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Symbolic Interactionism

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Studying sociology can become a very diverse and controversial topic. Out of the three main sociological perspectives, the Symbolic Interactionism perspective seems to be the one that I favor the most. There are different situations in life where each perspective could be more advantageous than the other, but with a broad view, the Symbolic Interactionism perspective sticks out the most.

Symbolic Interactionism focuses on how symbols, defined as the things in life we attach meanings to, are the keys to understanding how we view the world and communicate with one another. Without symbols, our social life would not be defined and we would lack even the simplest of things such as the title of relatives (aunts, uncles, brothers). People would still exist of course, but we would not have the symbols to tell us who is related to who. Symbols truly define our relationships, and it gives us insight into who we should respect and who we have obligations to, as well as who we should expect privileges from, and this is the essence of human relationships. For example, if someone was your friend, you would act differently around them than if it was your mom you were around. Symbols clarify how we are related to others, in turn telling us how to act around them.

There are many different reasons why this is one of the best methods to use, such as the simple fact that without symbols, we wouldn't be able to coordinate our actions with others. We wouldn't be able to make plans for times if we didn't have the symbols to define time, we wouldn't be able to build things such as highways and bridges without the understanding of what materials we need, we'd have no government or hospitals, and we wouldn't be able to enjoy music or instruments. Our social life truly depends on the interactions we have with the people in our society and how we define ourselves and others.

Critics may argue that the Symbolic Interactionism theory is a micro level theory and focuses too much on the smaller details of life whilst missing out on the bigger picture of life, but in return I would say that all bigger pictures in life are made up of the smaller pictures and it takes understanding of those smaller pictures before you can piece together all of the information to form the big picture, on the "macro" level of social interpretation.

For a better understanding of the concept, think of this example; you are a bride on the night before her wedding day, and your mom approaches you with news that she had a child years before you were born, and this child just so happens to be your fiancé. The symbol in this situation would change instantly, and so would your behavior. You wouldn't feel the same knowing that this person you are head over heels in love with and about to marry turned out to be your blood relative. Symbols help us coordinate ourselves and our actions with others, and our society as a whole wouldn't



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