Just before one of my exams two months ago (meanwhile, time does fly!), I busied myself with explaining Erikson’s theory of personality development and its implication for the media to some of my classmates. You know this fresh burst of insight that one gets with each round of explanation given on a subject, I had a large dose of it at the end of the day.
In summary, Erickson’s theory describes how a person’s identity is built and impacted by the socialisations that run through his lifespan. An interesting assumption of this theory, however, is that a person’s conscious sense of self constantly changes due to daily experiences and information that he acquires through interactions with his environment (this includes fellow human beings, media content, etc). It struck me at some point that I have changed a lot from who I used to be and my ideologies constantly go through a process of renewal and modification.
Let us start from something as “trivial” as the use of abbreviations on social media posts or in chats. A number of my friends and acquaintances have remarked that my chats always appear prim and proper as I abbreviate only expressions like “lol” and “smh”. I have become so mindful of it that I’d usually rather pay for a longer text message that abbreviates it. I, of some years back, was an expert in writing abbreviations and I found it fun. But then, experiences and aspirations began to change my mindset towards it. I discovered that the more I wrote words in full, the higher my chances of always remembering my spellings. My ambition to take up a career in writing and communication also meant that I had to consciously ensure that I spell and punctuate as accurately as possible every time I get a chance.
I have also wondered at how I have changed from someone who used to recoil at every appearance of opposition to someone who takes opposition in stride and goes on to assert my stand on issues. Someone who knew me when I was a little girl would not be wrong to describe me in a certain way, judging from my identity that was evident then. Nevertheless, the person would also be wrong in the light of the person I have evolved into over the years. I had experiences that toughened up; I read books that showed me who I felt I should be and I followed the process to nurture myself up till the stage I am currently at.
What did these reflections from that course teach me?
People aren’t always the hypocrites we paint them to be. If someone once said that only people of a certain religious orientation were worthy of blessings and today he speaks a contrary ideology, calling him out as a two-faced person may not be appropriate. If a lady once prided herself as a hater of men but is now in love with a man who she dotes on and whose pictures she disturbs our timelines with, labelling her a deceiver may not capture the true picture of things. Interactions with their environment could have transformed their schools of thought and disposition. So, while I do not advocate for people changing with every wind of doctrine or experience they come in contact with or wavering in their beliefs, I still strongly believe that we cannot live through life without adjustments on our identity once in a while. Hence, we need to sometimes judge people less harshly.