Unique New York
Everyone likes to think that they’re different, that there’s something about them that makes them unique from everyone else. We all have that angsty 13 year-old inside of us that thinks that no one could possibly understand us. But, what if that wasn’t the case? What if none of us are nearly as unique as we think we are?
I’m bringing this up thanks to my sociological theory class. A class that I actually like a lot and learn a lot from (for example, I’m listening to The Smiths as I write this, which I didn’t before this course). In October, we learned about a sociologist named George Herbert Mead, a man who made me question the way in which I view everything.
Mead’s main topic throughout his work is that of the “self” – a “self” that he claims is completely dependent on language. This is due to the fact that language is what we have to communicate with one another and is something that emerges through social interaction. Since it’s what we use to communicate, one cannot develop a self prior to language, meaning that babies have no sense of self whatsoever. It’s only until one develops a language that the self appears.
Due to the fact that it’s something that emerges through social interaction, our selves aren’t nearly as unique as we think they are. Words that we use have distinct meanings that cannot simply be changed just because someone really wants to. Because of that, words are things that use us as opposed to us using them, slowly building our “self” without asking us for any help. Even if one were to make up a word, that word then becomes something that shapes others.
Even when we try to describe ourselves or attempt to prove that we are unique and different, the only real way we have of doing so is by comparing ourselves to those around us. It’s the culture that surrounds us that shapes our sense of self; if we were left without one, our “self” wouldn’t really exist.
That’s the quickest rundown of Mead that I could muster up. And I’m sure it might not make sense because, well, I’m not a teacher and I’m bad at explaining things. But, when I learned about this in class I was really put off by it.
I’m one of those people that likes to think that we’re all unique and weird, that each person has something special about them. Mead’s theories really throw me off, mainly because they made sense. Yet, I still want to argue that we’re all unique, because it just seems like I have to. And I’m making this argument with absolutely no science or evidence whatsoever, it’s just simply how I feel.
First of all, as much as I agree that language and socialization are huge parts of developing our “self,” I feel as though there is something in our heads that we cannot put into words – a part of us that’s there from the beginning that no one else around us can see, and maybe something that we can’t really explain.
Where Mead focuses a lot on communicating, I feel that there is a lot to be said simply from just what we see. Everything that we process and think is done through our own individual lenses. It’s why so many artists can take the same concept, but each produce something completely different, because it’s all being handled by your individual self.
We all go through somewhat similar events in life; we all eat, drink, pay taxes and die. And of course, the society surrounding us is going to play a part in who we are. The hippie in me can’t help but believe that we all have something special about us, and although words may use us, they’re still coming from our own weird minds. Maybe words use us in order to help us voice what we want to say. I realize I probably made no sense throughout this entire thing. But, it’s my unique column, and it can be whatever it wants.