Friendship v. Individuality
The Danger of Losing Oneself
I believe individuals can be intriguing with good first impressions. Every person regardless of their race, religion, age or background has their own story and every changing personality that separates them from another individual. Even a person that may seem similar to you or someone else you know are not exactly the same, because their own experiences in some way shaped how they formed their sense of morality, and beliefs are very dissimilar.
The very action of experiencing an event with present company is not interpreted the same way by those people; simply put because every person develops to their own opinions based on their personalities and past experiences thus coming to separate conclusions. If you're social enough, I bet any if you complimented a person's clothing, it would gradually result in said person telling what had happened in their life any and all related to said article of clothing. I have had interesting conversations with strangers from on the train, the bus, concerts, airplanes or plain just in the park. Every individual person has their own story to tell, which is what I really find fascinating.
Individuality is what makes up a person's essence and true friendship is built off individuals being able to share your identity with others whom they trust to love, support and find joy together with one another for years to come. But with this bond comes an unlikely danger, a danger that you wouldn't think could come from such a worthwhile experience that is forming bonds with others.
And this danger is losing your individuality to a group, and expands to more than just friendships. Social clubs, neighborhood watches, sports teams even family present the possible danger of using your individuality. Yet why is that such a bad thing? Is it not worthwhile to belong to a group and serve something greater than yourself?
For some cases they are, loyalty to your friends, spouse, family, business, and country keep order. However, for the most part, blind loyalty to a group for the sake of maintaining it can amount to many potential risks, because you've surrendered your individuality.
A person may find themselves doing things in the name of group that they would have never thought of doing in their life: bullying, drinking, abusing, harming even killing are all a part of them. To join organizations like the Armed Forces, a recruit's individuality must be rigorously removed for them to obey authority because it is no longer about you, you now belong this group that is larger than you! And if you stray from that group you may become a pariah, become ostracized and that terrifies people.
One concept that stays with me came from listening to psychologist Philip Zimbardo's book titled The Lucifer Effect. To summarize, Zimbardo told how even good natured people could be capable of committing heinous, evil acts simply the justification they were harming or humiliating their enemies. Zimbardo's sources referenced incidents of U.S. soldiers inhumane treatment of Afghan prisoners in their prisons during the Iraq/Afghanistan war despite psychological profiling revealing no history of wrongdoing or anti-social behavior.
Pretty soon it made more sense when applying The Lucifer Effect to some of the world's atrocities then simply blaming all of mankind's troubles on evil people. According to the Cuban philosopher José Martí, "The first duty of a man is to think for himself."
A warning to people, I believe, to be wary of whom you associate and follow. There are numerous stories of former white supremacists that admitted to only committing to the hate group so they wouldn't be alienated or thought of as less white. The same goes for minority families that ostracize relatives for marrying outside their race, homo/transphobic friends and other examples of groups of friends trying to dictate a person's life.
So how do you maintain a healthy web of friends and live your own life without hassle. From my experience, I find it more satisfying to have very little, tight circle of best friends and many acquaintances, mostly those I knew in middle school, high school and community college whom I may drop in every now and then on social media to chat.
Surround yourself with hopefuls and the needy, because in the land of the uncertain and unassertive the independent reigns supreme, but don't be manipulative. Raise up your friends until they too can become independent and unafraid to revel in their unique traits, it is really worth it and pays off in their future as well as yours.
Getting to know yourself is just as important as truly knowing the people you surround yourself with, so be wary that you do not sacrifice your individuality for the sake of a group's approval. For if your closest friends pressure you into something you know isn't what you would do, then you are not yourself any longer, you have lost your identity.