By Kimya Afshar
You are not going to be satisfied with yourself. Not because you haven’t worked hard enough to attain some impossible standard of your aesthetic goals, or realized your greatest potential. The person we are, and are constantly becoming, is not a result of free will or personal design. We have no individual agency in the most instrumental aspects of our identity or how they manifest, and thus we are forever at the mercy of fate, socialization, and sociocultural expectations to determine the trajectory of our lives.
Having Grown up in an age defined by the exponential progression of technology, people born since the turn of the century looked to the dogma of media as a prescriptive religion. Depending on the chance of your relative demeanor growing up, you fell into a corresponding realm of the deep dark web which accordingly shaped your pliable brain.
The randomness which determined our relative technological enclave formed the foundation for everything which happened thereafter. Our fallenness precedes our free will, and continues as we grow into the world. We’re not creatures acting upon our own volition; rather, we continually fall into different environments and interests, without any true agency or individual control.
Without any explicit intention, as directionless, and amorphous young kids, we had no personal influence in the subsequent information we were fed. Whatever apps or websites our siblings left open and whatever happened to be dominating lunchtime conversation was what we patroned. Tumblr’s ‘thinspo’ trend induced the formation of eating disorders for millions of young, impressionable girls on the internet, while YouTube personalities and video games implicitly validated violence and destructive tendencies as a form of communication, humor, and expression for young boys. The media we consumed, whether explicitly instructing us to starve ourselves to achieve an impossible standard of beauty, or implicitly validating any tendency towards violence which may bud in a growing young person, shaped our predispositions and preconceptions about the world.
Our initial socialization based upon the primary forms of media which we consumed as young people, coupled with the immovable fact of our appearance, helped to form the foundation for the rest of our lives- including our subsequent relationships, interests, aesthetics, and all of the other things we mistakenly covet as our own.
Coupled with our initial media exposure and our subsequent assimilation and internalization, is the most immovable fact of our existence: our appearance. People are scientifically more inclined towards others based on implicit biases working in our subconscious; our appearance shapes the currents that work to create our character and our aesthetics. We’re forever destined to drown in these waters, helplessly dragged along by the unyielding propel of fate.
Preestablished expectations are associated with the face you present: beauty is correlated with an expectation of vacancy, while masculinity is associated with power and command. Implicit biases reign supreme in the background of our mental processing, while psychological priming further perpetuates this self reinforcing system. We assume a certain standard of behavior out of people, and they behave accordingly, thus reinforcing preconceived assumptions and ensuring the continuation of the existing social hierarchy.
The types of clothes which we choose to wear, the hobbies we pick up, and the people we seek out are borne from the communities we once patronized; spaces in which we feel most comfortable due to years of conformity, conditioning, and assimilation as a result of our fallenness. The idea of free will and individual choice are a fallacy: the subliminal messaging of the media you consumed, and the expectations associated with your appearance, funneled you into these groups and communities.
We accessorize and adorn our bodies under the misguided impression of self expression; we believe our aesthetic, from the clothes we wear to piercings we sport, are a display of our uniqueness, and a proud gesture of our individuality in this human experience. From the onset, however, the tragedy of our fate renders this assumption moot.
No matter how niche or mainstream, how overdone or fresh, you’re still conforming to a certain standard of behavior, for a certain enclave or community. You, along with your counterparts in expression, have been conditioned by similar forces to adopt aesthetics and modes of behavior.
Different enclaves embody these different conformist niches; the blonde, stick thin flock together, occupying large swaths of sorority row. Notorious for their similarities, both they, as actors, and their social environment, made of spectators, perpetuate a kind of social expectation. Equally visible are groups of indie kids which compete to know the most underground artists; seeking individuality through conformity, competing for oneness in interests and hobbies shared by members of their community.
Likewise, tattoos and piercings, with their relative placements and stories are byproducts of our relative environments–not aesthetic choices of our own individual design. Hobbies, sports, inclinations, and tastes are similarly reflections of our thrownness into this world–all of these personal preferences are the culmination of factors which exist and evolve out of our control. From the appearance-based conditioning to the socialization which takes its root in whatever kinds of subliminal messaging we were exposed to growing up,the person we become is not a being of our own design.
The social circles we exist within, stores we buy from, and kinds of media we consume all work as a constant reinforcement of our socialization and place in society: validation is based on conformity, falsification, and blind projection of common archetypes. Like helpless animals, we’re unconscious of the currents which push and pull us in the different directions and shape the trajectories of our relative lives.
There’s no resolution, if that’s what you’re looking for. We live in a state of constant social regulation without any true individual agency or control. Our pining for social and emotional security of belonging drives our internal forces of discrimination, and in turn shapes the trajectory of our lives. Our ideas of right and wrong, good and bad, and hot or not delineate our place in the word. As our fallenness precedes our free will.