This is a serious non-serious post.
Not long ago Hal Niedzvieke wrote Hello, I’m Special: How individuality became the new conformity. As a professor, I teach this book in my introductory sociology courses, or the lesson at least (as they do not read it). I teach the students about how one of the most important preoccupations of our times is to “be one’s self” or to “find one’s self.” This rampant and occasionally pathetic navel-gazing manifests itself around nearly every bend, according to Hal. Even greeting cards, he shows, have messages that encourage anti-conformity — GREETING CARDS ENCOURAGING YOU TO BE A REBEL — and this (among other things) prompts Niedzvieke to suggest that individuality is (somewhat ironically) becoming the new confirmity (as everyone is diligently pursuing individuality).
Now, a good example is tattooing. The content of the tattoo can be highly-individualized (so much so that perhaps only you truly know what it means if anything at all), but the ritual act of getting tattooed and being a tattooed person is where conformity comes in. Likewise, anything like that where the content can be customized and thus appear individualized, but the object or act of purchasing it is so wide spread as to constitute an act of conformity should genuinely fall under what Hal is talking about — and thus how to see individuality amid conformity. Seemingly retro t-shirts on short production schedules, pre-worn seemingly authentic jeans (each is genuinely different and yet eveyone has a pair), these are some examples.
Each year, inevitably, a number of students (some of them critical, some of them so deep in the belly of this new conformity beast that they cannot see what I am trying to tell them) ask to see it in person — it is one thing to show us that we buy pre-worn jeans, it is another thing to show me that we are such suckers for individuality pursuits that we conform in order to get there.
So, over spring break, I developed a social networking experiment. I monocled myself; well, my profile picture, anyways. Then I started to monocle my friends, such as our very own Jan-Hendrik. Then I made a fan page for the “Monocle Project 2011” on facebook (just start searching for “monocle” and you should get there easily) — there is a link on the information tab, but also a link to the webpage I made to easily monocle thyself here. I’d like to see it spread, and from what I can tell it very well might as it has that nice combination of conformity (in monocling) and individuality (as you must use a personal picture of yourself). …we’ll see, I guess.
At the risk of humiliating myself (but it is already too late, I am almost certain), here is an example of the monocled man.
GET YOUR MONOCLE TODAY!