For as long as I can remember, therapists and self-help types have talked about this concept of having "emotional batteries." Sometimes you just don't have it in you to be social, or you need to step away. This sentiment has been around since long before I considered ASD a factor. And indeed, sometimes if I'm at a family gathering or party or some public thing among people, and I need to step away.
But the pandemic seems to have changed some of my behaviors in negative ways. I used to look forward to some social action, but now, even when it's planned, I find myself slightly dreading it as the date approaches. It's all good once I'm there. I don't want to be in crowds, which isn't about spreading disease, it's more of a subconscious mistrust for, well, everyone. That sounds like paranoia. I just don't feel like... engaging.
And yet, I'm always happy about the experience after the fact. A few weeks ago I spent time with friends from Seattle early in the day, then met up with former coworkers from New York and Puerto Rico that evening. I have random interactions with interesting people all of the time at shows. I've by sheer chance met people for lunch. I've made drinks for neighbors. I want that interaction, but in the last year or two it feels like exercise. I dread it, but then I'm happy I did it after.
I don't get wrapped up in identifying as introverted or extraverted (I like ambiverted), but whatever I am, the desire to be social is like a hard switch, and I rarely fall in between. That trait seems more well defined than it was three years ago.