The Influences of Society on Identity

From birth to adulthood, physical and mental change are inevitable, but does that mean identity follows this same pattern? Is identity a constant course of development, or does it eventually reach a standstill?

According to Stage of Life, a community that studies people of all age groups, 37 percent of teenagers believe their current identity will adjust over time. The majority, 63 percent, believe the identity they have now will remain with them for the rest of their life.

Because it has no clear-cut definition, the implications of identity vary.

“Identity is not an absolute,” physics teacher Andrew Phillips said. “It’s a construct and so of course it’s influenced by the people and environment that we surround ourselves with.”

Phillips said his personality and mindset has changed since his childhood. His own sense of identity has developed with time.

“I was a social chameleon,” Phillips said. “I wanted to be liked no matter where I was, and so I changed my personality depending on who I was with … That was exhausting, first and foremost, and it really kind of messed up my sense of self.”

While this tendency can be reflected in the interactions of high school students, formulating groups can also allow individuals to enhance their personality.

According to senior Elise Ramos, groups are often generated through coinciding passions.

“It’s natural I think that people are going to just tend towards people who share their interests,” Ramos said. “People you end up making your friends are people who still have those commonalities with you, even if they differ significantly in some other areas.”

In addition to friendships, identity can be shaped by age, family, religion and culture.

For Ramos, switching schools prompted a change in personality. Ramos said she used to be more violent and didn’t have many people to talk to. Since coming to Granite Bay High School (GBHS), she has become more open.

“I … have this philosophy that ‘you’ as a concept or ‘me’ as a concept is going to be something that’s constantly changing,” Ramos said. “You’re never going to be the same person that you (were) even a couple of minutes ago.”   

While certain characteristics are prone to transformation, others are ground into an individual from birth. Junior Megan Marty said part of an individual’s identity is inherited from his or her parents.

According to Stage of Life, 84 percent of students believe their identity is shaped by “nurture” over “nature.”

“The way you were raised and your parents’ views, or the views you adopted from them, are another big part of your identity,” Marty said. “At this kind of age or younger, … kids are really impressionable.”

Even with respect to parental influence, an individual’s sense of identity has the potential to adjust. Regardless, fundamental personality traits neglect to change.  

“There’s some aspects of identity that do stay permanent throughout life,” Marty said, “but I don’t think anyone ever stays permanently the same throughout their life. I have some sort of faith in humanity that there’s an ability to change.”

Published on Friday, March 4, 2016

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