Modern society’s behaviors, thinking, and overall direction is rooted in what we call “The everyday.” “The Everyday” is a strong and influential power hidden beneath a facade of normality. The things we say, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the activities we participate are individual facets of life, whose true elemental meaning is often overlooked. If we put specific aspects of our everyday life under the microscope, we start to understand there meaning and ultimately what it says about ourselves.
Over a 7 day period, I personally have taken specific parts of my life and viewed them from a deeper cultural lens. My findings were surprising and had me feeling almost distant from seemingly common things. Discovering cultural meaning behind objects and activities is a difficult task because it involves you breaking off your personal perception and engaging a more analytical view point. This is similar to the concept of repeating the same word over and over again. The familiar words starts to loose it’s meaning with each repetition. I found a great way to separate myself from the objects I chose, was to pretend I was viewing the object in an earlier time. If you break off an individual piece of culture from it’s cultural fabric, you start to unveil it’s true purpose.
Day 1: My Foot Protectors
Shoes are something that I often overlook in the grand scheme of things. I wake up in the morning, get dressed, brushed my teeth, and my final step before leaving my house is putting on my shoes. When I stop and think about what my shoes really mean, the result is very surprising. My shoes are a huge indicator of who I am. Shoes have an ability to indicate a specific style or purpose. Some people prefer a very stylish and uncomfortable shoe (most women; no idea how they do it) and other something more durable or objective oriented (like a boot or running shoe). Shoes can be a strong indicator of class based on their price as well as personality (a pair flashy shoes versus your grandpa’s Merrells). If you gather up the right team of scientists, Im sure you could determined someone’s political orientation based on their footwear.
Furthermore, what do all shoes tell us about ourselves? Well, originally shoes were not meant for style, they were meant to protect us and our precious feet. To this day, style aside, shoes’ main purpose is to allow us to get places without hurting ourselves. We can walk around some of the most uneven or sharp terrain without much of an issue, which is a big deal. Think about if you had to go throughout your day without your shoes? Impossible. Literally. Shoes are so important to us that you wouldn’t be able to properly go about your day without them. People would stare, you couldn’t be served in restaurants, and you couldn’t go into public buildings or facilities. That is where you see how powerful shoes are. They are so prevalent that NOT having them is ‘unacceptable’. It wouldn’t even be a question. If you’re not wearing shoes in public, you’re either at the beach or legally insane.
Day 2: My ‘Smart’ Call-Maker
There is a rather peculiar duality that exists within society’s relationship with their smart phones. For one thing, smart phones are becoming so popular, its hard to find someone without one these days. People see these phones as a standard. I’ll take it a step farther and say I am surprised if and when I see someone who doesn’t own a smartphone. With this mindset in place, I don’t really think much of the phone I carry or the others around me. It’s just the norm. Which is exactly why I chose to write about it. It’s ‘normal’, common, seemingly unsurprising….but is it? To really crack this facade, lets pretend I was a teenager of the 90’s. Lets say that someone from the 2014 placed a smartphone in my hands. This supposedly ‘normal’ device to us, would seem like the most advance technology from the galaxy’s most superior beings to 1990’s me. Well maybe not that far but still, I would be very impressed and curious. We can play games, use GPS navigation, call, sms, email, video conference, browse the web, and so, so much more. All of today’s needs can be taken care of within the palm of your hands. Truly amazing.
So before you write off your smartphone as being something that pretty much everyone has, think of your 1990’s alter ego, and their reaction to your wondrous piece of technology. The creation of Smart phones tell us that we as a society, value connectivity, instant gratification, and immense amount of stimuli.
Day 3: The Box in the Living Room
Television has been one the most common forms of entertainment since the 1950’s-60’s. It provides us with a balance of information and amusement. Today there are services that offer over 1000’s channels. The amount of entertainment available on the average person’s television is truly astonishing. Ranging from newscasts, blockbuster movies, sitcoms, and religious channels, television has something to offer everyone (even in multiple languages). With the click of a button you can be entertained for hours. In fact, it’s one of my favorite forms of entertainment. It’s often hard to see how truly amazing television for multiple reasons. One of the strongest reasons being how common televisions are. The average home has a little over 2 and half televisions in it. That’s a lot of TV. Take that fact and consider how much television the average person watches every week. Society as a whole spends a lot of time in front of their tv screens which inevitably has made us forget how amazing it is. Being exposed to something frequently, no matter how extraordinary it is, will loose it’s “Wow” factor with time. But this shouldn’t stop us from stepping back and appreciate technology that sitting in our living rooms!
Personally, I have managed to put a flat screen TV in my room. After analyzing for quite sometime I realized something. An almost perfect picture of the changing culture today. My television is placed directly in front of my window. The view of the outside world and natural beauty is covered by a screen that can depict a million landscapes. In my circumstance, my television became more of an importance to me than a view outside.
Day 4: Four Wheeled Transport Machines
Cars have become more and more integrating into our world today. They are one of the most common ways for people to get around and commute to work. Phenomenon like suburban sprawl, have lead to an increase of multi-car families. Overall, the popularity of cars have inevitably made way for people to customize and personalize them. We see this in different car styles. Station wagons, for suburban families, sports cars for adrenaline seekers, and utility or pick up trucks for those lugging large cargo. People may look at cars as a mere means of getting from point A to point B but with closer analysis, cars are often a good way to tell what type of person the driver is. On a personal level my car is an SUV type vehicle. I need the space for my friends and lacrosse equipment, it’s grey because it is my favorite color, and it’s safe because I value my life. It’s funny how this machine, although a completely separate entity from myself, embodies me as a person. I trust my life with this machine everyday. Cars are in a way this reflective binding between man and machine.
Day 5: Plastic Cash
During my childhood I saw credit cards as a form of black magic only adults could harness. You swipe a card at the check out and you were able to buy whatever you want. Thats what it seemed like at least. Today credit cards are a reality to me. I use them everyday for the majority of my purchases. They are the epitome of convenient and accepted pretty much everywhere. These plastic cards represent my entire bank accounts worth of money and in some cases more. Money now is compressed into a single card which says a lot about society. We want our earnings in a single place, thats easily accessible, and accepted everywhere. Examining the “everydayness” of how we access and use money (one of life’s most fundamental facets), holds a mirror up to ourselves to see how we want to live our lives. Fast, effective, with immediate gratification.
Day 6: My Folding Computer
I can easily say without hesitation that my world revolves around and is connected to my laptop. My laptop is a gateway to the world around me both physically and non-physically. Whether it be for leisure or business I need my laptop. It is this exact “need” for my laptop that often blurs out my laptop’s significance. It has almost become a right to own one as if, if we were denied one it would be considered inhumane.
It is truly amazing that I can access pretty much any piece of information with the push of a button. I can connect with friends half way across the world with a few clicks. Laptops are a portable gateway into our own lives and the lives of others. We are becoming more and more accessible thanks to computer technology. The irony behind people thinking all these screens is building walls in personal relationships can be argued. Thirty years ago no one could hold a long distance relationship with a friend or relative that way Facebook can. It is a miracle we have search engines to compute answers for us in less than second. The “everydayness” of personal computing has us blinded to the fact that each person who owns a laptop would be considered of divine power in the decades past.
Day 7: Paper Punishment
Homework has always been a pressing issue ever since the 3rd grade. Since then my workload has increased. I have spent the past 3 hours doing work for tomorrow’s classes. Wow. That is a lot of my day spent on this stuff. I would complain more about it but everyone has it. It’s part of everyone’s (students’) everyday. Homework provides me with about 2 anxiety attacks a week (on a good week). The fact that homework is accepted as a common practice means that society has specific values that see homework as a positive thing. The argument can go either way but it is still interesting that I (along with millions of other students) continue to homework regardless on whether or not it interrupts our sleeping schedules, eating habits, and overall happiness as people. I bet if you got the right team of scientists together, they could prove that homework cuts down your lifespan by a couple of years. Whatever the case may be, homework is seen as a duty. It is not to be questioned because the authoritative power has granted it to you. Have we even taken the time to see if making students work consistently after class is the most effective route to education? Again, there is an argument to both sides.
Culturally speaking, homework reigns supreme in the world of academics. Doing ‘work’ at ‘home’ has become a part of the American identity. This ‘business never sleeps’ mentality has got Americans taking the least amount of vacations per year than any other country. My own father can’t even enjoy a trip to the Bahamas without making 50 business calls. Culture has bred us to always focus on work even when were not at work.