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Posted on April 1st, 2012, by

Identity is a very important issue which, however, evokes heat debates because of the consistent changes in the life of the modern society. Traditionally, identity is closely associated with the identification of an individual with certain group, ethnic or cultural, which has certain set of values, norms and standards. At the same time, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that identity is quite a complex concept which should be viewed at different levels. In this respect, it is possible to distinguish personal and social level of an individual’s identity. What is meant here is the fact that each individual shapes his or her own identity but, at the same time, the individual’s identity is influenced by the impact of the social environment of an individual that leads to the formation of his or her cultural identity, i.e. identity at the social level. On the other hand, the individual identity is still homogeneous because, normally, individual does not have a double identity. Therefore, the concept of identity can be defined as a set of norms, standards, values and models of behavior shaped by an individual in the course of his or her personal development under the impact of his or her personal experience and social environment, including the impact of social relations, cultural traditions, existing social norms and standards.

The major difficulty that arises in the course of the formation and definition of identity in the modern society is the problem of the growing cultural diversity of the modern society. What is meant here is the fact that traditionally an individual identity formed under the impact of a steady cultural norms and traditions existing in the society but the modern world grows more and more diverse because people interact with each other more dynamically than they used to in the past. The modern society is a globalized society where representatives of different cultures interact with each other and cultural differences tend to disappear.

In such a situation, many people face the problem of self-identification, especially when they move from one country to another. In such a situation, people face the problem of identification because their cultural identity, which they have shaped in the course of their life, may come into conflict with their new cultural environment, which is different from their traditional cultural environment. As a result, people cannot always identify themselves with certain social group, either ethnic or cultural, and they need to modify their identity and adapt to the new cultural environment.

Many people who have such problems tend to develop multiple identities, which imply the use of different models of behavior in a different social environment. What is meant here is the fact that an immigrant, for instance, can have one different model of behavior when he or she is in his or her community and another model of behavior when he or she interact with the dominant cultural or ethnic group. As a result, this individual may have different identities because in his or her community he or she has one model of behavior, obeys to certain cultural and social norms and traditions, whereas being outside of his or her community he or she needs to develop a different model of behavior and accept social and cultural norms of the dominant group. As a result, it is possible to speak about the multiple identities as well as about the problem of the self-identification of an individual.

At the same time, one does not need to move from one country to another to have problems with definition of his or her identity. For instance, when I moved from my native town to another one, I saw how different people were there. I felt being a stranger there, although I stayed in one and the same country and presumably I shared the same values and norms as any people living in any city of this country. Nevertheless, I have noticed certain differences between my identity and the local people. The most obvious difference was the language. At first, I was a bit embarrassed when I just started speaking local people noticed immediately that I was not a local person and I came from a different place. This difference made me feel a kind of outsider and I needed some time to get used to the local linguistic specificities and, in the course of time, I have even learned to speak in the same way the local people do. Nevertheless, I feel that my identity has changed under the impact of the new social environment because a new town has its traditions and people have their own interests which are different from those I get used. For instance, I like sport but as I moved to the new city I had to accept the idea that there no supporters of those teams which I used to support and still support.

In such a way, identity is a very complex concept which is vulnerable to changes in the course of the personal development and under the impact of social environment of an individual.

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