Identity and culture, though not the same concept, are intimately intertwined. Culture is a way of life specific to a group of people, it’s their customs, their history and heritage. It’s part of who we are and shapes us to a certain extent. Identity means knowing who you are. However, with the growing influence of mass media, popular culture and social media, both notions are becoming increasingly complex as they interact and merge with different groups and cultures.
As our reach is expanding and distance becomes irrelevant, identity is adapting and becoming richer. Identity is no longer fixed but susceptible to change as we grow within social spheres, enter new ones and leave others. It is no longer solely determined by one’s inherited cultural and social background. Our aptitude to travel and leave familiar places has brought people that we would’ve considered strangers closer. Knowledge and culture now rest in our hands with a swipe of a finger. Everything is shifting and merging in a way that enables us to take part in social and cultural experiences that otherwise, we would’ve had no access to. Inherited beliefs and habits no longer bind us like they used to, instead, there is arguably more freedom when building who we are and want to be. The traditional senses of identity and community no longer apply.
However, as our culture has embraced those changes, the government, banks, employers and schools are not so flexible. They now require a plethora of detailed information, thus creating a web of information on each individual, regardless of their age. We have started relying on these hidden actors to keep our files in order and that of others, trusting these technological infrastructures rather than the people in front of us. As identity becomes more flexible, it is much harder to find truthful information on one’s identity. And that is without talking about social media, now more of a brightly coloured veil displaying the best of ourselves through carefully selected and orchestrated images, posts and videos.
Nowadays, identity has gained in freedom, we are no longer restrained by strict definitions of the term. I believe we have gained a certain amount of freedom when building our identity, we have more choice and opportunities and yet, a new question arises as the truth becomes easier to twist according to our desires, one where the terms identity and avatar come into play and anchor themselves in today’s world.