After successfully doing some summertime cleaning, I came across some old photos and soon afterwards, I found myself reminiscing over some memories that I had made while at summer camp, just a few short years ago. As a middle school student, I remember feeling very mature to be away from home and my parents, even though I was essentially under constant watch of camp counselors, equating to the same amount of supervision. I can still remember having fun with my friends, enjoying ourselves as we canoed, went swimming, and played kickball. However, more than anything, I will never be able to forget a conversation that one of the counselors had with the group of campers on the first day of camp.
Per usual, upon receiving a new group of kids to watch, and not having a single clue as to how they would act – if they would be troublemakers, if they would just do as they pleased without regard to others – the counselors talked about camp rules in order to be firm from the start. A couple of those included being respectful to adults and other campers, asking for permission before leaving an activity to go somewhere else such as the bathroom, and other basic guidelines. Before we finished such a conversation, one of the counselors made a note to add “First impressions are created in thirty seconds. I already have a particular feeling about each one of you, positive or negative.”
Regardless of if thirty seconds is an accurate amount of time to be assigned to the speed of which we make judgments of people, I do believe that we are very quick to categorize people and to decide certain things about them. Perhaps it is not intentional but it seems that we are wired to take in what we can physically see of people – how they maintain their appearance, as well as their body language – and to formulate an opinion of them based on purely qualitative data. Ever since we have been children, the mantra “Don’t judge a book by its cover” has been ingrained into our heads, yet we can’t help but to do exactly that.
Now, this can be applied in many different situations and circumstances. A prime, and painfully obvious, example would be to consider stereotypes; we already have preconceived ideas about certain groups of people such as homeless people, homosexuals, people with (or without) a lot of money, or college students. Each group has a stigma associated with them and whether we realize it or not, immediately once we recognize that someone belongs to a certain group, we stick a label on them. Just as easily as we will label our leftovers as we put them into the freezer, we take an outward appearance or a general piece of knowledge that we know of someone, and use it to craft a whole personality and lifestyle of a possible stranger. Admitting, stereotypes can be true, but other times they can be very misleading.
Probably one of the most meaningful applications to the “first impression” idea could be brought to the first day of school. Among my friends, my peers, and I, I would say that it is very commonplace for students to dress their best and try to put their best foot forward when they come back to school. Clearly, this extreme effort can be attributed to an attempt to impress other classmates and show exactly what type of person that they are. Inwardly, we realize that first impressions really are important, especially among teenagers, I might add. We know that it is possible that we might not get to speak with each one of our classmates within the first thirty seconds that they will see us, and that we have to make a positive image for ourselves by putting on the costume of the person that we would want others to see us as.
Keeping this in mind, more recently, I have been finding that it is so extremely difficult to change your opinion of someone after you have initially created one. This being said, I would say that there have been certain occasions in which I have come to think differently of someone, in comparison to what my first impression cued me to think of them. In fact, in a certain instance or two, someone that has given me a rather bad first impression has ended up becoming one of my closest friends. However, in proportion to all of the people that I have met in my lifetime, I would say that this percentage of people is rather small.
But why are we so adamant and steadfast to maintain our opinions regarding an issue, or a person, even if such a change should be noted? What if a person doesn’t deserve to be elevated to such a level of admiration? What if a new study has proven that the beliefs that you have held so true to yourself are not as true as they seem?
We certainly are all entitled to our thoughts and ideas; we shouldn’t feel limited by our own person to not feel as we think we truly should. Why is it so difficult to flip the switch?
Ariana Sadoughi writes a regular column for fredericknewspost.com.