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Allan's Philosophy Podcast

Monday, April 19, 2010

Philosophy on Facebook # 33 - Personalization

Wow my schedule has been really busy. Im glad I finally get a chance to make another post though. The thought "what makes us who we are" came through my mind the other day and I have come to the conclusion that it is through personalization that really distinguishes us from the rest of the world and makes us who we are.

Before I get to the human side of personality I would like to make a point about our material things. I think it is almost human nature that we usually enjoy putting a special spin on what we have to make what we own special and unique to us and the rest of the world. It is a way to essentially mark our territory and show ownership over something. If you have something generic then it doesn’t really hold anything personal that shows that it is yours. It could be anything from a special paint job to a bumper sticker on your car and any other possible way of adding or taking away something from the original product or service. It is a way of adding a special touch to something setting it out from the crowd. Dairy Queen personalizes their ice cream by putting that little loop at the top that identifies that cone with Dairy Queen. Like with my previous post about identities, when it comes to our own materials or services that we are proud of, then we will most likely want to show ownership and say ”yea that's mine" or "yea I did that."

Another reason is to add possible value to the original product or service. There are two main types of values that you can add to something, sentimental and monetary. I am sure there are probably other ways that you can think of but these are the main two ways. Value is one of the main reason why anybody would keep anything besides the fact that it satisfies a necessity that we require such as food. By personalizing something you can change the value by possibly increasing and decreasing it. When playing with a toy you could increase the sentimental value by playing with it and enjoying it but possibly decrease the value of it by taking it out of the box and not maintaining it in pristine and mint condition. As time progresses, sentimental and especially monetary values will change regardless of its personalization but it helps speed up the process. For instance, if you buy a toy and it sits in the closet, its sentimental value will decrease with time because you forget about it but its monetary value could increase if it is a collectible. Your environment plays a major factor in the value of something almost as much as personalization. Another way I can think of off the top of my head that will increase both sentimental and monetary value of one of your possessions is by getting it autographed by someone who is famous because it will become something a lot of people want and provide a memory for when you met a person who you admire.

This leads me into my next point about the memories you have with the personalized objects. Each occurrence of customization or personalization provides you with a reminder of that past event. Putting a new sticker on your calculator will probably bring back memories of when you put it on and what caused you to choose that particular sticker. It doesn’t have to just be a sticker as this applies to almost everything. This is closely related to sentimental value and brings me to talk about one of the negativities that can come with personalizing your stuff. Some people are afflicted by what is known as "pack-ratitus" or the inability to throw away any of your possessions (Note I just made up that word). One of the possible reasons is the sentimental value that comes with things that you’ve personalized and fearing that by throwing away that item you will lose that memory. This doesn’t just apply to personalized things but also things that have meaning in their own right like a ticket to that first date movie or something else that is important to the person who owns it. Because of this many are very reluctant to give up some of their material possessions.

Personalization doesn’t just apply to material things but also with people themselves. People try to make themselves unique and be special from everyone else. Even if you are trying to conform to be like everyone else that is your own way of personalizing yourself in order to fit in. Others don't want to be noticed because they're shy or whatnot but they are still personalizing themselves in a way that better suits their timid personality. Some people like being noticed for who they are and the way to do that is to standout. The most famous celebrities are the ones that are unique from everyone else and it is their brand, image, and identity that they have personalized in order to fit that persona. For instance, Ke$ha looks the way she does because she wanted to look the best she could when she was poor before she got famous and that personalization has stuck with her and in a way propelled her to fame because she was unique from almost everyone else in the music scene. Like Ke$ha did, the best way to personalize yourself is by expressing yourself and your true character and personality. This ties in with your material personalization in a way though because some people express themselves through their clothing. Your physical appearance is one of the biggest determining factors in what people think about you because it is usually the first thing that gives people an impression about you. While for the most part you are stuck with what you got there are becoming more and more ways to change yourself and personalize yourself too. The obvious ways are through tattoos, piercings, and what you wear, but things such as liposuction and facial surgery are more ways that people are personalizing themselves in order to express who they are or what they want to be known as.

Sometimes people try to boast and show off who they are to others. If you are rich then you might show off your wealth by flaunting your new Lambo or other different ways that could show others that one thing that you are is richer than everyone else. One particular situation that reminds me of something similar is the Fairly Odd Parents episode where Timmy is tired of his dentist thinking he was better than everyone else. Don't get me wrong, it is good to be proud of who you are and what you’ve accomplished but you can definitely take it to the extremes and that negatively impacts who you are by making others believe you are stuck up. This occurred with Timmy's dentist as he was bragging about his perfect teeth and from the dentists perspective, that justified he was better than everyone else. Timmy's solution to this problem was to make everyone a gray blob so he wouldn’t stand out from the crowd. I was actually astonished that a kid's TV show would be this deep but it showed me that people will always try and find ways that they are different than you, whether it be better than you or not, like at a particular skill. Timmy's dentist, after being turned into a gray blob, decided that he was the grayest of the others so that meant he was better than everyone. I believe that this can be related to real life as well because some people need to prove to themselves and possibly others that they excel in areas that others may fail at. I think this might be a way to justify a person's existence and self-worth like if you are a fantastic writer you probably get joy when there's a writing assignment and you are the only one who does good on it or because you are a model you might feel that because you are more attractive you are automatically better than others. Unfortunately, sometimes this is the way it goes and while some people are more vocal about these facts than others, I still feel like these feelings are necessary for life or else people would start to wonder what makes them worthy to be alive if they don't excel or have skills in a certain area or have an advantage over others.

Your appearance isn't the only thing that can make you unique as there are many other factors involved in making you who you are. One of the reasons why people like tricking out their cars or customizing their material things is because it provides an identifier with you. By owning or doing something unique, you become associated with those things and it helps build your persona. Who you connect with helps set an identifier for yourself. When you become a part an inside joke, it helps make you feel special that you and only a couple know what it is about and establishes a good amount of who you are as a person. To the same effect, if you hang out with the wrong crowd it can negatively impact your personalized image. Your interests and especially your perspective also play a role in your own personalized unique self. When you see someone who wears a shirt of a particular videogame or movie, it shows others what you like and therefore becomes a part of how they perceive you and who you are. It isn't only what YOU feel about yourself that makes you who you are but your surroundings like other people formulate opinions of you that help determine who you are as well. These things help establish a brand for yourself that sets you apart from your peers and competition. I believe everybody wants and deserves a unique identity for themselves and there are plenty of ways to do it and almost everything you do helps build up that persona. It's just your responsibility to manage it and make sure you are portrayed as something you want to be.

-Allan Nicholas

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