The terms “loner” and “introvert” are often used interchangeably to describe those who spend much time to themselves. I will often hear a person call themselves a loner when they’d probably be better described as an introvert, or vice versa. This seems to be because, in behavior, the loner and the strong introvert seem to be one and the same. Yet their mentality and reasons for choosing to be alone can be completely different.
In general, there seems to be confusion about what these two terms mean, and further confusion about the (lack of) actual similarities between them. To complicate things further, a person can be both an introvert and a loner. However, when trying to understand the differences it is more helpful to understand the terms on their own, in pure form, without the addition of other possible personality traits.
In the simplest description, a loner is someone who strongly prefers their own company to the company of others, and may actively avoid interacting with other people. It is important to note that the loner may or may not have a real need to be alone, but simply enjoys being by themselves. There are many causes that can result in a person becoming a loner, not all of them negative.
In contrast, introversion is the tendency to be predominantly concerned with one’s own inner world, at the cost of outer, more active life. The introvert also has a physiological need to retire from the hustle and bustle of outside life — introverts are more easily stimulated by outside activity and can become fatigued without ample time alone. An introvert can be a loner or shy, but it’s just as likely that they may want company of one or many other people, but simply can not take much socializing before feeling worn out.
Loners and introverts can be further understood by understanding the motivations of their behavior. There will be exceptions to the rule, but generally introverts and loners have different reasoning for their states of lonesomeness.
A loner, when asked why they are usually alone will proudly state that they don’t want the company of others, don’t find others to be interesting, or that they have a strong desire to be free to do as they please.
An introvert, when asked why they are usually alone, will say that they become frazzled after some time socializing and need time to “recharge”, and that they feel more refreshed and clear-headed during and after a long period alone.
A further example comes from the activity that each engages in when alone.
The loner (who is not also introverted) will often engage in outside activities by themselves. Biking, going to a public event, going out to eat. The only real requirement they have is that they do these things by themselves, and not with another person or group of people.
The introvert, on the other hand, draws away from outside activity of any sort. So the introvert will engage in personal activities that involve their mind, such as reading, surfing the Internet, writing, or other personal hobbies. This is because the introvert not only needs to do things alone, they need to be alone — away from the outside world of people and things.
Keeping all of this in mind, which one are you? Loner, introvert, both or neither?