“You’d be pretty if you were skinnier,” “Maybe you’d have friends if you weren’t so quiet,” “You can’t do that because you’re a woman.” Maybe you have heard these words or variations of them in the halls of KO, I know I have. These thoughts and comments come from social media and the society we are raised in.
Similar to this, George Orwell depicts a socialist government that controls everything from the economy to the language in his dystopian novel, “1984.” Every individual is monitored ceaselessly by telescreens and if any opposing ideas of the government are thought or shared, the individual who thought or shared them would be punished. Throughout “1984,” Orwell shows us a future where society’s thoughts and language are controlled – a future that has become our reality.
In modern-day society, adolescents’ thoughts are manipulated into being insecure about the way they look and act as well as feeling pressure from the stereotypes of race and gender. In modern-day America, adolescents’ are told they aren’t skinny enough or that they aren’t smart enough, and this makes them feel pressured to adjust to societal norms similar to “1984.”
As we go through our days, we constantly compare ourselves to each other, with the thoughts of edited social media pictures that set high standards in our minds. Although these standards have been manipulated to be unrealistic, they are forcing us to all look and act alike. If we continue on this path of self-degradation we will turn into, in Orwell’s words: “A nation of warriors and fanatics, marching forward in perfect unity, all thinking the same thoughts and shouting the same slogans, perpetually working, fighting, triumphing, persecuting—three hundred million people all with the same face.”
When I started school at KO, it felt like a foreign country to me and my adjustment to this new setting started with learning to act and dress the same way my classmates did. Not only did I do this, but many other new students did, thus turning us into slightly different variations of the same thing. Stereotypes bring about a set of controlled thoughts that apply pressure to either reject or accept the way a person’s race or gender is seen in modern-day society.
As we go through life, we are met with the standards of what it means to be black, white, Hispanic, a woman, a man, etc. We are told how we should act according to our gender or race and that if we do follow those standards that we will only ever be our race or gender, but if we don’t follow them, we aren’t enough to be classified as black or as a woman. In our society today “We do not merely destroy our enemies; we change them” (Orwell). Instead of trying to push someone away, we get rid of who they are mentally by changing the way they act or feel.
In “1984” the protagonist, Winston, is brainwashed by O’Brien, a member of the inner party, to agree with and support the party even though what they are doing is wrong. Instead of sending him away, Winston is modified to accommodate the society the part wants. The insecurities and stereotypes that control our lives are taught to us and affect the way we think and act, sometimes resulting in dangerous and extreme measures being taken to ease the pain. None of us are born thinking down on ourselves, other races, or other genders; we are taught to think that way. Pouring negative thoughts about an adolescent into their mind forces them to constantly try to look, feel, or act differently.
This environment and way of living settle mental illness right into adolescents’ brains. Throughout “1984” Orwell depicts Winston struggling with having to go against what he knows is right, to abide by the party’s rules. Adolescents today encounter similar struggles and “when a struggle proves too much for them to handle, teens often adopt dangerous coping mechanisms, such as disorderly eating or substance abuse, which in reality only make things worse, and in extreme cases may even be lethal,” according to Psychology Today.
The same way that Winston goes against the Party to follow his love, Julia, adolescents will result to extreme measures to escape the pain of the controlled thoughts placed into their minds. So, we need to think about what our social media, hurtful comments, and societal norms have done to our society and the future of our country. We cannot continue in this state of despair. If we don’t take action to change what is put out into the world and what is put into our minds, we will end up in 1984, unable to think for ourselves.