Self modification

From Mod Mania

Self modification

After reading Christine’s and Jonathan’s essay ‘Our Society; The Normal and the Different’ that explored the notion of what is classed normal in a society. I began researching on normality and self modification and what they actually meant.

In this essay I will explore the ideas of self modification, from why people do it to. To the different areas people can modify themselves in.

The false hope syndrome:

When one thinks about self modification, one initially thinks of tattoos or earrings a simple physical change. But what most of us fail to see is what we do on a daily basis. This is what I call a psychology mod {a modification of an aspect of ourselves that we believe will bring admiration or appreciation from others}. We all at one stage or another have attempted to change an aspect of ourselves. Setting a goal to change yourself internally or behaviorally such as weight loss, change in attitude or attempting to quit smoking – either positively or negatively, it is a self modification that is, on the surface, less visible and is usually unrecognized initially by other individuals. One might best illustrate this in a very common scenario: an individual choosing to lose weight. Let’s say you are overweight and your friend is also overweight. You both decide to join a gym. Your friend, over a period of 6 weeks, starts to lose weight because of her new found motivation to do so. So far you have not lost any weight but by seeing your friend losing weight it creates a newfound feeling of hope within you. Whereby you envision yourself achieve a measurable goal of weight loss.

This is normal behavior. The problem begins however when you began to envision unrealistic goals. For example such as within the weight loss scenario: you initial based your goal on the basis of your friend’s weight loss. But rather than being able to use that solely as motivations. You exist in a society where other factors constantly offer conflicting messages. This is the world of advertising. A world filled with a constant stream of unrealistic images and false success stories aimed at persuading you to purchase their products. Constantly hearing the stories of success you slowly alter your goals to those offered by the advertisements.

This results in what is called ‘The false hope syndrome’. As rather than setting realistic goals you may be able to achieve. The individual guided by market pressure begins to set unrealistically high hopes for themselves such as quitting smoking cold turkey in a matter of days rather than months. We all at one stage or another have set self altering goals that carried high failure rate such as a New Year’s resolutions. The difference however is with such goals one is wishing for an alternation that is more a dream than reality. Hence when the outcome eventually results in failure, the individual is not too surprised. But will unrealistic expectations based on advertising, one is solely focused on ‘the positive impact the alternation will have on their life’ viewing it as reality while neglecting the idea of failure. Initial the individual’s attempt of self change will show signs of success. A good example is weight loss again. If the individual wishes to lose weight, than initial they will lose a few kilos. However as the weeks pass and the weight loss achieved begins to seem small compared to expectations. The individual begins to lose faith. Blaming the lack of success solely on there shoulders. Unsure and down the individual reverts back to their previous ways to deal with the new unseen failure. In reality if given a few months to Comprehend the failure the individual bounces back. But that is not the case in modern society. As stated early the individual existence in ad filled world. Confused about self ideals, the individual is targeted by new offers of successful self modification that offer greater pay offs than before. Targeted differently than previously by this time a different company, the individual steps back into the imagery world of unrealistic expectations.

Normally one would rethink stepping back into a path that had offered limited success. But in this case of our targeted individual, these thoughts are blocked. Instead seeming to associate the small success they had been shown to that of the previous program and failure due to lack of will power. This as a result acts as a blocker preventing any notion the individual may have of not playing the ad game.

In the end the individual becomes trapped in a cycle, blaming themselves for the program failures and hoping, the ‘next program to come along, will offer them renewed hope that this time they will truly succeed at changing’ a consumer till the end.

Normality of Objects:

In society there has always been a perceived notion of what is normal and what is beautiful. This has always been determined by a society and, as a result is ever changing. The part most of us find hard to understand is the notion of normality itself. We all believe we know the answer, viewing the change in accepted body sizes and beauty as a marker of this. The problem with such a view is that it only focuses on a small aspect of what normality means in a society, while neglecting to consider the relationship between the flow of knowledge and acceptances of objects to the image of what is normal.

To representing what I mean I will use an example. Today I went out and brought an ipod, I return home and present my purchase to my family. My mother stands unsure of what it is. My younger cousin however shouts out what I have brought and over the period of the evening examples to me what it is and how to use it to me. The thing is he himself does not own an ipod, hence how does he know so much about it? The answer is acceptance. We all know regardless of our viewpoint in life, what is accepted and what is not in a society. This can also be said of information as well. When something like the ipod is accepted in the framework of what is normal, in our case ‘cool’. Information about its existence and use spread to the masses. This results in a mass of information about the product, which in turn raises the object from a mere product for mass consumption to that of iconic status.

Known by the masses, why was my mother unaware of what it was? This is due to another factor of ‘normal’ it changes. The problem with that is, if your bases of what is normal ‘cool’ is not updated you are left behind.

My mother even though existing in same world as I am, grew up at a time when technology was at the beginning of the computer generations. This in itself is not reason enough for not knowing what an ipod is. But in her case what is normal ‘cool’ stopped in the 1990s. Even though technology has progressed, to her the technology offered in the 90s is viewed as more than enough even though it is outdated.

This lack of change touches on a psychological idea. Positive thinking, in a studied By the journal of American medical association that surveyed heavy smokers with regards to their view of negative information about the dangers of smoking. It found that regardless of the information shown, they’re uses of Positive reinforcement allowed them to disbelieve unwelcome news. This somewhat explains my mother’s lack of interest in new product. But also underlines a position most of us will all reach one day.

My mother is old now and as technology progresses, new skills are needed to be able to access such areas. For us now, we grow up existing and adapting to the change in technology and normal ‘cool’ but eventually one day we will reach a point where we(you) will be unable or unwilling to adapted and be left behind.

That’s use the ipod scenario to illustrator again: We all know what an ipod is, we know its features, seen it’s ads and understand its marketing campaign because it is our normal ‘cool’, but if I present the same product to someone in fifty years? Will they know what it is? How to use it? And what it means? Most lucky no, because our normal ‘cool’ no longer exists in there time. Early I mentioned that normal is ever changing, the reason for that is the factors that determine it are based on what is available at the time for example technology or ideals. If however one of these factors changes than so will the ideal of what is referred to as normal or cool.

Body modification:

The initial base of body modification was based on the idea of altering a body part or removing a body part. From Chinese feet binging (tightly wrapping of the feet to give the illusion of smallness) in a cultural that at the time associated beauty with that of small feet. To female genital mutilation in Africa (removal of tissue that is on the outside of the body) that was viewed as a removing of unwanted parts. To recent development of cosmetic surgery and the ideal that anyone can achieve society’s ideal of beauty. Body modification over the years has redefined itself to mean different.

However is this definition still valid? Today the word different and individuality does not mean what it used to. Instead over the years it has become a commercial ideal, where brands try to differentiate themselevs by trying to show individuality. Regardless of that body modification in an attempt to redefine itself split into two groups.

          Main stream – 

In main stream individuals alter their bodies in ways that show there difference but does not conflict with the norms of society. A good example of this is tattoos. Tattoo’s initially had been classed as unfavorable in society but over the years has become accepted. This is due mainly to it entering the field of pop culture, in which it is used to represent toughness in music and rebellion in teens.

          Anti main stream-

In Anti main stream individuals alter their bodies in a way that clashes with what is classed main stream difference in society. Unable to be filed into an existing social group they are classed as out-casts or freaks.

This is the new player on the block in body modification. A branch of cosmetic surgery and that is designed to rather than normalizes an individual by fixing or alter body parts that are different to fit more with the stereotypy of beauty in society. Favors the reverse, altering the individual by mutating their appearance to stand outside the norm of what is socially accepted.

This new type of surgical body alternation can be split into two areas, Generic and the Specific. ‘Generic’ is an ideal where the individual alters their body to associate with a beauty that is based on that of the imagery world. A good example of this is ear-pointing, where the aim in to alter ones ears to realizable that of an elf and ‘Specific’ where the individual modification is not associated to an image existing in society. In this area one alters there appearance to resemble a personal image they had imagined. This can be show with the magnetic vision modification. In this case the individual implants magnets subdermal (under the skin) to create ‘magnetic vision’ or through the painful modification of Scarification, where an individual cuts a design into there skin and waits for the skin to heal, leaving a permanent designed scar.

In the end there is no such thing as the perfect human and we should accept that. For if we continue down this path of alternation. All that will await us is a version of Gattacca (a futurist earth where humans are split into two groups. Valids genetically altered humans that represent what human perfection is and the In-vailds, normal humans unaltered and carrying genetic faults) and no one wants that……. Or do we?

Mohamed Nur S3167645


-Department of Psychology, 2001, The false hope syndrome unrealistic expectations of self-change, University of Toronto


-Mark Dolliver, 1999, Too-positive thinking, Adweek