felt so exposed or vulnerable, and I was no longer in control. My life was in the public domain, whilst I was in virtual isolation. My long-held technophobia took on a whole new dimension and suddenly the world wide web was a very threatening place indeed.
Torn between a love of writing and the need to escape the anxiety I was now feeling, I had to make a decision. Should I push myself further out of my comfort zone and continue the series, or would it be safer to quit and regain a sense of control?
As a former teacher I was well-versed in supporting students who felt marginalised, lacked confidence, and struggled with low self-esteem. Was there a strategy in my repertoire that would work for me? What I needed was a Circle of Friends; a group of people with whom I could share concerns, solve problems, and access support. Thanks to the Covid lockdown, our local writers’ group had long since been abandoned. To find the solution I was looking for I would have to go online. Breaking free from my technophobia wasn’t the only problem I was faced with. Somehow I had to have the internet installed at home. Ten years had passed since we’d moved to Galicia and internet provision had improved greatly, particularly since the pandemic. After three months of searching, I found a specialist rural provider. At last, I was online.
At first, I trod cautiously. I joined a number of Facebook groups and watched carefully to gain a feel for the dynamics and focus of the posts. One group stood out from the others for its positivity, warmth, and sense of community. It seemed to offer the kind of support I was searching for and I began to take an active role.
Less than a year later, I have grown in confidence as an author. I no longer feel as though I’m operating in a vacuum or groping blindly through a maze. When self-doubt creeps in, I have a Circle of Friends to support me, and I find true satisfaction in knowing that I can also support them. Little by little I am overcoming my technophobia; I have established my place as an introvert in a virtual community and I am finally – if only remotely – in control.