continuous spectrum

This is an excerpt from a social comparison theory essay I wrote in 2008 while attending the University of Minnesota – Duluth. The essay focuses on hidden messages in the media that negatively affect our well-being.

“…we spend tons of money on pointless things to try and fit in and be happy. As a result we spend more time working pointless jobs (some jobs are very important – a LOT are… but there are a LOT of pointless ones too) and producing pointless commodities (like expensive clothing, make-up, jewelry, haircuts, bling-bling, fancy sports cars and huge homes that are empty 90% of the time) just to feel better about ourselves. It’s a material world that revolves around money. Well the truth is, it is all a lie. Everyone is beautiful; we all have a light that shines brightly inside of us. Changing what we look like on the outside does not change who we are on the inside. All we have done is “raise the standard” of our image, so to speak. if everyone stopped trying to cover up who they are on the outside, and instead started expressing their inner selves through outward methods, I feel like the “standard” would return to an equilibrium and everyone would start to feel beautiful again. We would produce cheaper commodities to save money for more important areas of economical growth like food, health, shelter, art, and travel. People would be less insecure, happier, and more aware of the true world around them and not just focused on a recreation of the human mind. It would be a different world… a much better one.

However, this dream seems far off in the distance… forever approaching, but never occurring. it is something that should have happened a long time ago; or rather… the corruption that brought us to where we are now should never have occurred. It is our own fault. We have been in hibernation for far too long… it is time to wake up. As we grow older as individuals, and collectively as humans, I feel like it is easier for us to understand the messages that are corrupting our minds simply because we’ve had more time to finally ask why? The answer to this question will let us awaken from our deep sleep; we just need to find that answer in ourselves. When we finally understand, the message becomes much clearer, and is certainly not the same. We realize that such messages have influenced the creation of a social-sensory norm. This norm directly influences expectations an other’s image and actions. A norm is an average, or more so the mode of a wide circular spectrum. Imagine you have a positive force and a negative force; you try to add them together and they pull closer and closer to zero, or a neutral area. The positive and negative forces symbolize both groups of people on either side of the norm, or in this case, the neutral area. Because we see more of this ‘norm’ than we do other characteristics, we feel the need to conform to it… we see it as a balance point… when really it is more like a point of imbalance. It is a catalyst for social chaos because we bring ourselves down in the process. At this point we are zero. We are neither positive nor negative. We are completely neutral and asleep. But we must realize that the spectrum is not a line, but a circle. Knowing this, it becomes completely pointless to compare ourselves to other people. There will always be someone higher or lower on the spectrum than us; there are no ends. Yet most of us still seem to compare ourselves to people who we perceive to be ‘better’ than us. There is no better or worse; the social norm created through hidden messages in media has made us believe there is this neutral area, with positive on the right and negative on the left. When you realize the spectrum is a circle, the neutral area becomes meaningless. There is no reference point, just a vast spectrum of infinity. Imagine a color wheel, with all the colors of the rainbow reaching around the circle. There are neutral colors (black, gray, brown, white), but they do not lie on the circle; instead they lie on a point within the circle. This neutral area in the center of the circle is the social norm I am speaking of. As you can see, any person (symbolized by a unique frequency of color) that conforms to this norm (neutral color) is not being his/her self. This is something that in my eyes are very danger and unhealthy to the individual. This is also why not everyone becomes this norm. Lots of people understand the underlying messages in the media and feel no need to conform to it. They believe it is more important to express their inner being on the outside as well (instead of suppress it). Every one person is a vastly unique individual and that being true, the way these people dress and act would be quite near the opposite side of the circular social spectrum.

The more and more people begin to see this, and the more individuals begin expressing their inner selves on the outside, the more diverse people will seem to be from each other. With that, hopefully we can lose the negative feelings we have created by social comparison. Something we can do to speed up this process, is not to take life so seriously. Everything now-a-days is so organized and so formal, where everyone dresses the same and it’s nearly impossible to determine varying personalities from person to person without deeply interrogating everyone. Lose the formality and serious environment, and everything becomes much lighter, as if you were seeing colors along the spectrum you never noticed before. In order to really make a difference, and prevent hidden media messages from leaving a harmful impact on society, we have to start with ourselves as individuals and make a change for the better there. If everyone were to do this, there would be no social comparison.”

I can definitely say that I could have wrote this paper way better and in a manor more useful and easily interpreted, however I do feel like I have a very good point… in any case it is something to take a look at. 🙂