Welcome to the Age of the Introvert.
I’m officially a square now.
If you’re happy about that, thank COVID. The pandemic made it cool to stay home, to limit social interactions, to stop hugging and shaking hands. I hated it.
But a lot of people are in no hurry to go back, even if virus fears are no longer the prevailing excuse. We learned what it was like to strip extroversion from our lives – and it was heaven for the people who never liked it to begin with.
Yes, travel and experiences returned this summer, as people rescheduled all those 2020 trips and concert cancellations, but we’re still not back to pre-COVID levels. And don’t expect the YoY comps next year to be anywhere close. We’re all checking boxes right now, inflation be damned.
In the before times, most introverts believed they could do their jobs serviceably, without all the forced or peer-pressured coworker socialization. The pandemic resoundingly confirmed those beliefs. And now, in a nation with widespread labor shortages and a blazing job market, talented introverts are getting their way.
It’s a bitch for corporate America.
CEOs want people in the office, if only to justify the lease payments, security costs, and furniture. They say it’s because of the value of in-person collaboration and relationship building. They believe people are more productive in the office – perhaps armed with preliminary data to support it.
But remember: the vast majority of CEOs – maybe even 99 out of 100 – are extroverts, yours truly included. It’s why we’re CEOs in the first place. Of course we think everyone should be like us. We’re narcissists to boot.
Climbing the ladder takes panache, elbow-rubbing, crowded events, and eventually some kind of public speaking. We’ve convinced ourselves – because interacting with other people is our superpower – that everyone else needs it, too.
Maybe we’re right. Or maybe we’re afraid remote work will be our kryptonite, leveling the playing field between the extros and intros. Or maybe the home-dwellers will eventually realize they over-corrected and welcome a company happy hour down the road.
Time will tell. Whatever you do, don’t take the first McKinsey or Deloitte study you see as gospel. It could take a generation to assess the impact of remote and hybrid work on our collective mental health, productivity, innovation, and career trajectories. Any data you see in the near term could have an agenda behind it.
For now, the introverts are winning. And I’m biased to the contrary.
Here’s what we’re seeing:
Consumer confidence ticked ever-so-slightly downward over the past two weeks. Don’t dismay. The optimist in me would point out that the shift was in the margin of error. Still, our Economic Sentiment Index didn’t improve this time around, which surprised me, given falling gas prices, slowing inflation, and killer job numbers. It’s possible the declining confidence in personal finances and major purchases is a sign that resilient consumer spending the past six months is catching up to people. Or it could be a blip. Optimism for the longer-term economy is the highest it’s been since February. Stay tuned.
Monkeypox still isn’t moving the needle. Worry over the spread of monkeypox increased this past week, but only a little. Twenty percent of Americans say they’re very concerned, a far cry from the 32% who said they were very concerned about COVID in early February of 2020. That same number – 20% – say they are very likely to get the monkeypox vaccine when it becomes available for them. The newest virus certainly doesn’t seem to be impacting people’s willingness to hang out in crowded places.
Over a quarter of Americans believe their life will never return to the way it was before the pandemic. I wrote the prologue this week before even reading this fascinating study, but it’s perfectly on theme. Just under 25% of U.S. adults say their lives are the same as they were pre-pandemic. Thirty-one percent say their lives are completely different. As you might suspect, the variance is heavily correlated with income and job status. Most interesting to me is that only 18% of people think things will ever go back to the way they were – not far from the percentage of those who said they already did. For everyone else, this is literally a new normal.
Younger Millennials don’t think they’ll be wealthier than their parents and maybe it’s because they don’t like to ask people for financial advice. Today’s 25- to 34-year-olds are particularly gloomy about their financial outlook (38% say they won’t do as well as their folks) – much more so than Gen Zs (at just 25%). At the same time, Millennials are far more likely to say they’ve never used a financial advisor and have no interest in them. They’re more likely to do their own financial research online or do none at all. Gen Z is smarter across the board.
TikTok is starting to disrupt search. When it comes to shopping online, the journey almost always begins via search at either Amazon or Google, with Amazon holding a safe lead. Just 5% of U.S. adults start their product searches on TikTok. But the story changes dramatically among teens and older Gen Zs, 18% of whom start their shopping explorations on TikTok – a mere six percentage points less than Google. This is a trend to keep an eye on.
Failure is awesome. That’s the mind-blowing lesson we learned on the first episode of our new Dumbest Guy in the Room podcast season. My guest was the super-genius Astro Teller, who runs X, the moonshot factory of Alphabet (the artist formerly known as Google). Astro talked about how X is trying to solve the world’s biggest problems by failing, as hard and fast as possible. It’s a difficult message for most people to hear – because our instincts tell us to chase our ideas and company initiatives to the brutal end. We also talked about the future of work (see above), restoring public faith in science, and lots of other thought-provoking and completely trivial stuff. Listen. You’ll love it.
More from the prolific CivicScientists this week:
- Interest in the NFL is back to pre-pandemic levels and other interesting insights about the upcoming season;
- Gen Z is all about gluten-free;
- Americans are divided on gene editing technology;
- Younger siblings are more likely to be extroverts, older siblings are more likely to follow politics, and other interesting stats.
The most popular questions this week:
- Is your spice tolerance higher, about the same, or lower than others?
- Are you more likely to correct someone’s grammar or be corrected?
- Would you say your family is more, equally, or less chaotic than other families?
- Do you tend to operate better or worse under pressure?
- How often do you completely exhaust your social battery?
- Do you keep in contact with anyone you’ve previously dated?
Answer Key: Much higher; I’m a corrector; Busier, yes. More chaotic, no; Better; I’ll let you know the first time it happens; Yes, if being Facebook friends counts.
Hoping you’re well.
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