But academe is a profession of opposites. Long periods of social isolation—research and writing—are punctuated by brief periods of intense social engagement: job interviews, teaching, conferences, and meetings. One reason that completion rates for graduate programs are so low—and unhappiness levels so high—is, I suspect, because students are not selected for the full range of aptitudes they will need to be successful in graduate school. And there are few if any supports in place for those students who struggle with the extremes of introversion and extroversion that academe demands.
I've often mentioned to students that being outgoing and social is a huge asset in academe, and I often get confusion. People don't think of physicists as social or outgoing. I've long struggled with these aspects, though not as much as some. I'm easily in the introverted category, but I don't obviously lack social skills (those who know me well often laugh at my lapses, but among physicists I can blend it rather well). In any case, I never quite thought of it as above...as a contrast. But of course it is. Even in the comfort of one's own institution, there are encounters with colleagues, students, etc. These are generally pretty manageable...if I feel overwhelmed, I can always retreat to my office with a closed door. However, one day during a vacation, I had to run into the office to get something. While walking across an empty campus, a woman walks towards me whom I completely ignore, until, up close, she says "hi." I look up, completely baffled and mute. It must have been fifteen seconds till my mind could bring up my database and realize I knew her. But it was too late. Unsure of what to do, not wanting to insult her, I emailed her saying I was spaced out and didn't mean to ignore her. More accurately I just wasn't prepared. I imagine an extrovert simply doesn't need to mentally prepare for an encounter. They naturally make the most of such an encounter. But seconds matter and one can get better at this stuff. It takes more than reading tips in blogs. It takes practice.