Erik Erikson, an American psychologist, believed that young adults, face the challenge of Identity vs. Role Confusion. They struggle with the questions, “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?.” Such an answer can come through exploring different roles, setting goals, and trying to discover one’s “adult” self. The hardship of finding one’s self concept can be expressed through youth culture, through the values, traditions, and practices that all young adults share. However, the true difficulty of these questions is that it is hard to describe yourself. The concept of “identity” is not tangible, there are many parts and nuances to it. But at such a confusing time, society forces young adults to define their identity. What do you want to study in college? What do you want to be when your older? Yet, I believe that the journey of finding your identity and purpose is the greatest hurdle of any young adult. There should be no rush to figuring out “Who am I?” If you just live happily in the present, experiencing each moment to the fullest, then the answer will come to you. This is what makes youth culture, and this is how youth culture influences people.
As an adolescent myself, music is what first comes to mind when I think of youth culture. It is the basis for any activity that young adults take part in, including going to concerts for entertainment or listening to calming music while working on that last research paper. Not only is music a major factor in what defines youth culture, but also I believe that it is a catalyst for people to find their true selves. The genres of music that a person enjoys can reflect their personality. For instance, if someone likes jazz, they could be a deep and calm thinker while someone else who enjoys pop music may be more extraverted. Also, just like a best friend or an inspiring teacher, music can help unlock feelings and ideas that you would not otherwise notice. It can give a sense of well-being by providing support to relieve stress and allow people to express themselves freely, whether they make, perform, or listen to it. From personal experience, I always go back to Frank Sinatra or Nat King Cole when I want to relax and escape harsh reality for a bit. Thus, music has the capability to improve confidence and security, helping to develop a positive self concept. Moreover, even though you may not know yourself completely, you can trust that your sense of music will remain consistent. Your taste in music may change or adapt with time, but for the most part, the genres and artists that you identify with when you were young will stick with you forever. This is because of the nostalgia that you can get from listening to old songs that you love. They can bring happiness and comfort and invoke memories of friends and experiences that can help reaffirm your identity. For me, I started to branch out my music interests to modern hip hop and jazz, but the 1950s to 1980s rock music will always be my favorite.
With its drastic rise in popularity in the last decade, it is true to say that social media stands alongside music in defining youth culture. Although it may seem to be a time-waster and a distraction from work, I think that social media has an immense influence in developing identity. Many adolescents can develop social skills while also being able to identify with multiple communities and friend groups by using various social media applications. This technology gives people the opportunity to deepen bonds with existing friends and family through sharing experiences, but also it allows many to meet with others all around the world, thus being able to learn and appreciate other cultures. I personally met one of my greatest friends through a random comment section on Instagram and he lives 2000 miles away; and even though I never met him in real life, I rely on this friend for support, even if I just need someone to talk to. Additionally, being exposed to many media outlets, young adults can become more aware of themselves and society in present time. Whether it be through politics or cultural relations, people can learn more about what is happening and how they fit in this place called earth.
Finally, it is during adolescence that people start to build deep relationships with others. It is at this time when you know who really are your friends and start looking for romantic partners. But, whether it is a friendship or romantic relationship, your partner influences you and changes how you perceive yourself, whether that is positively or negatively. When you create a relationship, your idea of identity and self concept can adapt, some parts of your identity can increase while others can diminish. To elaborate, the other party can show you new feelings, values, or hobbies that you never thought that you would have, thus causing you to add or expand upon traits to your self-concept. If it wasn’t for my friend, I would have never known that I enjoy cooking; four years ago, he somehow made me cook dinner for my mom’s birthday, and everyone seemed to partially enjoy it. On the other hand, new relationships can also force you to leave or neglect other parts of yourself. For example, if you like to watch or play a certain sport, but your partner has shown disinterest towards it, you may need to start putting less time and effort into it to have time to build your relationship. However, this is not a bad thing per se, it is a trade-off with derailing your life to create a new track with your partner. Moreover, if this is a healthy and stable connection, you will gain a better sense of self than you could ever have if you didn’t take the first steps to creating that new relationship.
In this essay, I’m trying to discuss how through music, social media, and relationships, youth culture can help many young adults find or at least get closer to the impossible question of “Who am I?” But like I said before, you shouldn’t be in a hurry to find your identity, even if the people around you forces you to do so, or you’ll end up more confused. So don’t fret about the future or past, experience and enjoy everything in the moment, and you will find the answer. That’s what’s so great about being young and having the opportunity to be a part of youth culture.
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