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Are you an introvert living in Tampa Bay? You’re not alone, and there’s plenty for you to do

It’s National Introverts Week. There are more introverted people here than you think.

The very idea of a Facebook group for introverts seems contrary to the premise of what an introvert is.

The term introvert is generally defined as someone who derives more energy from being alone than from interactions with other people.

Joshua Hagen, a 41-year-old Tampa resident, is a self-described introvert who fits into that category. He joined the Facebook group, Introverts of Tampa Bay, three years ago after his then-girlfriend, whom Hagen called “really outgoing," his “total opposite,” encouraged him to explore more.

This is the description for the Facebook group, Introverts of Tampa Bay.

Hagen didn’t know what to expect for his first outing. They chose a gun range as their meet-up spot and Hagen wandered around the area at first, looking for a group of people he had never met. But that initial uncertainty gave way to relief when Hagen found the group and realized that his fellow introverts were just “regular people.”

“It was an eye-opener. I realized there are a lot of people out there that you look at and you don’t realize that they’re actually an introvert or they have anxiety, and they do,” Hagen said.

How does an introvert not get lonely in Tampa? from tampa

The third week of March, from March 18 until March 24 this year, is deemed National Introverts Week, a time for celebrating introverts in a world that many feel tends to prioritize extroverts.

If you look hard enough, communities for introverts abound. There’s a whole sub-Reddit dedicated to the concept of being an introvert. A Facebook page called “Introvert Problems” has 2.6 million likes. A Facebook group with over 32,000 members calls itself a Silent Book Club or “introvert happy hour.” St. Petersburg residents even started their own meet-up based off the concept, although the group has since disbanded.

St. Petersburg introvert nature walk

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Advice from introverts: 4 things Tampa Bay introverts can do to have fun

Introverts of Tampa Bay administrator Joshua Hagen and a fellow group member gave us a rundown of some of their favorite things to do as an introvert.

1. Kayaking through the area’s waters

Hagen’s words: “No decisions to be made, except how long you want to paddle around the island before you go to shore and sunbathe or float in the water.”

He suggests kayaks for rent at Dunedin Causeway and taking them to Caladesi Island.

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | Times Kayakers and paddlers hang out on the Hillsborough river during the Mayor's River O'Green Fest at Curtis Hixon Park on Saturday, March 17, 2018 in Tampa, FL. The Hillsborough river was dyed green with non-toxic, biodegradable dye Saturday morning in celebration of St. Patrick's day. Festival-goers not only watched the river turn green, but also enjoyed live music, crafts, and beer.

2. Walking or biking on a local trail

Hagen subscribes to the mentality that exercise is a good way to get rid of stress. He recommends Hillsborough County Upper Tampa Bay Trail to bike. He notes that bringing a camera along can add to the experience.

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times David Bain, 42, of New Port Richey, left, and Laura Cleveland, 39, of Tampa, tour one of the trails at Jay B. Starkey Wilderness Park while exercising Thursday at the park in New Port Richey . The park is one of three Pasco County destinations for National Get Outdoors Day, June 8, where activities -- orienteering, bird and nature walks, train tours, reptile awareness workshops, star gazing, free throw contests, and volleyball games -- will be hosted. Crews Lake Wilderness Park and Withlacoochee River Park will also be hosting events.

3. Google Guide contributor

Hagen poses an unusual one. Go to local restaurants and review and rate the meal and experience. “It’s okay to sit alone, you’re on a mission here,” Hagen writes.

4. Join Facebook groups based on your interests

This one is from Introverts of Tampa Bay member Anna Rider-Spry, who found her people through the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society, a group with nearly 1,800 members.

How introverts can find each other

Scroll through the local Introverts of Tampa Bay Facebook group, and the camaraderie is clear. “A large group of people is called a ‘No thanks,’” one member shares, a sort of meme page for introverts. Another jokes about a situation where they respond “Happy Birthday” to a compliment. “I get awkward when someone compliments me and I don’t know what to say,” the joke reads.

The mutual understanding implicit in the group is something that drew in 45-year-old Rider-Spry. She has lived in the Tampa area for almost 15 years but only decided to find a social life outside of her family within the last few years, she said.

That was when she joined the Introverts of Tampa Bay Facebook group and found a niche interest group in the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society.

45-year-old Anna Rider-Spry pictured at middle with other members of the Tampa Bay Steampunk Society at the Henry B. Plant Museum. Courtesy of J.A. Gilgan.

Now, Rider-Spry prepares before socializing. She joins Facebook groups where activities can be planned by others and she can pick and choose what she wants to attend. She checks TripAdvisor before going to a location to get a sense of crowds and ambience. She researches parking before hitting a spot downtown or a menu before trying a new restaurant.

“Knowing what to expect makes it easier for me to conserve energy for enjoying the event,” Rider-Spry said.

As someone who had to come to terms with her identity as an introvert, Rider-Spry wants the same thing for other Tampa Bay residents. Accepting that she needs time alone and sometimes feels drained by spending time with people has helped.

“To any introvert who is looking for a way to take advantage of living or visiting the Tampa area, I would encourage them first to make peace with being an introvert,” she said. “There is a lot of pressure in our society to be or behave like an extrovert, but there are many advantages introverts have because of their ability to observe, think and approach others with sensitivity and insight.”

What does National Introverts Week mean to you? Let us know in the comments.