The individual

January 19, 2012
L. Robert Kohls stated “Individualism has taken its most exaggerated form in 20th century United States.” By this, he means that Americans pride themselves in being unique and standing out. I strongly disagree with Mr. Kohls. What is the common purpose for trying to be different? To have people follow your trends, and not pursue their own individuality. Today, thousands of young adults, who are beginning to make their own decisions in life, strive to follow the “popular” trends: which may not always be good. Media, celebrities, and advertisements continuously compromise the individuality of the American.
The dictionary defines an individual as “a single human being, as distinguished from a group; a distinct, indivisible entity.” If this is the definition then why do teens buy the clothes they see in a Miley Cyrus video, or shoes like Lady Gaga wore at her concert. Kids who are starting to have wants because of celebrity influence are also starting to become indistinguishable from the group. The celebrities are a big influence in lives:
It may seem like tween girls are trying to grow up faster. But tweens live in a sort of in-between world, nestled between childhood and young adulthood-which can be seen in how they reacted to an older role model who's also been growing up awfully fast as of late, Miley Cyrus. (Neff) How does growing up faster relate to your focus on being an individual?
In Mr. Neff’s research it is shown that eye makeup sales doubled from 2007 to 2009 after Miley began wearing it on her tv show. Although this effect is not necessarily negative, it does show how easily people, kids specifically, can be influenced. When a popular celebrity gets a new hairstyle, girls immediately want to copy it. At school, those girls will look down on and make fun of the kids who don’t have the “new and popular” hairstyle. While lowering someone’s confidence, this bullying will also influence that person to follow the popular crowd, and abandon their individual personality. Although celebrities don’t intentionally influence a certain crowd, their actions can have effects on the lives people lead.


Another form of influence that lowers individuality is advertisements. When you’re driving down a highway how many billboards do you see advertising clothing? How many clothing commercials do you see during your favorite television show? Posters, signs and billboards are always surrounding us. They tell us what’s popular, or what we must have. Advertisers coax people into buying the “popular” products with colorful signs or flashy commercials, and they try to further interest us with sales. But have you noticed that they never say “make your own style” or “don’t follow the ‘typical’ group.” Ads constantly use models to enhance the look of their product, and endorse whole outfits. When kids go into a store they look for the jeans they saw on a billboard on the way there, and a sweater one of the workers or mannequins are wearing. How is a kid able to express his or her individuality when they’re surrounded by so many influences since the day they’re born?


Families are no help to the matter. There are so many cases when a young kid decides to pick out their outfit for the day. They go downstairs and are immediately told to go back and put on something “normal.” Parents always choose their kids’ outfits based on what looks right and appropriate for an occasion. Rarely do they ever allow their kid to choose what they’d like to wear. Along with parents, older siblings also affect the individuality of a child. A little girl’s biggest role model is her older sister. She’ll strive to copy her sister’s looks and actions, and usually the older sister is unaware of her influence. The eldest will continue to obsess over clothes and accessories, and the little girl will slowly catch on, deviating from her own style and want to be different. I believe older siblings have no idea how much they influence younger kids. Unfortunately they effect more than physical looks. They can also demonstrate habits of smoking, drinking and inappropriate sexual behavior. Having strict parents and older siblings, a child is very likely to lose sight of their individual thoughts and behaviors.


Along with family and celebrity influence, media is another big factor that alters the individuality of person. The news is constantly telling us who to vote for, or what to believe, or what to support. If Americans really valued individualism, they would simply give us unbiased information and allow us to choose for ourselves what is right or wrong. Media also persuades us by its technological advancements. Videogames teach young boys that it’s okay to use violence to accomplish things. These videogames have led to countless amounts of kids being misled to use weapons to harm themselves and others. Music is one of the most influential forms of media. Every kid likes to listen to music, not only for the beats, but because the lyrics guide them and inform them with what’s “right.” Most rap music endorses the glam life of being famous. Songs promote drinking, and partying, even the disrespect of women. If a young kid hears these ideas in a song, they assume it’s good. They usually aren’t told that lyrics can be negatively influential. Most forms of media are used to learn and become informed. But, they also add pressures to a person’s individuality to believe certain things or follow certain ideas.


When L. Robert Kohls wrote The Values Americans Live By he discussed that Americans valued individuality. He stated “each individual is seen as completely and marvelously unique, that is, totally different from all other individuals and, therefore, particularly precious and wonderful.” But I don’t think he took into account the influences of everyday life. Americans today can be influenced by many different factors such as celebrities, advertisements, media, and even their own family. These factors will cause a person’s individuality to fluctuate throughout their life. A person in America will never fully be able to value their own individual ideas and beliefs due to the influences around them.





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