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The question of ‘Do I control who I am’ has no easy answer. To an extent, the answer is yes. You can control what you choose to do. However, what you choose to do is constrained by what you have been taught. The concept of identity is both incredibly simple and incredibly complicated at the same time. It’s essentially how you view yourself, but what makes you view yourself that way is how others view you, which in turn is affected by your experiences and interactions. Socialization is how others shape you by changing how yourself and others view you. The factors that I feel most affected me are my family and the Reddit.
The Internet has affected me an incredibly large amount, especially sites like Reddit. It’s the easiest way to get your message out to the world, meaning that no matter your opinion on anything, you can find like-minded individuals. As such, if one is on this site enough, they will see people who agree with them. However, these people can come off as more knowledgeable. As a result, other opinions held by these more knowledgeable individuals can be seen as correct. For example, if you think the entirety of a book series is good and you go to an online community about the series, you will see people who liked the series as well. But if others did not like one of the books, your opinion on that book will likely change. These changes will affect anything as drastic as which political party one sides with, but more commonly someone’s opinions will be changed to either more radical or relaxed opinions. As a result, while others may have given me beliefs, sites such as these have changed them to something that I feel more accurately represents me. But like any community, it has its own norms and sanctions. While all opinions are technically allowed, people can still dislike or downvote your posts or comments if they disagree. For example, if I say on a message board, or subreddit, about Kirby that Kirby Super Star Ultra (widely considered one of the best games in the series) was an awful game and an unnecessary remake, I would get downvoted, which could reduce my karma, which are basically useless internet points. But if I posted some fanart of of a character, I could get upvoted, making me gain karma. This is an example of a negative (loss of karma) and a positive (gaining karma) sanction.
Despite the uselessness of these, they are simply a status symbol. If I try to purposefully cause an argument, I could even get banned from that community. There are also some sitewide rules, the violation of which can result in a complete removal of your account. For example, doxxing, which is finding and exposing a user’s identity or advocating violence against an individual or a group. While the sanctions for good or bad behavior are universal throughout Reddit, he values that decide what is good or bad are mostly consistent. The majority of Reddit is people who identify as democratic, so these values are seen through the majority of the site, but there are some on the site who are republican or members of the Alt-Right.
While certain parts of the internet may have changed my views, I still got them from my family. Family is the original and most obvious form of socialization. From values to gender to beliefs, it affects the most aspects of one’s life from birth. Because of how early these values are taught, it is often the hardest to shake off what is taught by the family. For example, I see myself as a democrat. The reason for this is because I believe that democratic views are better than republican views. But the reason I believe this is because my family had taught me that these views were correct. They did not outright state, “Democratic views are better that republican views,” but I learned this from them nonetheless. The gender norms are also shaped by the family. Parents will give their child toys that fit with the gender of the child, which shape how the child acts. The parents will enroll their child in sports or activities that fit the norms the parents think fit, for example, rough contact sports like Rugby or American Football for boys, and gymnastics or dance for girls. These enforce the ideas that boys are aggressive while girls are better at more safe sports. An example of how the parents affect a child would be in the case of Jack Yufe and Oskar Stohr.
Born in 1932, these twins were seperated, with one raised by the mother and one by the father. Oskar was raised by his mother in Czechoslovakia, and when Hitler annexed the country, he learned to hate Jews. Jack, on the other hand, was raised in Trinidad by his father, and became Jewish. These major differences were caused by the family and environment the children were raised in. This shows how the family we are raised by is what gives us what we value, and unless there is a major break with the family, these values will remain.
In the end, we only believe that we control who we are, but in reality, that choice has already been made for us. The family gives us our identity and what we do is constrained by the identity we are given. Some forms of media such as the internet can make slight changes to our identity, but it stays mostly the same as the identity we were given.
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