I think, in my case, liking or disliking a crowd is ultimately linked to the event in question. Had it been a Taylor Swift concert instead of a Stanley Cup parade, I might have felt as intensely horrible as some of you guys have described feeling in any crowd. The people are something of an external, take-it-or-leave-it factor for me; it just so happens that when we all collectively orgasm over a goal, the energy feels pretty damn good.
After reading the responses here, I still believe I'm an introvert - but that I don't express it to the extreme that some members do.
I think I bond to my interests much in the same way that I'm magnetically pulled toward potential sexual partners, and consequently, my hobbies aren't just hobbies - they're passions. They become intense sources of excitement/happiness. Maybe that's why the crowds don't bug me at all, as long as I'm attending or participating in any event that captivates me.
Your so-dom stacking probably has a similar effect. I agree, those little breaks after too much direct interaction with others are extremely helpful. At my family reunion, I'd often "sleep in" for a couple of hours...although I was very much awake, just not quite mentally ready to deal with all of those people yet.
I think I might actually be the opposite. I indeed prefer my more meaningful interactions to be one-on-one, that much I'm down with - but I have no issue whatsoever with sensory surplus. Loud noises? Bright, spinning lights? Colors that assault your eyes? I enjoy all of that. I won't experience signs of anxiety or fatigue at all...until direct interaction with other people enters the picture, at which point I will eventually need to withdraw. I can be suave when I need to be, but I do become drained from people. Not music or smells or lights and colors, all of which I actually find awesome.
I am, however, not uncomfortable at nightclubs. I love nightclubs. I happen to be a fan of electronica and alcohol, and these places typically offer all the pounding music, pulsing lights, and flowing drinks that one could possibly want. Again - the external sensory stuff stimulates me, doesn't deter me. Is that by itself necessarily a sign of extroversion?
I feel like I'm the reverse of that. I don't need quiet environments to unwind; the most important factor for me is that I'm absolutely alone. When other people are present, I involuntarily spend energy on gauging their feelings and contentment, and it's ultimately too taxing for relaxation to properly do its work (or happen at all). I really need to be by myself in every sense of the word in order to recharge those batteries.
As I type this, I'm chilling out in my bedroom, decompressing after an especially stressful workweek. The room is hot, the lights are low, I've got a cold drink. The room itself is obnoxious by nature; I painted one wall an aggressively bright shade of red (my favorite color - I love warm colors). Red soothes me and makes me very happy, but I've also read that simply being in the presence of this color/shade has the same effect on the human brain as a high dose of caffeine. I've also got a movie playing, and sporadically, I'll put that on hold to blast loud, electronic music. This little room is heaven right now, as far as I'm concerned...but it wouldn't be if there were someone else in here with me.
On a side note, I'm pretty sure that I am addicted to caffeine.
Maybe this space wouldn't be too bad for you, though? Or maybe it'd drive you crazy. Maybe we're dealing with two different but parallel energy drains - general stimulation and human interaction. Maybe both effect you, whereas mostly just the latter seems to sap my energy over a period of time. It's difficult to say, really.
I like staying up late at night and I have enough internal resources to keep myself going pretty much regardless of external assistance (my brain doesn't slow down easily - it just comes up with stuff whether I'm trying or not, bubbling over with new ideas like a fountain at a Vegas casino). I guess I like loud, fast-paced, intense things because I want my outer comfort zone to look like how my inner world feels. It's me, splattered all over the walls.
In any case, I'm sorry that you've had to put up with social anxiety so much. That's not fun at all.
I could add a poll, but I'm afraid that it might narrow the channel of conversation into a more cut-and-dried sort of, "Are you an introvert who likes crowds, feels indifferent to crowds, or hates them?" I feel like the guts of the topic are broader and more complex, with little questions blossoming off of those central ones, like whether the dislike is only that, or whether it's fear-based, or something else - maybe an individual likes large volumes of people but still gets some kind of anxiety from them. Then we've got the concept of energy loss and this dual, generalized stimuli excess vs. human interaction (or both!) layer on top of that, as well as the question of at what point someone becomes an extrovert.
Or maybe I'm overthinking this.
Also, when I'm seeing my favorite band play live, and every fan in the venue begs in unison for an encore...that's also weirdly thrilling.
However, my crowd spirit only goes as far as my passion for/interest in the event does (and how much I've had to drink). I can't stay there indefinitely. Once all of the excitement is over, it's always soothing to return to a room where I can stretch out and breathe properly again. As has already been said several times, too, it's way less stressful for me to be around a mass of people that aren't demanding direct communication with me. If I were surrounded by chatty friends or family, or if the fans in the above situations started talking to me too much, my energy levels would sink much more quickly.
Thanks, everyone, for your varied responses. This was very interesting to read!