Identity is a flimsy concept. Most people encompass a wide variety of viewpoints, which hardly fit into one concise narrative or another. However, many people also seem to go out of their way to adopt (at least externally) specific traits for the sake of living up to ideals of a particular identity.
It starts with a cause and/or message that appeals to a person. Subsequently, this will lead to a desire to seek out like-minded individuals who are equally enthusiastic about the topic at hand. The next step is direct involvement; an active participation in the interests of the cause/message. At this point, it is safe to deduce that you’re involved in an Identity Movement. The nature of Identity Movements range from hobbies, to cultural and political pursuits, but they all share the characteristics of forging a sought after niche for the individuals who wish to partake in its subcultural communities.
Something that is unavoidable in Identity Movements is the emergence of groupthink. A clear example of this can be witnessed by looking up any piece of music that has been uploaded to YouTube (in particular the lyrics videos), and read the cohesiveness of the comments that follow. The vast majority of them will follow along a similar tone of, “This is what real music sounds like, not that other shit that most people listen to.” What has made these individuals the arbitrators of “real music” is their identification with one particular genre or another, and nothing else.
Often adopting a particular identity can lead to the adoption of other interests that one would personally enjoy, and this seems perfectly reasonable, in and of itself. But, I can’t help wondering how many are truly adopting interests and attitudes that suit them, and not just adapting to the interests and attitudes that surround them. In other words, are they taking on an identity simply because they feel they need to, in order to be part of a greater movement/cause/culture?
The problem I see with all of this is the potential it creates in individuals (especially adolescence) to habitually sacrifice certain aspects of their personalities that do not fit in with the narrative of the Identity Movement they wish to uphold–a form of self-conditioning for the sake of representing a pure ideal (an ideal, which, of course, does not exist outside the Identity narrative being adopted). This becomes most worrisome in Identity Movements that encompass a cultural or political message, because it works to counteract the original desires that led up to the need to create the identity; the goal of achieving normalcy within popular opinion. However, the more of a subculture an Identity Movement becomes, the more antagonistic it gets towards mainstream opinion. And without the strive for recognition and acceptance in greater society, Identity Movements become insulated in their own narratives, with little divergence of thinking allowed. At this point, the individual has been sacrificed for the sake of an identity. Perhaps, this trend is not widespread enough to cause alarm for most people, but I shutter to think about the great minds the world may have lost to such misguided reasoning.
3 thoughts on “The Sacrifice of Identity”