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Challenges for social grouping in the modern world

By Esma Gumberidze
Friday, July 18
Continued from previous issue

Despite the fact that social groups in some forms will exist as long as humanity does, modern ideas of individualism and plurality, are becoming more and more popular and valuable. The Concept of "not better, not worse- just different" breaks society into smaller and smaller groups, undermining the importance of solidarity and unity, and weakening the boundaries between people within social groups.

On the one hand, individualism and plurality encourage personal self-development, self-expression, personal independence and freedom by putting an emphasis on the appreciation and value of the differences between individuals and in that way increasing individuals' self-confidence, self-esteem, creativity, personal responsibility and initiative.

These traits are essential for a competitive free market, because an individual, who knows that one would be personally awarded, praised and recognized for a job well-done and would be alone. One would be personally punished for a job not done well enough, and would be more motivated and responsible to work well, than if one could hide behind the backs of the members of one’s social group. On the other hand, however, in conditions of strong individualism and plurality, a person becomes self-centered and self-important. Humans start feeling that they should follow only their own point of view and live by their own rules and that they are strong enough and capable of living all by themselves without any emotional, moral or financial support from others. People start being afraid to be like others. Individuals in conditions of strong individualism and plurality are looking at themselves to find how different they are from the rest of humanity and even try to make these differences up, sometimes putting incredible efforts just to get themselves to be different from others in as many ways as possible, rather than trying to find ways in which they are similar to other people around them.

In the modern world of a highly competitive global market (corporations and individual professionals compete with counterparts not only from their own countries, but with colleagues from all over the world), which is the result of a high level or degree of labor division, technological progress, easy and fast ways of communication with individuals from all over the world, who depend on each other more than ever.

However, these boundaries aren't noticeable and because of some progress in human rights' protection, giving equal opportunity to everyone, i.e. individuals practically can survive without someone's emotional or financial support, which would give that individual more independence from the influence of others. If someone helps you, you are expected to consider your helper's opinions and if you survive independently, you don't need to conform as often. But living without anybody's support is much more stressful, because a person functioning all by oneself would have to make every single choice on their own considering all possible advantages and disadvantages of every option.

In the modern world because of the overflow of information, there are so many options, and it's hard to make choices independently just by finding out about available options alone without someone's guidance. For example, when I eat at home in Georgia, usually I have option of a couple dishes which I can choose. I know what each dish is made out of and I know my preferences, so I can easily make choices independently. But when I was an exchange student in the US and my host family took me to a restaurant, there was a menu of several hundred different dishes made out of different ingredients and with names that wouldn't tell me anything. In theory, of course, I could go through the whole menu, finding out what each dish was made out of by asking the waiter to give me information about them and choose what to eat that way, but it would take me hours or maybe even days to study all the available information about dishes listed in the menu and I needed to make a choice in several minutes, so I had to ask my host family to make a decision for me and pick a dish for me to eat.

With such a personal example I wanted to show how modern technology was providing too much easily accessible information instead of helping humans to make informed and independent choices. This actually disturbs humans' from making independent choices and indeed makes them rely more and more on opinions of others. Besides human nature always tries to find an ideal option, but because there's so much information about every possible choice, individuals can easily and quickly find out about disadvantages of any option and, therefore, humans can't satisfy their demand for the ideal anymore.

A high level of tolerance is required from a person in order to succeed in the modern world, the concept of "not better, not worse, just different" also undermines the purpose of making a choice, because if you are not supposed to evaluate some social group or ideology as acceptable or unacceptable and ideologies and social groups can't be better or worse (they can just be different) from an individual which is used to it, since every option (ideology or social group) has to be viewed as equally good and bad at the same time, there's no point in making choices between things, that have no advantages or disadvantages in comparison with each other.

Then there's no matter, which social group an individual joins or which ideology supports, because all of them are equally good and bad in their own ways. For instance, it's really hard for an educated person to decide, what kind of political party to support, because left-directed parties are ready to spend more money on social projects, well-fare and human rights' protection. However money to be invested in free healthcare, education, free housing for the poor, etc will be taken from hard-working tax-payers and they will lose the motivation to work, because they could realize, that they could have a good quality of life using social support instead of working and paying taxes, while right-directed parties promise smaller taxes for businesses, which will give them motivation to develop and improve, but on the other hand, because of smaller revenues of budget. In the case of right-directed parties taking on a leading role in the country, there won't be enough resources for social projects, so people, who struggle to support themselves and survive in this competitive world, will be left alone to face their problems.

Because the demand for an ideal and best solution is still installed in human nature, people feel more and more stressed, depressed and even unhappy trying to make the ideal choice. Looking for the best becomes so time-consuming that people have less and less time to socialize. Individualism encourages people to do without the help of others and be strong, which takes a lot of time and effort. Since many people are strong and don't need help, it's harder and harder for them to realize why do they need each other, unite in social groups and recognize similarities in each other. That's why an individual identifies oneself with many different social groups at the same time and that's why society is being divided into increasingly smaller parts and even within already created social groups bounds between members tend to become weaker.

To be continued