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Who Will You Be Today?

Updated on July 16, 2017

What is identity?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, identity is defined as ‘who a person is, or the qualities of a person or group that make them different from others’. A straightforward definition for a complex concept. ‘Who a person is’ is a mixture of different influences throughout their life may these be social, environmental or genetic. I believe a person has more than one identity and that identity is flexible and easily changeable so that in different contexts you can showcase different sides to yourself. One of the easiest methods in which to witness variable identities is across social media.

Social media is the platform for identity construction. How often do you carefully handpick photos to make you appear a certain way to your hundreds of ‘friends’? As a teenager, I see this happen every day with people around me. My friends will ask ‘do you think this picture makes me look tanned/thin/attractive’ or any other adjective they wish to be viewed as that day. Honestly, I think the same. We spend far too much time bothering about how we look from the outside when in reality this doesn’t even reflect our true self. Every picture is carefully plucked to encourage a positive response from the hundreds of followers we have but in reality, how many of these followers do we actually interact with beyond the screen.

Do you know every 'friend' on your Facebook list?

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The underlying reason behind this seemingly necessary construction of ourselves online is due to the expectations placed on us by society. We live up to labels placed on us and all strive to fulfil the mould of the ‘ideal’ human being. But who decides what is ideal? What makes the perfect person perfect? And why do we all seek acceptance based on a construction that shows no objectivity? The answer to this is that we change our identity and therefore our behavioural responses to suit the subjective reality of situations. We believe that we are broadcasting ourselves truly however we are purely showing a version of our self that we have chosen to be the most acceptable according to society’s interpretation of how is best to act. Society’s idea of what is right and wrong is like a black cloud of above the heads of the population, we are trapped on the ground with no escape so everyone follows the rules required to be ‘normal’ which involves changing yourself to fit with the conventional morals of situations.

‘Free will is an illusion’, these were the words spoken by the psychologist B.F. Skinner who believed in nurture and that our behaviour is entirely dependent on the environment we are in and has no biological basis. This idea fits with the what is expressed in the last paragraph. It states that we have external pressures placed on us that may be unrecognisable however they are existent all the same. The pressures could include that of society, the familiar scenarios of life dictate how we act in our own life. But should we let real or imagined pressures of others decide our outlook on life?

B.F. Skinner
B.F. Skinner

Final thoughts

This is, of course, only one viewpoint and the topic of identity is one that is widely discussed across all areas of study. Different people will have different views and each one is valued and should be expressed as the more people talking, the more people that are open to the possibility of change.


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