the 'I' and the 'Me'
Majoring in sociology has led me to become fascinated with quite a peculiar concept; the idea of identity. What sparked my interest in this topic was when the famous sociologist George Herbert Mead and his concept of “the I and the Me” was brought to my attention. In short, Mead see’s that one’s identity is composed of two parts; “the I”, which is one’s individuality, comprised of personal and unique opinions, and “The Me”, described as our socially constructed identity, built on ideas like cultural norms, unconscious opinions and patterns of social responses.
I never realized how complex the composition of my identity was before my university education. Mead’s concept made me discover how much influence my family, friends, media, and the social world in general, had on my identity and my actions. I wanted to portray this reflective thought through this image, titled, "m(i)". The boots symbolize “the I”, as I feel all clothing in general can tell you a lot about a person’s preferences, their uniqueness, and individuality. The shadow represents “the Me”, the social identity, because everyone possesses a shadow, a ubiquitous trait of all humans in society. This conception of a shadow parallels the societal cultural norms and beliefs that we all abide by, that follow us everywhere we go. Furthermore, a person is always connected to their shadow, which exemplifies how one’s personal identity is intertwined with their social identity.
In this piece, titled “Translate”, I wanted to further explore Mead’s concept of “the I and the Me”. Mead describes that because humans are constantly in social situations, one is not allowed to fully act out their individuality. In the social world, there are context-specific norms and beliefs that apply to all social situations and we consciously or unconsciously abide by them. For example, this could be changing one’s appearances for an interview or acting different in front of friends compared to family. In sum, our social identity, “the Me”, mediates our individual identity, “the I”, and I wanted to convey this idea through this second piece.
The symbolism is this work is consistent with the first piece, as the boots represent “the I”, individuality, and the shadow represents “the Me”, one’s social identity built on societal norms. However, in this piece do we see that the boots are pointed towards a blank, cement wall, while the shadow is looking in a different direction, seeming as though the silhouette is observing something that is going on. This signifies how our social identity is the first to react to social situations. Our personal identity is restrained to acting on a social situation, just as the boots are blinded to what is going on. However, since our social and personal identities are connected, just as one is always found with their shadow, an individual can translate the information from the social situation, through their “Me”, and act out specific individualistic traits, from their “I”, that are appropriate to the situation.
After concluding my readings on Mead, I discovered something that I feel many people take for granted, how special one’s individuality is. Without personal preferences or uniqueness, humans would all act in the same manner, be influenced by the same forces, and consequently, be the same person. However, because each human is naturally unique, we expose ourselves to humanity’s many differences, such as distinct cultures and personal opinions. These differences enable humans to experience everything the world has to offer, such as the distinctive cuisines associated with specific cultures, or the different kinds of music found in all corners of the globe. Without individuality, we would all follow the same boring life path, and would not be able to fully experience all the potential life has to offer.
Through this final piece, titled “Twins”, I wanted to depict how every individual possesses a special and unique identity; even in the case where two individuals are composed of identical natural properties and exposed to similar social forces, like identical twins, do we find that individuality shines through. At first glance, the two sets of boots and shadows seem almost identical, which represents how people will assume that two twins are the same individual. However, if one closely analyzes the picture, many distinct features will be found between each twin. Even though the shadows are similar in darkness and size, they vary in their specific shapes. The boots do share many traits, but through close inspection does one find distinctions, such as each pair having their own particular stance and a unique set of shoelaces. This exemplifies that even though two people may be extremely alike, by being able to allow them to express their individuality, were able to celebrate their differences and experience two completely different people, two completely different worlds
- here is combination of other works which revolve around the same general concept -