Global Experience of Self, Shared Emotions, and Lifestyle

At our present time, the events that take place in other places, situated far from the individual’s immediate geographically, can influence the individual’s self closely. As much as we experience today, Giddens (1991) argues that the print and electronic media had a central role in this respect as since the first experience of writing, the mediated experience has long influenced self-identity and social relations. The fact that self-development and social systems are even more interconnected is seen as a consequence of advancement in electronic and mass communication. Hence, the world is quite distinct in every sense compared to other time frames in history as it is “in many ways a single world, having a unitary framework of experience (for instance, in respect of basic axes of time and space), yet at the same time one which creates new forms of fragmentation and dispersal” (Giddens, 1991, p. 4). The interactions taking place between media and the individuals at the Artists’ House can reflexively influence the self in relation to the youth, the house regulars, visitors of the house, and the people that the youth are interacting with outside Space A in their social and personal life. The meaning formation process takes place along the course of interactions. As Giddens (1991) also points out, the qualities of the modern institutions, in relation to the individual’s life at the present time, alter the span of influential happenings in terms of space and time. The fact that the individual’s mind is not limited only to the events of the immediate surrounding world anymore and it can communicate within larger boundaries creates a limitation to the official and legal restrictions and reduces those influences in the process of construction of meaning. In other words, media supplies alternative sources of data for the mind in this process. Subsequently, the self and in relation to that the self-identity, the content of social relations, and interactions adopt and process the new content and meanings.

The individuals live in the world of multiple choices today, and the youth in Tehran are not an exception to this pattern. The self-identity has to adapt continuously to the possible stories that the choices bring to the circle for the youth and everyone else. Giddens (1991) argues that the world of multiple choices that is filtered through abstract systems is the context for “the reflexive project of the self” that sustains a coherent narrative of the self and the world that is being revised constantly. Yet, lifestyle81 is increasingly significant to the modern individual and the communication systems and media facilitate and encourage this aspect in many ways. While the everyday actions and the constitution of self-identity are becoming more bound to the lifestyle choices, the youth in Tehran find their choices of everyday life limited, comparing their options with a vast variety that they observe in the world via media and particularly Internet. Considering the importance of the lifestyle in the construction of self-identity today, the youth inevitably seek the choices that are closer to the desired identity. However, how the “desired identity” is formed and how it looks depends highly on the negotiations that take place between the content that the information technology and media supply and the meanings that the youth life context conveys in everyday practices. These negotiations are in fact a struggle between the local driven meanings and the global expressed possibilities and implications that communicate the essence of meanings—motives that eventually lead to the formation of will among the youth.

The attributes of lifestyle, while affecting the self-identity, are closely connected and contribute to the choices of values that the youth prefer to follow. The officially enforced lifestyle inside Tehran, simultaneously offer and require certain values that put limitation on the pursuit of the other set of values that are encouraged by lifestyle choices of the modern society. Conformity is one example that implies obedience and self-discipline within certain structures decided by others. Yet, this quality is not congruent with what the world of multiple choice, diversity, and reflexivity offers and necessitates. In fact, as increasingly the self, identity, and modern institutions are interdependent and reflexively influence, and are influenced by, the lifestyle in the late modern settings; there is a call for the values that address the self. However, as Schwartz (2004) shows in his value theory, the self-direction values are likely to conflict with conformity values and vice versa. Alternatively, hedonism values are compatible with selfdirection values, and tradition values are compatible with conformity values.

The rules concerning covering the body for both girls and boys are put into place, in Iran, parallel to a global process in which the self and lifestyle are connected and influenced by the body appearance. The meanings derived from the rules, and the values that the rules are originated from in Iran, are far from the meanings—understood from the possible values, that encourage the lifestyle and self to adopt norms around body and appearance in the modern world. Giddens (1991, p. 99) argues the significance of self-identity in relation to the body asserting that the “body sounds a simple notion, particularly as compared to concepts like ‘self’ or ‘self identity’. The body is an object in which we are all privileged, or doomed, to dwell, the source of feelings of well-being and pleasure, but also the site of illness and strains. However, as has been emphasized, the body is not just a physical entity which we ‘possess,’ it is an action-system, a mode of praxis, and its practical immersion in the interactions of day-to-day life is an essential part of the sustaining of a coherent sense of self-identity.”

If how the body looks is becoming more important globally, to the point that it affects one’s self-identity, not being able to show how the body looks legally can become a real conflict in the process of self-identification. And this can be totally independent of being for and against of a political ideology but a global process per se. As Giddens writes, “the reflexivity of the self, in conjunction with the influence of abstract systems, pervasively affects the body as well as psychic processes. The body is less and less an extrinsic ‘given’, functioning outside the internally referential systems of modernity, but becomes itself reflexively mobilized” (Giddens, 1991, p. 7). The increasing number of people willing to have a ‘good body shape’ even at the price of risking their health by using pills for this purpose is an evident fact in Tehran today. In fact, what we observe is an evidence for the link between the body and expression for a desired lifestyle. In this regard, Giddens (1991, p. 7) asserts, “What might appear as a wholesale movement toward the narcissistic cultivation of bodily appearance is in fact an expression of a concern lying much deeper actively to ‘construct’ and control the body. Here there is an integral connection between bodily development and lifestyle—manifest, for example, in the pursuit of specific bodily regimes.”

A part from the ideas discussed in theories on how controlling the body and appearance can be connected to politics and power in general, other points of views contribute to the fact that respecting the self and others by covering the body is conceived to be one possible value that initiates such legal norms. In this context, “considering others,” “respecting,” and “conforming to a collective benefit” that are encouraged by legal norms in Iran are in the realm of values that in Schwartz’s value cycle are situated in the opposite pole to the values that are self-directed and focused on self. In fact, the conflicting aspects of norms regard how the body is appeared in the public. The members of Iranian Parliament urging the need to take necessary measures for implementing the law on promotion of hijab and chastity in the country, amended by Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, in a statement read in the open session of the parliament, according to IRNA, said, “One of the major examples of enemies ' cultural invasion against Iran is changing the lifestyle of the Iranian women’ and ignoring implementation of the Hijab law would ‘have irreparable consequences and face social culture with huge challenges threatening lives of the Iranian families’ and added that ‘western powers and enemies of the Islamic Iran have targeted lifestyle of the Iranian women by producing corrupted satellite programs which are aimed at ruining family lives of the Iranians and weakening their ideological principles.”82 This is while the “bodily appearance” according to Giddens (1991, p. 99) “concerns all those features of the surface of the body, including modes of dress and adornment, which are visible to the individual and to other agents, and which are ordinarily used as clues to interpret actions.” Observations indicate these clearly distinguished aspects of the body, which can be makeup, hair style, and fashion for clothes, and so on, are directly linked to lifestyle choices expressed by the young individuals in Tehran and, also in other contexts according to Giddens (1991), have “special relevance to self and self-identity.”

The results of studies (Zokaee, 2008) indicate despite the fact that the youths who are active and involved in the body project inside Iran enjoy an acceptable standard of body fitness, however, their state of mind implies they are not fully satisfied with their own body image. This dissatisfaction is observed more among the girls. This group, the girls, is less happy with the results of the diet and body regimes, and more than boys link this issue to the variable of self-confidence. The youths expressed that the images they receive via new media are the sources of their motivation and ideals for choosing body regimes in order to catch up with the worldwide fashion. Giddens (1991) points to the fact that the notion of lifestyle is underestimated and treated as insignificant as it is often taken only in terms of a “superficial consumerism.” However, he emphasizes that there is something much more fundamental about lifestyle. In fact, “in conditions of high modernity, we all not only follow lifestyles, but in an important sense are forced to do so—we have no choice but to choose”; following this discussion in describing the lifestyle, he asserts, “A lifestyle can be defined as a more or less integrated set of practices which an individual embraces, not only because such practices fulfill utilitarian needs, but because they give material form to a particular narrative of selfidentity” (Giddens, 1991, p. 81). As mentioned earlier, the official culture is promoting the “traditional ways,” norms within the society and the local settings; the choices are prescribed. This is while, in the global settings, the arena is open and follows the logic of the modern world, where choices can be made within a vast variety of options. The reflexivity and globalizing tendencies of modernity, as Giddens (1991) points out, together with the modern tools of communication, promote the individual’s awareness concerning the “options.” In this context, the young individual faces opposite forces of traditional versus modern cultures, in describing the story of “self.”

Lifestyle can be about meaning and choice, and there are contradictory and limited forms in Tehran. The notion of lifestyle, as Giddens (1991) argues, is often thought to apply specifically to the area of consumption. However, there is more on “lifestyle,” as he writes, “[A] plurality of lifestyle choices exist,” and discussing the “multiplicity of choices” does not mean that “all choices are open to everyone”, and “for all groups which have become freed from the hold of traditional contexts of activity”; in fact, “A lifestyle involves a cluster of habits and orientations, and hence has a certain unity— important to a continuing sense of ontological security that connects options in a more or less ordered pattern. Someone who is committed to a given lifestyle would necessarily see various options as ‘out of character’ with it, as would others with whom she was in interaction. Moreover, the select in or creation of lifestyles is influenced by group pressures and the visibility of role models as well as by socioeconomic circumstances” (p. 82). In this context, it worth taking into account that lifestyles are in fact the “reutilized practices the routines incorporated into habits of dress, eating, modes of acting and followed are reflexively open to change in the light of mobile nature of self-identity. Each of the small decisions a person makes every day— what to wear, what to eat, how to conduct himself at work, whom to meet with later in the evening—contributes to such routines. All such choices (as well as larger and more consequential ones) are decisions not only about how to act but who to be” (Giddens, 1991, p.81). Meanwhile, due to the fact that lifestyle implies choice within many possible options, it is not quite applicable to traditional cultures. In fact, the lifestyle would be more of a concern to the construction and reconstruction of self-identity when the individual’s life context moves away from traditional forms. This is while traditional values enforced on the legal basis characterize the possible lifestyle in Tehran, and it is more apparent in the public as much as private spaces. But, what happens to the posttraditional order? As it is observed in other societies, in Tehran too there are adopted ways and living example of dealing with the local and global circumstances and forces in everyday life. The traditional values and patterns, as mentioned in the literature, are adjusting or being adapted with the modern ways of approaching everyday life; nevertheless, still the old patterns exist and are enforced and imposed on the youth by family, law, and society.

The question of lifestyle and realm and possibilities of action are directly connected. Regarding lifestyles being attached to action and rather “expressive of specific milieu of action,” Giddens (1991, p. 83) argues, “Lifestyle options are thus often decisions to become immersed in those milieux, at the expense of the possible alternatives. Since individuals typically move between different milieux or locales in the course of their everyday life, they may feel uncomfortable in those settings that in some way place their own lifestyle in question.” The acceptable and possible lifestyle in Tehran is challenged at different levels as pluralization of life worlds (Giddens, 1991) implies the fact that unlike the dominance of local community in most premodern cultures, the settings of modern social life are diverse and segmented and include differentiation between the public and private domains and yet are subject to pluralization. The possibility for the plurality of choices that individuals confront in situations of high modernity derives from several influences, and one is the “fact of living in a post-traditional order.” Giddens (1991, p. 82) argues, “To act in, to engage with, a world of plural choices is to opt for alternatives, given that the signposts established by tradition now are blank. Thus someone might decide, for example, to ignore the research findings which appear to show that a diet high in fruit and fiber, and low in sugar fat and alcohol is physically beneficial and reduces the risk of contracting some types of illnesses. She might resolutely stick to the same diet of dense, fatty and sugary foods that people in the previous generations consumed. Yet given the available options in matters of diet and the fact that the individual has at least some awareness of them, such conduct still forms part of a distinctive lifestyle.” However, as the realm of action and lifestyle choices are more apparently a matter for individuals, the instrumental control of the system faces counter reactions that appear in different forms either in the physical contexts or in the cyberspace. Giddens refers to “conditioning plurality of choice” and calls it “the existential impact of the contextual nature of warranted beliefs under conditions of modernity.” Further Giddens (1991, p. 84) argues that “the Enlightenment project of replacing arbitrary tradition and speculative claims to knowledge with the certainty of reason proved to be essentially flawed. The reflexivity of modernity operates, not in a situation of greater and greater certainty, but in one of methodological doubt. Even the most reliable authorities can be trusted only ‘until further notice’; and the abstract systems that penetrate so much of day-to-day life normally offer multiple possibilities rather than fixed guidelines or recipes for action.” In fact, in the space made by the interrelations of local and global settings, the self-actualization of individual or groups becomes increasingly significant. The questions of “Who to be?” and “How to act?” have to be decided by the youth amid their awareness toward restrictions, and the knowledge of possible options and realm of actions. This issue is often connected to the questions of lifestyle, as it concerns “the very core of self-identity” (Giddens, 1991), in modern settings of contemporary life. Besides, media altering the “situational geography” of social life allows the youth to overcome the boundaries of local settings to reach other modes of social life at a global level. As we observe that “more and more, media make us ‘direct’ audiences to performances that happen in other places and give us access to audiences that are not ‘physically present.’ As a result, the traditional connection between ‘physical setting’ and ‘social situation’ has become undermined; mediated83 social situations construct new communalities—and differences—between preconstituted forms of social experience” (Giddens, 1991, p. 84).

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