Symbolic Interactionist Perspective Essay

Symbolic Interactionist Perspective Essay

The main social institutions are family, education, religion, economy, and government, and they are discussed as critical for the development of society because they are intertwined to form a strong social system. In this case, the family works to raise children; education is important to provide the knowledge for following generations; religion provides the necessary knowledge related to spiritual issues; economy distributes the goods, and government coordinates the work of the society as a system.

As a result, these social institutions are important to address people’s social needs, and they can be understood through the lens of such sociological perspectives as symbolic interactionism, functionalism, and the conflict perspective. This paper aims to discuss three videos on such social institutions as the family, education, and religion while referring to the symbolic interactionist perspective.

Overview of the Videos

Why Are Fewer Americans Getting Married?

The video addresses problems of such a social institution as a family and presents a discussion on the decline in the marriage rate in American society as it is provided in the Pew Research Center report. According to the report, the marriage rate declined significantly from 72% in 1960 to more than 50% in 2010 (Why are fewer Americans getting married? 2011). The speakers are inclined to provide explanations for the changes in the tendency and focus on the factors influencing the situation.

What We’re Learning from Online Education

In her TED talk, Daphne Koller argues that it is necessary to provide education to all people over the world, without references to their income. Today, this approach is reality because of using modern technologies. Koller focuses on demonstrating the effectiveness of online teaching programs and highlights educational benefits offered to all people regardless of their income and location because online education is provided for free (Koller, 2012).

Nine Years after 9/11

The video presents an analysis of changes in religious tolerance in American society after 9/11. The participants of the discussion state that the 9/11 event significantly influenced the relations between religious communities, and now, it is typical for people not to demonstrate much tolerance toward each other because of their experience (Nine years after 9/11, 2010).

Different Perspectives on the Family, Religion, and Education

Proponents of the functionalist perspective state that social institutions act as a system to ensure that individuals’ social needs are met. Each institution performs a specific function to make the society stable, and it depends on the other social institutions. This perspective is followed to discuss the marriage issues in the first video. According to the speaker, the fact that the rate of marriages declines is caused by changes in individuals’ income and education statuses, and it also affects the development of the economy and politics in the country (Why are fewer Americans getting married? 2011).

The conflict perspective explains the unequal distribution of goods in the society while focusing on the conflict between the elite that can take advantage of the existing social structures to gain power and the poor who can be deprived of basic resources. This perspective is followed by Koller when she talks about the unequal distribution of educational opportunities among people (Koller, 2012). According to the speaker, modern education is too expensive for the majority of people, and it becomes available only for the rich minority who can afford the best education.

A symbolic interactionist perspective is a micro-level approach to understanding society while focusing on people’s subjective meanings and visions that influence their social communication. Depending on their experience, people impose the subjective symbolic meaning on objects and situations. This approach is reflected in discussing the issue of religious tolerance in the third video. Thus, the speakers state that the people’s subjective visions of religions depend on their feelings of anxiety, grief, and anger that are their personal reactions to the 9/11 events (Nine years after 9/11, 2010).

Discussion of the Videos from the Symbolic Interactionist Perspective

While applying the symbolic interactionist perspective to explaining the video on family issues, it is necessary to refer to the speaker’s words on how young people choose to marry or not. According to the speaker, individuals have emotional expectations regarding the marriage, and they assess what benefits they can receive while marrying this or that person. This approach is correlated with the symbolic interactionist perspective when persons interpret certain social situations, like a marriage, according to their own visions.

This perspective is also working to explain the ideas described in the discussion of online education. Koller points at such advantages of online education as availability and flexibility. Having the symbolic meaning that good education is usually expensive and non-affordable for the majority, people can resist accepting the benefits of online education. This approach also works for educational critics and tutors who can prefer traditional approaches. Such observed barriers to accepting free online education can also be discussed from the point of the symbolic interactionist perspective.

The most vivid example of applying interactionism in these videos is the discussion of religious tolerance. The speakers stated that religious tolerance depends on the individuals’ perceptions of different faiths. The modern discussion of Islam is rather prejudiced, and it is a result of the persons’ subjective visions of the consequences of 9/11 for them and symbolic associations of Islam and the tragedy.


Family, religion, and education can be discussed from the functionalist, symbolic interactionist, and conflict perspectives. The symbolic interactionist perspective explains the marriage from the point of the symbolic meaning of the decision and expected benefits. Education is approached as the social benefit that is believed to be available only for rich persons, but this vision is changed with references to free online education.

Religion is seen as a result of personal experiences and beliefs that provoke subjective visions of other faiths. The role of these social institutions is significant because they can influence the personal vision of the family, education, and religion in life. My personal experience made me see marriage as leading to happy family life, and now I share traditional family values. The attitude to education in my family influenced my focus on higher education because of its benefits for the career. I can state that my subjective vision of faiths did not change, and now I am religiously tolerant.


Koller, D. (2012). What we’re learning from online education. Web.

Nine years after 9/11: Has religious tolerance changed in America? (2010). Web.

Why are fewer Americans getting married? (2011). Web.

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