“What is sociology?”
I have been asked this question by my parents and my peers numerous times. Every time I felt the same thing: slight embarrassment that I chose such a seemingly obscure topic, but then instantly an overwhelming rage that people had no idea what sociology was.
At the end of my first year of university I had to choose the topic that I would major in. At the beginning of university I was dead-set on majoring in English, until I realized that all the joy I had in this topic was quickly trampled on by my first year English class. In those first few weeks of classes my love of English was replaced with a love of Sociology. This was the topic that made me feel passionate about learning. I loved every second of it – apart from those all nighters I pulled to finish a paper.
Sociology is first understood by it’s route word: social. What is the social (apart from Canadian talk show)? Is it social media? Social life? In essence, it can be all of those things. Sociology is about understanding why humans do what they do based on their social surroundings. Now bare with me here as I try to simply explain a very complex topic based on what I remember from 4 years of study which ended more than 2 years ago. Sociology is the pursuit of understanding how individuals and groups of people interact with one another to create a specific social reality. Sociology can be broken up into the private and public spheres, and these spheres are also dependent on one another. The public sphere is constructed by social institutions which include religion, education, government, family, and law. These institutions essentially tell us how to behave – they create our social norms. They tell us what to think about marriage, which God we should believe in, how much education we should pursue, and what to wear. How we behave and conform to our public spheres impacts our private spheres because human beings tend to have children (create families) who they then teach the social norms to. It’s a never ending cycle of creating new “functional members of society”. The public sphere also impacts our private spheres based on our personal opinions and choices. For example: high school seniors tend to make the choice of pursuing higher education. This is considered normal. But when happens when an 18 year old decides to hit the road in the pursuit of true happiness through, let’s say, magic mushrooms? Presumably, all hell breaks loose.The latter choice will be considered not normal because it’s going against all of the social institutions and everything they told that person to do. Put simply: sociology is understanding our social reality and how it came about.
So what does sociology have to do with the average twenty-something? Well if you’re a twenty-something and reading this then you probably know about Generation Y and their apparent refusal to leave their parents’ home. This generation includes those born in the 1980s and 1990s, so this is also for the thirty-somethings out there. You’ve probably also seen the multitude of memes about twenty-somethings having no clue what to do with their lives and having an inability to find a well-paying job because of their lack of experience. And before you ask – yes, I am indeed one of these twenty-somethings. And the jobs that may give you some experience pay next to nothing. A common path taken is working at a restaurant. Often, we take the road where we make the most money because, let’s face it, we have to live.
From a sociological perspective this way of life is going against the former social constructs which told us that we should finish high school, pursue college or university, get a job right away, then get married and have have children so the cycle can begin again. But this isn’t happening anymore. People are going back to their childhood bedrooms because they simply can’t afford to live on their own, let alone get married and have children.There are numerous articles calling this group “The Boomerang Generation”, and showing how this generation is doing the same thing all over the world. Usually those who have trouble finding jobs are those that pursued liberal arts in university or college – sociology for example.
So then why does sociology matter now, to the twenty or thirty-something, considering you can barely find employment in this field unless you somehow snag a government job? It matters because society is constantly changing – what we see as normal and what we are told is normal is constantly being transformed.
A large group within society, like Generation Y, has the power to define and change the social constructs of education, government, religion, law, and family. This generation does have the power to transform society. So sociology matters because it’s included in every facet of life whether we see it or not, and therefore an understanding of it and the large groups of people that impact it is crucial to the world we seek to build. Letters by a Twenty-Something seeks to find exactly how Generation Y impacts society in both positive and negative ways, and what the long term social impact of these actions may be. Hopefully, we can do some good and be known for something other than being a lazy and self-absorbed generation of people who only want to serve themselves.