Question #3: Identity, Mead, and Cooley
According to Mead’s theory of social self, one develops his or her self through social interactions. These interactions include language, play, and games. Language develops self through communication through sounds, words, and gestures. One can learn about the attitudes of other people through the manner of their language. Besides, the basic emotions like anger, happiness, or confusion are expressed in words. Meanwhile, play develops self by role-playing which allows one to develop an understanding of how other people feel. Also, it raises awareness of a variety of social situations. Games develop self by teaching people that each activity has some rules that should be adhered to win. Self has two basic elements, ‘me’ and ‘I’. First, ‘I’ is spontaneous and unpredictable. According to ‘I’, no one and nothing is as important as you are. Second, ‘me’ is the socialized part of a person that thinks beyond yourself. So, people need ‘me’ to regulate ‘I’ and so achieve the balance between authenticity and sociability.
The concept derived from the Mead’s work is Cooley’s theory of “the looking-glass self.” Cooley also thought that one grows through personal interactions with others. Thus, one’s self-image is the result of personal qualities and how people around us perceive us. To add even more, people tend to see themselves not as they really are but how other people see them. Thus, people in one’s environment serve as “mirrors” that reflect images of other people. According to Cooley, this process consists of three steps. At first, we imagine how we appear to another person. Then, we imagine what judgments people make of us based on our look. Finally, we develop our self-esteem in how we feel people perceive us.
I have tried to practice paying attention to how I am imagining others are thinking of me for a day. I tend to think of myself as a person who is kind and ready to help others. However, I am aware that others may not hold the same opinion. According to Mead’s theory, people might think that I am rather selfish because I value my interest more than those of others. For example, I tend to look for a good seat in public transport and often “grab” one in front of others. When I do so, people look at me as if they judge me. People may perceive it as the display of selfishness. Similarly, I do not like to share cookies with others. Accordingly, people might think that my “I” prevails over “me.” Also, other people might suggest me to work on my selfishness, develop myself through social interactions, and change for the better.
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According to Cooley’s theory, people may think I am a bad person because I often forget different things. However, it may be just my subjective view. For instance, lately, my friend Debora told me, “You are hopeless. I told you to call me seven times and you cannot even remember this simple request.” Also, my friend Tim told me, “Next time you decide not to come somewhere let me know about it. How come you forget this?” Maybe Debora and Tim do not regard me as much horrible. Maybe Tim said so because he was upset. In the case with Debora, she could be too emotional and that she regretted what she said. From Cooley’s perspective, her words should affect the way I perceive myself. Nevertheless, I do not think I am a bad person because of something I forget. Rather, it makes me an inattentive person. So, I do not think there is a need to worry about what Debora and Tim said. Still, I do not want to upset them so I try to become more attentive and even started writing the requests of others in my notebook.
Question #4: Gaining an Acquired Taste
According to Becker’s theory, becoming a marijuana user is learned behavior. He argues that not many people feel pleasure when they use marijuana. Nevertheless, they learn how to enjoy it from others. Even when they feel some discomfort, they gradually learn to interpret it as signs of pleasure. So, marijuana use relates to the sequence of attitude and experience changes. Accordingly, the process of learning consists of the necessary three steps. The first step is learning to smoke the drug correctly, so as to receive real effects. The second step implies recognition of the effects and connecting them to the use of drugs. The third step requires learning to enjoy the feelings or “get high” in other words. Only by the “occurrence of these three steps can a person use marijuana for pleasure” (Jarvinen and Signe 131).
The symptoms of “being high” include intense hunger, violent thirst, and distortion of spatial relationships and sounds. Nevertheless, “being high” requires two elements, the presence of symptoms and the recognition of these symptoms by the user. Thus, it is not enough when the effects are present. A user must be able to distinguish them and consciously connect them with marijuana use. Marijuana is an acquired taste because the taste for such experience is acquired socially. It can be compared to acquiring such tastes as oysters or dry martinis. In addition, the novice can experience unpleasant or least ambiguous feelings. It is the inevitable element of the first experience of some substance one is unfamiliar with. Thus, a person should learn to enjoy the effects he or she experiences from marijuana use. Naming and assigning meaning to a newly learned process such as marijuana use is helpful in getting used to it. Others usually help the novice to assign meaning to the new experiences. For example, they can minimize the unfavorable symptoms or convince a person that they are temporary. Furthermore, experienced marijuana users often teach beginners how to define the effects of use as enjoyable. Thus, one learns that every effect of marijuana use is normal and can be interpreted as pleasure.
One of the tastes I have been into enjoying is eating sushi. I have never been an adherent of exotic cuisine. I like traditional meals that are prepared from the traditional ingredients. Nevertheless, my friend Zach likes to try something new, and he seduced me to try sushi rolls someday. He took me to the sushi bar and ordered two sets for us. At first, the taste of sushi was awkward to me. I was afraid that raw fish would be disgusting. Nevertheless, it tasted good. Then, Zach explained what wasabi and sushi ginger was. It appeared that these dainties were to accentuate the taste of the dish. The sushi amber was quite unusual to me, but I found a particular pleasure in its taste. At the same time, I did not enjoy wasabi no matter how hard I tried. It is too spicy for me. Zach said that I just could not grasp the essence of Japanese cuisine. Thus, even when I decided not to try wasabi anymore, I continue to eat sushi until now.
Another acquired taste is that of beer. I remember when I first tried a bottle of beer I did not like it. I was at the party that day, and all of my friends were drinking a beer there. Several years ago, beer was something new to me, and I did not dare to try it. Yet, my friends insisted that I should try a bottle of beer too. They told me they did not want to hear any excuses, and so they bought to be a bottle of beer. I remember the taste of that beer was horrible. It was neither sweet nor salted. I did not know how to react to the taste of beer. My friends shared their chips with me so as to make beer tastier. To tell the truth, it helped. I chewed the chips all the time until the bottle was empty. Then, suddenly I felt the change in my mood. So, I ordered another bottle. After the second bottle, I realized I liked beer. So, I like to drink beer now and do not have to chew something to suppress its taste.
Question #5: Presentation of Self in Everyday Life
According to Goffman’s dramaturgical perspective, people are players on the social stage like performers on a theater stage. He argues that when people present themselves in different situations, they are nothing but actors who perform roles for their audience. Thus, human life is nothing but a series of performances. Furthermore, the roles humans play differ at work, with friends, and with family members. Hence, role performance differs based on who the audience of a person is.
The presentation of self in different situations is related to so-called impression management. Accordingly, it consists in one’s efforts to create a particular impression in the minds of other people. Individuals use impression management as a tool to make themselves look more appealing to other people. When they are in a social setting, they are at the front stage. They try to manipulate the audience into liking them. People leave the front stage when they are no longer required to be in that social environment. Then, they move to the backstage, the place that is closed and hidden from other people.
Impression management requires a certain setting and sign vehicles. Therefore, individuals alter their behavior according to a social setting, the physical place where interaction occurs. People create impressions through what Goffman calls sign vehicles that consist of verbal and body language. Most often, people use their appearance and manner of interaction including gestures and facial expressions assign vehicles.
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Meanwhile, working consensus is an agreement on following moral rules that establish appropriate behavior for each given setting. This is done to avoid conflicts and embarrassment. Sometimes it is enough to mention some code word and the surrounding recognizes it as the stop signal to prevent someone’s embarrassment. However, defensive and protective strategies are most often used for maintaining the situation. Defensive strategies are used to ensure that impression they tend to convey of themselves is not sullied. They include loyalty, discipline, and circumspection. In turn, protective strategies are employed by those who interact with performers and services for helping them manage their performances. These are the practices that save the face of others, overlooking or putting a kind interpretation on any negative impression they may have created through their actions.
The example of one of the television show episodes “Modern Family” can demonstrate the concepts of the dramaturgical perspective well. One can see the example of performances in the episode “Go Bullfrogs.” Performance is acting according to the social standards and making the best presentation of oneself that one can.
The protagonists of the TV series use different sign vehicles, which consist of verbal language and body language. However, sometimes, they misinterpret them. For instance, the episode begins at the entrance of the college where Phil slaps the palm of some student because he thinks that the latter raised his hand for that. Then, it occurs to him that the student was shielding his eyes from the sun. It is noticeable when the protagonists of the TV series act at the front stage that is on the public. In particular, Phil and his daughter Haley go to Champs Sports Pub. There, Phil tries to act so that to make his daughter like him. When she leaves, he says that many girls did the same in the past. When Haley accidentally hears it, he says that she was not supposed to hear that. Obviously, he thought he was at backstage then.
Sometimes, disruptions of the situation that are unmeant gestures, inappropriate intrusions, tactlessness, and scenes occur in the series. For example, when Claire comes to the house of her friend to give her son Luke something, her new companion Julian disrupts the situation. He intrudes and asks if he can go to the toilet and discredits her in front of her friends. The characters from the series employ defensive strategies that are used to ensure that the impression they tend to convey of themselves is not sullied. For example, when Phil allows her daughter to go to the party, he explains that he did so because “he happens to trust his daughter.” As a result, he wants the audience to think well of him even if he behaves irresponsibly.
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