AND THE LOOKING GLASS SELF
Postmodernity is the beginning of the end of our narrative; it is a world that is uncentered, where our truth doesn’t matter. It is a world defined by its violence, power struggles, simulations and fluid identities; all of which help to shape our habitus. According to French sociologist Jean Baudrillard, people are no longer “real”; we are all cyborgs who are overly consumed in a hyper real world where language and image bear no meaning. A world where people are allowed to create versions of themselves; where we overexpose ourselves and contribute to learned violence.
These are all aspects of a hyper real postmodern world. Where overconsumption, self ambiguity, and violence help to shape our lives. However; this is also a world where people live, work, learn, and love; meaning that we are going through a massive transition from a post-industrial/modern society to a postmodern society.
At the turn of the 20th Century, Charles Horton Cooley remarked “We think of the body as ‘I’ when it comes to social function or significance, as when we say, ‘I am looking well today;’ or ‘I am taller than you are.’” When we look in the mirror, we are not looking at our mechanical figure, for our imagination projects this microscopic looking glass we see ourselves through. Our self is externalized.
In a face-to-face interaction, one sees simultaneously from a first person and second person perspectives; one’s self is viewed from the other’s imagined point view and while we see person whom we are interacting with. Between both parties is a looking glass, warping our social interactions from both points of view.
In a larger social environment, like public transit, the second person point of view is replaced with a third person point of view, vacillating between singular and plural perspectives. One puts on a performance for their audience, depending on what trope one feels they need to be congruent with. Many humans on public transit are desperately attempting to adhere to a group behavior that will enable one to avoid committing social errors. We are living with constrained agency; whenever we choose something, we hold our ourselves as a comparison to everyone else.
If one does everything right, they develop a sense of social self and their mood will be such that they can inject their personality. One does not want to be sanctioned, but race, gender, attraction, sexual identity, class and geography are all inevitably factors at play. The self is situational, and throughout one’s life one develops in concert with society; life also gives them chances to try assuming other identities. The self is socially constructed and socially regulated, which replaces the regulation of the self on the self.
It seems many people in the year 2017 are in conflict with society. In urban environments, one is in closeness. The constant self-monitoring and self-censorship puts a weight on oneself where one is contained by the context they are in accordance with: the rules of appearance and rules of behavior. The self is a problem for sociology. One may be told they are a ‘special snowflake’ at a young age, but over time they may realize that we are all doing the same thing at the same time, which can be a prominent cognition on public transit. Oneself is controlled, made, and defined by society but it is also a mythology. My remedy for this social pressure: be a social deviant.
Lemert, Charles. Social Theory. 5th ed. Boulder: Westview, 2013. Print.