If you think your friends are more social than yourself, you're not alone, according to a new study that suggests we view our social world through a distorted lens.
This is the result of a "friendship paradox," that exists due to a disproportionate representation of extroverts in social networks.
Ironically, the effect of the phenomenon is strongest in the networks of socially outgoing people, and the researchers from Tuck Business School at Dartmouth College in the U.S. say most networks are laden with extroverts.
"If you're more extroverted, you might really have a skewed view of how extroverted other people are in general," says co-author Daniel C. Feiler of Tuck. "If you're very introverted you might actually have a pretty accurate idea."
According to Feiler, social networks form as a result of extroversion and a notion called homophily that says people with similar levels of extroversion enjoy each other's company. Networks thus take on a disproportionate number of extroverts, and the phenomenon leads to introverts becoming better socially calibrated than extroverts because they experience the friendship paradox to a lesser degree, says Feiler.
In their research, Feiler and co-author Adam Kleinbaum, also of Tuck, surveyed each of the 284 new Masters of Business Administration (MBA) candidates two times.
The first survey occurred five weeks after orientation and the second occurred 11 weeks after orientation. Each time, students were asked to indicate their friends using a class roster, and they were given a test to determine whether they were introverts or extroverts not long after being surveyed for the second time.
They concluded that network extroversion bias becomes more pronounced in proportion to the number of extroverts that belong.
"The skew gets really extreme the more extroverted you are," says Feiler.
Only the most introverted people have networks representative of the population as a whole vis-à-vis extroversion and introversion, according to the study, which was published in the journal Psychological Science.
"There's a tendency to wonder, 'am I normal?'" Feiler says. "And our research suggests that you're probably more normal than you think."
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If there’s anywhere an introvert is going to feel at ease, it is Finland. You don’t have to agonize about making small talk in this Nordic country. Finns appreciate silence, thoughtfulness, nature and are respectful of personal space. So no need to feel judged when wandering thoughtfully around the beautiful capital of Helsinki or dining alone. And you cannot leave without letting loose in a steamy sauna where Finns head to relax and reflect in silence.
For introverts in search of an adrenaline fix (and yes, they can enjoy one too), New Zealand is famous for its adventure and nature tourism with its dazzling and diverse landscape. It is also a popular destination for solo or small-group travel, so grab your closest friend(s) for a wild rafting ride, skiing, bungee jumping or zorbing. However, if you find yourself in need of some quality alone time, ditch your pals for the company of a camera and head to Kaikoura for whale watching, swimming with dolphins, kayaking along the peninsula, seabird spotting or a long nature walk.
“Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen” is a safe and gorgeous spot for independent travel. It’s also known for being one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world. Take a ride to the old port, Nyhavn, to see the colourful old houses, laze by the canal and listen to jazz or sit in a café with a good book. To escape the busy crowds, find a patch of green in one of Copenhagen’s many gardens, such as King's Garden or the Botanical Garden.
Costa Rica is an introvert’s dream. It’s safe, ranked number one when it comes to the population’s "satisfaction with life" and has a wealth of national parks for introverts who come to life when surrounded by nature. Roll around on one of Costa Rica’s many beaches or practice yoga. Alternatively, hike through the rainforest or kayak along the quiet mangrove forests of Damas Island’s estuaries.
Bhutan’s a country sure to pique the interest of the curious introvert and awaken their spirits. If an escape from technology and noisy city streets is what you seek -- Bhutan is the place. The country has only been open to tourism for about 40 years, and has a low volume of tourists. That means its mountainous landscape; forests and culture are largely untouched. It is safe for solo travel and peaceful (its well-being is measured by Gross National Happiness). Visit the cliff side Taktsang Palphug Monastery, a sacred Buddhist temple. Or take the Druk path trek to take in the inspirational Himalayan scenery.
If you’re in search of a tranquil escape to recharge or somewhere quiet enough to hear your own thoughts, there are few better places than Iceland with its other-worldly landscapes. Unwind in the warm mineral waters of Blue lagoon geothermal spa. Hike to one of Iceland’s many waterfalls such as the popular Gullfoss, or to the hot springs in Reykjadalur (“Smoke Valley”). Better yet, take a load off your feet on a horseback trek in the countryside on an (adorable) Icelandic pony.
Introverts typically love learning and exploring topics in-depth. Rome, the largest city and capital of Italy, is the perfect destination for ditching your map and schedule for wandering the streets alone, trusting your observant eye as you seek out the city’s hidden gems. You can tour popular attractions, such as the Coliseum or Vatican City, on your own time without the stress of group tours. With a wealth of old churches, ruins, monuments and other historical sites to see, it’s easiest to submerge yourself in the rich history and culture of Rome when travelling solo.
There's no better place to sit alone and daydream without interruption than on a long, trance-inducing train ride. Kick back with a book or gaze thoughtfully out the window while taking in Canada’s diverse and breathtaking scenery on a cross-country train ride. If you don’t have time for the full journey, board the Rocky Mountaineer and be wined and dined as you chug your way through Canada’s majestic Rocky Mountains.
Vietnamese culture also tend to favour introversion, so you can enjoy what locals have to offer without the pressure to socialize or meet new people. Swim or relax on one of the country’s gorgeous turquoise beaches, such as Doc Let or Nha Trang. Explore colourful markets teeming with fresh vegetables, herbs and seafood. Discover the beautiful landscape by motorbike, the transportation mode of choice in Vietnam. And document all of your experiences in a journal as you sip on cup of Vietnamese coffee in a shop on Hang Hanh, Hanoi's “Coffee Street.”
Japan is another country known to embrace introversion. Unleash your muse while on a hike to snow-capped Mount Fujisan. Catch the sunrise from this mountain's summit, known to poets and artists. If you enjoy disappearing in the crowded streets of a bustling city for people watching, Shibuya, Tokyo – one of the busiest intersections in the world – is a great spot. Or bring the world to a standstill as you meditate at a Japanese rock or Zen garden in Japan's old capital, Kyoto.