We Are Destined to Become Puppets of Society
We are supposed to follow the stream, at least during adolescence.
As group creatures, much of our lives are characterised by wanting, trying or needing to fit in.
In my years of early adolescence, I participated in this endless run.
- I persuaded my parents to buy me overly expensive branded jeans, or I scouted the shops for hours myself to find the exact same shirt as one of my peers that I’d then wear to school the next day, pretending it was a coincidence when it obviously wasn’t.
- I went to parties that added no value to my life and didn’t want to go to in the first place
- I chose hobbies and sports based on what my friends at the time were doing.
In a collective environment, it can be detrimental to your peace of mind, or academic or professional progress, if you fall by the wayside.
Outside of their own clique, an “outcast” isn’t safe from brats who shove them in the hallways, steal their lunch and call them nasty names.
At work, they may not be considered for that new position because they feel like a black sheep and avoid drawing any attention to themselves. This can result in their peers thinking they won’t make a good leader and they’re not social enough to handle a management position higher up. How would they be able to direct a group if they’re not part of it, or willing to be part of it, to begin with?
In high school environments, excluding themselves from the pack can make them a great target for bullying. This individual is different, weird, and they’re alone all the time. Why are they like that? Why are they not the same, or at least similar to you? There we have it: a reason to pick on them to make yourself feel better! At least, if you were lacking confidence in your earlier years.
After all, you are not the weird one now. This other person is.
Where does this behaviour come from? Insecurities, partly. Lack of understanding that billions of unique human beings walk on this earth, and chances are they might see the world differently than you. You might not agree with their clothing style, their view on life, or their hobbies.
“Origami? Why the heck would they want to do that?”
“Gaming? Ugh, what a nerd.”
Maybe your home situation wasn’t that rosy, and you felt a need to vent or unleash your frustrations you endured behind closed doors elsewhere at the expense of someone else. Even better, do this in front of a group, make them all laugh, and voila, your coolness factor just increased tenfold. Ideally, you get punished for it by a peer who tells you you’re being an a-hole, and that kindness is the way to move ahead in this life.
Then and now
Choices your adolescent-you made, you’d probably make differently today.
When you’re dropped off at high school as a freshman, you enter a new environment. A school, this tiny ecosystem, modelling the “real world” you’ll later enter. You stop spending so much time with the family and form deep friendships with peers, who hear about the ins and outs of your life, and they share theirs with you as well. Slowly but surely, a social identity for yourself emerges.
You learn to resist peer influence. This skill is developed during adolescence and increases between the middle and late teen years (ages 14–18). We learn to ignore what others think we should do.
Adults may process a social situation with more ease and reliance on how to act next due to already stored social knowledge. Teenagers may still be “working out” how social situations work. For this, they need the exposure and more experience.
The difference between adults and adolescents in decision-making may also be due to a particular open-mindedness during the teens and early 20s to new ideas and different types of people*.
We need to become puppets of society, to learn how to live within the framework of a society. Unless we retreat to an uninhabited island or vow to live on the countryside, secluded from all contact with humans, without internet access, that is.
In our earlier years, we need to learn how to behave in a social situation, what the rules are. So that we can bend them if we want to. That makes us puppets of society, but only for a short while.