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14th November 2020

Can we be unique in a postmodern world?

The exploration of uniqueness and its co-existence with social media trends in a postmodern world
Can we be unique in a postmodern world?
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Can we be unique?

We ask ourselves this question almost every day: when we wake up, when we shower, when we choose what we want to wear. Whether you realise it or not, your brain is making subconscious decisions to help you develop your own style. We all have an ‘image’ of how we want people to see us. But how do we decide that? How do we know what’s hip and what’s not?

In my opinion, the simple answer is: the media.

The online world bombards us with messages about what the biggest Tik Tok star is wearing this Autumn, what hairstyle Jenifer Lawrence is choosing next, and what secret message Kanye is trying to convey through his songs. These messages, besides playing a role in how we determine our ‘style’, they are the essence of the postmodern world. 

Postmodernism has leant towards many literary, political, and cultural movements, as well as various types of aesthetics. However, it can be simply understood as the most recent period of change in fundamental thinking. Before this period came the modern period, which was characterised by the Renaissance and the Industrial Revolution. 

Although some dispute when the modern era ended and the postmodern era began, I think it’s clear that we are travelling further and further away from modern thinking and into a whole new age of globalisation. As a result of this, it’s important that we understand the world we are living in, especially considering it’s now mostly online. 

To give you an idea of the scale of this change, we can take American politics as an example. A hundred years ago, it would have taken several weeks of travel and a public announcement for every specific town to learn that Amy Coney Barrett had been inducted into the Supreme Court. In contrast, this morning it took me 30 seconds to log onto my news app and find out almost instantaneously from the breaking news article.

The way we interact with others has changed dramatically in the last century. We can chat with friends who live halfway around the world almost as easily as we do with our flatmates. One can’t recognise it enough how incredible this is. Could you imagine living in an age without Zoom, E-mail or WhatsApp? We’d be lost with Covid-19 restricting our daily lives. 

With our online lives taking centre stage, it’s no surprise our image does as well. Just think for a moment, are you the same person in real life as the person you are online? I have to admit that it’s not always the case for me. The online world makes us brave, makes us willing to try new things and branch out into communities beyond our local ones.

Online culture is always changing under the influence of trends that spread across the globe. From America to Russia, people share styles.  Some recent examples are e-boys and -girls, cottage-core, and countless other identities that are not locked to one location like they would have been in the modern era.

While we may not think about it, we form our identity based on what we see and the online sphere is an inextricable part of the world around us. 

Though online trends amass huge followings and can be found across the globe, they are far from monolithic. Everyone has their own interpretation of a trend because everybody wants to be unique.

A fantastic example is Punk Rock, which found its footing in Britain in the mid-1970s. Punk Rockers took material objects that otherwise had no connection to each other and mashed them together to form a whole new identity, one which defied the norms and portrayed a strong image, one that was independent of any other in the UK at that time. It is in this sense that Punk Rockers were unique.

However, as a collective, no Punk Rocker looked quite the same, as each of them had a different interpretation of what the symbols they chose to wear meant. Through subtle differences in clothing and style, Punk Rockers found uniqueness within a combined identity.

Can we, therefore, be unique?

Yes! I believe that we can be one of a kind in the postmodern world. No matter what everyone says, you have your own style, your own beliefs, and your own right to uniqueness.

Embrace your choices and be proud of what makes you your own person.

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