As a species, humans are generally social beings. Constantly forming groups and group identities, thriving off of others’ successes within their groups, and competing and battling with other groups that are not their own are excellent examples of this occurring throughout human society. Because of humanity’s social nature, we develop ourselves a lot based on the people around us. One person has his or her own identity, but the other people around them heavily influence this identity.
For instance, if there were no other people around, how would one know what an identity is, much less their own? In addition, if other people do not influence your identity, then it should logically follow that the individual is the sole reason for the development of his or her identity.
The logical conclusion then is that your genes construct your identity. Which would mean people with the exact same genetic make- up and components should have the same identity, in theory.
However, as shown through multiple studies of twins, two people known to have very similar or identical genetic components, this is not always the case.
When separated, they may lead very similar lives, but when together they lead lives that are not so similar. Finally, an individual might want to do many different things. However, the group that individual associates himself with guides his choices and decisions, influencing which of those things he wants to do in life. It is for all the reasons stated above that other people have a definite influence on someone’s identity.
The question now becomes, how much of an influence does someone else have on your identity? This question is not so easy to answer. For the same reasons as stated above, the amount of influence people have on someone else’s identity varies from person to person. In other words, how much people influence your identity is also a part of that same identity. The three topics described above help to answer this question. What happens when someone has no one around to influence his or her identity? Do two people who are exact copies of each other have the same identity? Finally, how do the groups people associate themselves with affect their identities? The answer to these questions will help to answer the first.
What happens when someone has no one around to influence his or her identity? The novel Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, answers this question rather well. In the novel, Frankenstein, the scientist, toys with the world and creates life all on his own. However, it becomes an ugly monster that Frankenstein is ashamed of making. When Frankenstein’s monster runs loose, Frankenstein is at first a little worried, but eventually just puts it into the back of his mind. It’s in this moment where we find that Frankenstein’s monster without anyone around to influence his identity. He has no idea about how to speak, who he is, why people don’t like him, etc.
His identity formation of himself as a monster who kills other people is a result of the lack of influence by other people. In fact, the altercations with humanity he does have are negative ones. All of this negativity and degradation towards him causes a hatred for humanity, and especially his creator. His identity was formed purely because of only a few interactions with humans. This novel illustrates that there can be a large impact of other people on your identity, as clearly illustrated through Frankenstein.
The movie Moon shows a very different way in which other people influence our identities. In the film, there are three main characters. A computer program designed to assist the man running the facility on the moon, an older clone of the person who was first brought to run the facility, and a younger clone of the same man. This addresses a situation in which there are two men, with the exact same genetic make-up biologically. Yet, they do not want to admit they are the same at first. They go out and attempt to find reasons as to why they are clearly different.
Human nature calls for people to want to be different. This want to be different is what drives people into making groups and causing/resolving conflicts. The film explores this situation quite often, showing conflict between the two clones in multiple places. The younger one destroys the model, causing tight tension between the two. The older one refuses to believe the younger one, causing further tension.
However, at the end of the day, they decided that they needed to work together. Acknowledging their clear differences, despite their biologically identical bodies and brains, they finally work together to get the younger one to Earth. This idea that biologically identical people influence each other to create a difference in identity is very different from the way others influenced the identity of Frankenstein’s monster. Already there seems to be a differing way of influence, one that is not measurable.
Another form of influence on one’s identity further shows this, and that’s through the groups of people someone tends to be around most of the time. In the oldest story known to man, Gilgamesh, the main character, Gilgamesh, is the most perfect man imaginable. Two- thirds divine, one-third human, king of all, the most handsome man, and the strongest man, no one rivaled Gilgamesh. That is, there was no rival for Gilgamesh until the creation of Enkidu. Enkidu acted as a foil for Gilgamesh, but he was more than that.
Enkidu became friends with Gilgamesh, and he was an intimate friend. Gilgamesh changed when Enkidu came into his life. No longer overexerting his power unto others, Gilgamesh became a gentler king to his people. Enkidu acted as a counter to Gilgamesh’s aggressive actions, and because Enkidu nearly equaled Gilgamesh in strength, Gilgamesh held respect for him. Enkidu changed Gilgamesh’s identity – Gilgamesh was not a gentle king at first, yet with Enkidu at his side, he became one. Gilgamesh was not someone to approach with suggestions, yet with Enkidu at his side, he became approachable.
Gilgamesh spent most of his time with Enkidu after meeting him, and Enkidu with Gilgamesh. Enkidu was not very aggressive in nature, yet with Gilgamesh at his side, he became more aggressive and assertive. Enkidu was not very civilized in nature at first, yet with Gilgamesh at his side, he became more civilized.
This relationship shows another form of influence on someone’s identity that neither Moon nor Frankenstein shows. The effects a group of people together have on their personal identities. Together, with the effect of the forms seen in Moon and Frankenstein, it is clear that giving a value to the amount of influence other people have on your identity is near impossible. Just what kinds of influence are you talking about when you ask how much influence do others have on identity? In addition, how would you quantify influence to discuss objectively how much others have the potential for influencing your identity? There are too many subjective ideas mixed in with unquantifiable data that surrounds this question to answer objectively to a full extent.
Moreover, the question is not even possible to answer subjectively without this quantifiable possibility. How else are you able to answer a question that asks how much without a unit of measurement? No, a question that asks how much cannot have a subjective answer. Giving such an answer would not be fair, nor would it get anybody anywhere, nor would it matter. However, because these forms do exist, and do affect one’s own identity, it is clear that other people do in fact have an influence on identity. How much influence exists is a question that is unanswerable without the required materials for making the amount of influence quantifiable to a point where it would be possible to answer.