Is Trump Why We Cannot Be Friends Anymore?

 “I have never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”

– Thomas Jefferson

There used to be a colleague of whom I did not consider a close friend, but looked forward to seeing every shift I was scheduled. He is long gone by now, but whenever our shifts coincided, our conversations were unmistakably engrossing. Thirty minute lunches with him felt like five, and I was always disappointed to have to clock in and get back to work because that meant we’d be on separate registers. Incidentally, however, this same person wrote a hateful response to my article on Charlottesville, which defended President Trump’s statement that many sides were responsible for the outbreak in violence. He proceeded to unfriend and never speak to me again. “Oh well I guess,” I thought to myself.

I was surprised to see this person cut ties with me on such short notice, especially considering that if our opinions on the matter were really that black and white, then we could sit down at a coffee shop for an hour or two and try to sort through them without resorting to personal attacks against the opposing party. But he didn’t want to do that, instead opting to outright condemn me for the expression of an opinion that he did not agree with. It was unfortunate to say the least, because some of my closest friends, maybe even my best friends, overlook differences in political opinion with the aim of preventing destructive, friendship-ending arguments.

But let’s assume that you and I got into a heated debate about politics. I would preface my case by stating that I indeed support our president and have supported him since the day he announced his campaign. Why, then, should that shift our perceptions of each other? Perhaps you voted for Trump last year—that’s great. Perhaps you voted for Clinton—that’s great. Or perhaps you voted third party or didn’t vote at all—once again, that’s great. However, I’ll reemphasize that just because our politics do not align, that is not a cause to terminate our friendship. More importantly, if you’re going to personally attack or demean me in spite of an alternative opinion, then I’m not the one with the problem.

Politics and religion can hit close to home because one deals with sensitive issues like healthcare, immigration, and education, while the other deals with core beliefs that give you a reason to keep breathing. However, they are not much different from the sports you watch, the video games you play, or the books you read in that they amount to nothing more than likes, dislikes, and personal preferences, and thus you should not take them so seriously. Nonetheless, if you think it would be within your best interest to stop talking to me simply on the basis of whom I voted for in the last election, I’ll be sad to see you go. Because there’s nothing we can’t work out over a cup of hot chocolate and a productive conversation. Until then, let’s agree to disagree and just be friends.

So What If I Like to Be Alone?

Where do you mostly derive stimulation from? Do you prefer the company of others for energy, or are you mainly excited by the calmness of your own inner world, and all of the unique things that it has to offer? For a second, this sounds oxymoronic. How could you derive energy from activities that regularly suppress energy, like playing video games, listening to music, and watching movies?

As almost everyone is probably aware of by now, the phenomenon I am discussing is known as introversion, and introversion, like many things, falls on a spectrum. It’s possible to display characteristic tendencies of reservation and reclusiveness while also demonstrating a marked enthusiasm for group settings and get-togethers. Therefore, it would be unwise of you to classify yourself as 100% introverted or 100% extraverted when elements of the opposite dimension factor into your behavior across multiple situations.

Personally, I try to avoid labels at all costs; I don’t like labeling myself as “this” or “that” because it is overly reductive. I certainly don’t like labeling myself as an introvert because it’s a lazy way of summing up my personality. Rather, I would prefer to say that I possess a predominately introverted brain because, while I am almost always happy to hang out with my friends, I won’t always feel comfortable when catching up with distant relatives or delivering a presentation in class.

There is a downside to living inside my head, though. Because my brain is predominately introverted, I fall on just about the farthest end of the introversion spectrum that you can imagine, if such a spectrum exists. Consequently, I miss out on a lot of the luxuries more extraverted people are able to enjoy every day. One of these luxuries may be striking up a conversation for the first time and potentially initiating a meaningful relationship. Keep in mind, however, that this does not mean I am shy or afraid to socialize. It just means that it’s hard for me to conjure up the willpower to socialize, as doing so would exhaust a great deal stamina. Still, once the words start flowing and dialogue is exchanged, I’m hugely relieved.

The main issue I have is with the production of spoken as opposed to written language. After prolonged social encounters, I become what I would like to call “socially exhausted.” I’ve tested it empirically, too, and my cutoff for socializing is about 90 minutes to 2 hours, depending on my mood, the amount of sleep I’m running on, and other factors. By that time, I no longer feel like talking anymore. I speak in three word sentences, stutter, make speech errors, and sometimes struggle to even find words to say, whereas when I am just meeting up with somebody, words come to me effortlessly.

There are times where I think of my introversion as a disability, but I’ve learned to simultaneously appreciate it for what it is. I thrive on solitude, and I don’t really mind it. I endure fewer arguments and disagreements with other people, explore facets of my consciousness that I don’t normally pay attention to, and extract value from introspection and careful analysis of my feelings. That, I believe, is one of my better qualities.

The truth is, this poor introverted brain that I’m stuck with? I wouldn’t trade it for the world.