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Symbolic Interactionism - Essay Example

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Due Date Theory: Symbolic Interaction Theory (Mead and Blumer) Word Count: 817 Applying Symbolic Interaction Theory to Personal Experiences Society is made up of individuals’ subjective interpretation and belief. This is the main premise of the symbolic interaction theory…
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Due Theory: Symbolic Interaction Theory (Mead and Blumer) Word Count: 817 Applying Symbolic Interaction Theory to Personal Experiences Society is made up of individuals’ subjective interpretation and belief. This is the main premise of the symbolic interaction theory. This theory focuses on the symbolic meaning that individuals create and use during social interaction. Symbolic interactionism understands society by focusing on the subjective meanings that individuals assign to behaviors, occurrences, and objects. Such subjective meanings are emphasized because it is assumed that individuals act according to their belief and not simply based on what is objectively factual. This theory may be used to explain the attributes of our social groups, or why we decide to belong to a certain social network. I have a personal experience that substantiates these assumptions. During my university days I became part of a ‘socially disliked’ circle of friends. My family and teachers persistently persuaded me to leave the group and look for other friends, those who are, according to them, ‘good’ influence. But I did not yield to their advices for I felt a genuine feeling of belongingness in the group. My friends were chain smokers and heavy drinkers. They were carefree and always cheerful. They find happiness in simple things, like walking in the park and road tripping. Ironically, I am quite the opposite. I am always anxious and I consistently worry about things. Unlike them, I am not a smoker. I indulge in alcoholic beverages occasionally. Hence, it became quite puzzling for many why I have friends who were a total opposite of me. I am well aware that my friends were considered by most as ‘delinquent’ and a ‘bad’ influence. But I see them differently. I see them as ‘normal’ people who inspire me to take things lightly and get out of my comfort zone. They gave me the motivation to persuade my parents to accept the course I want to take in college. Hence, my subjective view of my friends dominates the assumption of many that they were deviant and detrimental to my future. Through the symbolic interaction theory I was able to fully understand why my perception of my friends was a total opposite of the belief of society about them. The most important concepts and principles of symbolic interactionism helped me understand the role of subjective interpretation in my social life. The concepts of meaning, language, and ‘minding’ provided an explanation of how I formed a sense of self through socialization. Meaning emerges in social interaction, or, basically, it arises in the perspective of relationships. How we assign meaning to the objects, people, and things around us will determine our behavior toward them. I view my friends’ excessive vices, particularly their heavy drinking and smoking, as ways to deal with the pressures around them and the high expectations of their family for them. Similarly, Mead believes that communication between individuals will be effective only when they use a shared language. My favorable attitude toward my friends develops from my constant communication and interaction we them. We spoke a common language—the language of our generation. Hence, we did not expect older generations to correctly understand us. As regards the concept of ‘minding’, which is a thoughtful pause by which we adjust our understanding of symbols, I always had a natural, unpretentious communication with my friends. It seems that we had a similar mechanism of conversing with our inner selves. Another concept that explains the reason behind my positive attitude toward my friends who were labeled ‘deviant’ by many in our community is the looking glass self. This concept refers to the mental picture that arises from taking the role of other people. Ironically, I see myself in my friends. They actually embody the individual that I genuinely want to be—a person that is untroubled and happy-go-lucky. Hence, my role-taking ability became carefree; I am able to communicate openly and interact positively with other people, but I became more appreciative and perceptive of their possible response to me. However, I also encountered a role conflict, because my parents expect a student like me to behave and perform well in school, yet I acted differently during that time. My friends taught me how to be composed in times of disorder and extreme pressure. I took on this role, but it conflicted with the ‘traditional’ role that my parents expect me to play. Although the theory was criticized for downplaying the impact of larger social forces on individual interactions, symbolic interactionism was still helpful in my attempt to understand my own self and the kind of social groups I prefer to belong to. Because of this personal experience, I became convinced that our attitudes toward others are determined by our symbolic interpretation of their actions or the subjective meanings we impose on them. Hence, from then on, I try to view other people through my subjective experience and interaction with them, and not through other people’s perception of them. Read More
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