Today I’m taking a break from physics to write on an idea somewhat linked to psychology, which of late I am getting more and more interested in thinking about. However it is also, as all non factual posts are, heavily opinion based, so I apologise if I cause any offence. The idea I briefly want to talk about today is the idea of the self and that of identity. What is it that makes us inherently who we are, what defines our identity, and how is it that we project this identity outwards towards others.
In this modern day, what I like to call the ‘projection of the self’ is ubiquitous amongst our generation. The dissemination of selfies and social media posts is prolific and it seems we are constantly putting out images of ourselves, trying to convey an idea of who we are, what we like and what we are doing to others. It seems as though conveying this image outward, is becoming one the most important activities amongst young people of our generation yet stepping away from the phone, after the post has been posted, what value did this action add to reaffirming our understanding of the self? I worry that all this ‘projection of the self’ leads to far less time being spent on ‘inward reflection of the self’ and it feels as though these activities lead to a dulling of our own consciousness. By occupying all our free time with social media, even when partaking in activities that may be focused on ourselves and our identity we are never truly giving ourselves time to be alone with our thoughts. Our identity becomes that which we project on our social media accounts, we constantly share what we like and what we dislike but we never seem to sit down and reflect on what it is that we truly like and dislike, what makes us happy and unhappy in life.
As much as I believe this time for self-reflection should increased, by doing this we reach another hurdling point. What is it that inherently makes us who we are. A popular answer is that it is our choices that make us who are. However as discussed in a previous post on free will, from a physicists standpoint on life anyway, free will is a very dubious concept. However if you do accept that choice is real and it is these decisions that defines you, it is important to try and analyse why you make the choices you do. When I have tried to do this analysis, it has seemed to me that all my choices can be traced back to a previous thought, idea or experience that I have had. However in the tracing back of these choices we find no logical start point, there is always a predecessor in the chain. It seems to me, a combination of upbringing and surroundings heavily influence a persons choices, memories and experiences are continually stored in ones subconsciousness and are then drawn on when making a decision.
I have also experienced of late, your surroundings and the people you choose to surround yourself with can have a large impact on the choices you make and the type of self you choose to project outward in the moment. It is a worrying thought that the idea of the self is so fluid and of course it is simple human psychology that people choose to reflect aspects of the self that are most in line with their company at the time, out of fear of being treated as a social pariah. Yet these effects compound over time and begin to shape the self we independently choose to project. Identity can then begin to become a product of your social company… However, in this new age of online communications social interactions and the way social company is kept is also changing its form. With conversations held more frequently over a whatsapp screen that in person and love shared in the form of a heart emoji as opposed to a real time exchange of emotions we also seem to be at risk of a lost sense of real time relations. It has been shown that too much time on social media can fuel feelings of loneliness and decrease ones self esteem. Compounding these feelings with the idea of a lost sense of self can lead to a worrying state of mind and lack of purpose.
Perhaps now more than ever, in the age where it is all to easy to become influenced not only as those in the same room as you but those a million miles away yet on your phone screen it is important to spend more time alone with your own thoughts in an attempt to try and find out what you independently value. Ideas of mindfulness and meditation are avenues which seem to be useful in trying and get a better sense of this. Although free will may not be real, human intuition compels us to believe it is, in a bid to give purpose to our lives. And given that we will always experience life from the confines of our own brain, in which choice, consciousness and the idea of the self appears tangible and concrete, to spend time focusing on our own identity and values seems a worthwhile exercise indeed. To then surround yourself with people who share these values in real time may be a step in the right direction for a generation who at times seem to be more concerned with the ‘projection of the self’ than what they themselves want to achieve with their finite time.