Curiosity is a basic and natural drive in human behavior. The desire for self-knowledge is highly common among people. Defining and understanding the self is an intricate subject and has been a ponderous research topic in social psychology. From childhood, people start to differentiate themselves from the outside world and realize that they are separate entities from others. The development of identity depends on self-image, self-esteem, and individuality. Understanding the relationship between the self and the collective is crucial in determining the nature of identity. They strive for authenticity compels human beings to discover whether there is one “true self” or multiple different selves that make up the self.
Identity is a complex mechanism that includes all the traits, characteristics, social relations, and roles that a person has. The social identity theory, first proposed by the British social psychologist Henri Tajfel and his colleagues, suggests that people’s self-concept can be different depending on their perception of identity at that moment. A person’s sense of who they are depends on the social groups they belong to. Social groups grant their members a shared identity that characterizes who they are in the collective (Hogg, 2016). Humans can act both as individuals and social groups, providing various representations of the self in different collective contexts. The self -categorization theory further proposes that the self is distinguished between personal and social identity, both being valid and authentic to it.
Personal identity is an ever-changing sense of the self that humans experience throughout their lives. On this level, people perceive themselves primarily as individuals, seeking to find out who they are and where they are going. On a social level, they view themselves as group members, their differences and similarities with the collective. The inner self is shaped by communications and relationships with others, at the same time receiving and accepting the feedback subjectively. Introspection can sometimes cause false conclusions and, therefore, social identity is highly subjective. The defining feature of identity, known as autobiographical memory, is a reflective trait that compares past and present self on a personal level (Grysman et al., 2016). This seeming personal narrative of identity also depends on a social context and is shaped both socially and culturally.
Social validation plays a crucial role in forming the inner self and self-image. A positive reputation brings about desirable experiences and boosts self-esteem. Social identity highly affects self-worth and self- esteem both positively and negatively, depending on the individual’s self- concept of the particular collective (Trepte & Loy, 2017). Group members can experience different situations that may jeopardize their personal and social identities. Stereotype threat is a social circumstance where a person feels compelled to choose traits that will not be rejected by others. Not all aspects of individuality are experienced simultaneously depending on the self-perception of the individual at the moment. Although people learn to enhance a specific behavioral role in specific social situations, they may not assimilate this behavior as part of their identity. The formation of identity happens through observation and reflection of their behavior (Vignoles, 2018). Through the process of social comparison, social status is determined and formed.
The digitally sophisticated world has moved social interactions and relationships into a new level. Social media provides a platform where users can share information, express viewpoints, and participate in virtual communications. Although virtual environments do not require physical interaction, they equally affect and morph the identity (Gündüz, 2017). The virtual interactions affect personal identity and impact one’ mental health. For the younger generation, social media can facilitate the creation of their social identity both online and in the real-life social groups they belong to (Wiederhold, 2018). People are just as concerned about how they are perceived by others in virtual social interactions and strive for a positive self-image.
I think of my social identity as the perception of myself by other people, mirroring it back to me and forming me as a whole. On a social group level, people often meet discrimination and favoritism, which significantly affects self-concept and self-esteem. I have found myself in both situations and consider those incidents to be quite detrimental in formulating both my social and personal identity. Social media is also a significant presence in the lives of our generation and affects self-perception both positively and negatively. Sometimes, I am in contradiction with myself and feel torn between the perceptions of my identity. Some of my personality traits in social relationships seem significantly different from what I consider my authentic self. Nonetheless, I am more inclined to regard my social and personal identities as interrelated and inseparable. Sometimes, I have to remind myself to stay true to my core beliefs and traits and not allow the fragmentation of my identity because of social pressure.
Human interaction is a complex and fragmented phenomenon, and each person is unique, contributing to the creation of a wholesome image of the social environment. The social and personal selves are different states of identity, depending on the prominence of the part of the self in the social context. The distinction between the social and personal identity has evolved from being considered two distinctly separate parts of a self to two inseparable and interlaying states. Many of the personality traits are socially oriented, as, for example, a person cannot be loving, kind, honest, or cruel outside of the social context. Personality and the social-self reinforce and build each other, and personal change cannot happen without the experiences in various social situations. Determining the relationship between the self and the collective, individuality and social identity is an intricate subject. The self is a dynamic image of an individual, evolving and shaping itself though the experiences in both personal and social contexts.
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