FAKE IDs: Degrading to Identity or Not That Big of a Deal?

December 12, 2011

Political Theory

A trip down to the corner store doesn’t seem like too much of a hassle, that is, unless you’re under aged.  Then again, if one is under aged, all he or she needs is her or her trusty piece of falsified rectangular plastic: a fake ID.  According to alcoholstats.com, about 93% of retailers check the identification presented before selling alcohol to the consumer.  However, this doesn’t seem to stop under aged drinkers.  If they have their fakes in hand, they are usually good to go buy booze from their local store or gas station.  

First, I want to look at why kids insist on buying fake IDs.  The root of the impulse to purchase fake IDs and under aged alcohol consumption in general can be traced to the ideas of ageism and interpersonal definitions.  It is easy to say that our society is “ageist” because there are restrictions on what certain people can do legally at certain ages.  In this case, the age at which we are legally allowed to drink is obviously twenty-one.  In some sense, those who are not yet twenty-one are suppressed by the interpersonal definition that is thrust upon them.  They are defined by society as a group of citizens who are not yet ready to take on the responsibility of actively consuming alcohol.  Is this really ageist?  While some people think this is ageist and unnecessary, but don’t do anything about it, others simply obtain fake IDs and combat the law through the use of their fakes.  This is an interesting way of navigating around the implications of a law: falsifying one’s identity. 

ImageI ask you: are fake IDs degrading to our genuine identities?  In my opinion, there are two main ways to think about this question.  The first one is to look at a fake ID from an outer perspective.  People’s fake IDs usually have changed names, home addresses and sometimes even pictures.  One is essentially reconstructing his or her image and creating an altered, ulterior identity.  When thinking about it like this it seems rather ridiculous, excessive and degrading to one’s authentic identity.  One could find this degrading to one’s self because with a fake ID a person is not presenting his or herself truthfully.  There is an element of denial of one’s identity and a sense of defiance associated with fakes.  On the other hand, fake IDs can be seen as not that big of a deal.  The problem with this point of view is that with the usage and purchase of a fake ID, one is breaking the law.  I personally don’t think they’re that big of a deal, but they are obviously not ideal (I’m not saying that I have one).  After all, the ultimate motive behind a fake ID is to obtain booze.  However, with the pursuit of this simple motive comes illegal action.  This makes it more than a trivial issue.  While there is a simple motive behind fakes, it is easy to see why some think that they are slightly ridiculous.  Yes, they serve the purpose of allowing one to purchase alcohol at an age younger twenty-one, but then again one has to create an altered identity just to gain this privilege and with this privilege could come legal problems.  Is it worth it?

Aimee Mullins underscores the importance of staying true to one’s identity in her incredible Ted Talk.Image  She is defined interpersonally due to her prosthetic legs, but what remains most important is how she personally defines herself.  She knows that she feels great and the amazing things she is capable of doing.  Mullins doesn’t let others’ interpersonal definitions of her affect the way she lives because her unique situation actually enriches her life and allows her to do great things.  If she let the common interpersonal definition get to her she wouldn’t be living such a beautiful life.  She says that her friend even told her “but Aimee, that’s not fair” (Mullins, TED TALK), when she told her that she could change her height at any given time.  She turns what some people define interpersonally as a disability, into an advantageous ability that propels her to different heights (both literally and figuratively) of satisfaction and accomplishment in her life.     

We can apply Mullins’ ideas to fake IDs.  People under the age of twenty-one are interpersonally defined by the age restriction on alcohol consumption.  Rather than waiting several years, many decide to re-define themselves personally by obtaining fake IDs.  Unless they are caught, these fake IDs empower them to purchase alcohol, but are these kids compromising their true identities just to get booze?  It is hard to say what Mullins perspective on this would be.  Kids under the age of twenty-one are essentially doing what she does: they define themselves according to the way they feel rather than how society sees them.  They are interpersonally defined by society in one way, but fake IDs allow them to personally define themselves, just as Mullins’ prosthetic legs allow her to personally define herself, independently of what others think.  When looked at from this perspective it seems like Mullins’ would support the use of fake IDs.  On the other hand, she talks a lot about the power of true identity.  Maybe she would consider the use of fake IDs a rejection of one’s true self. 

Of course we don’t know exactly how she feels about them, but what do you think she would say about fake IDs?  Would she support them or not?  Are they that big of a deal in your opinion?              


alcoholstats.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.alcoholstats.com/page.a


TED. N.p., Mar. 2009. Web. 12 Dec. 2011. <http://www.ted.com/talks/aimee_mullin


Image 1: http://img.ffffound.com/static-data/assets/6/2848e201581be3422e432f


Image 2: http://fastcache.gawkerassets.com/assets/images/4/2009/08/Aimee-Mullins-Long-Jump_small.jpg

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9 Comments on “FAKE IDs: Degrading to Identity or Not That Big of a Deal?”

  1. abswang Says:

    I honestly don’t find fake IDs to be that big of a deal. Most kids use them just to be able to get alcohol easier. If they were taking other people’s real identities to pretend to be someone else, I’d find a bigger issue with them, but it’s just a way for some teenagers to obtain alcohol easier. Of course underage drinking is against the law, but in a college atmosphere where it’s going to happen anyway, I don’t see a difference between having one and buying alcohol for yourself or having someone else buy it for you.

  2. ksoisson Says:

    I’m not exactly sure what Mullins would think; I think that’s tough to judge. However, I too don’t believe fake IDs to be a big problem. The only reason I’ve ever really heard of fake IDs being used is to buy alcohol or to get into clubs/bars (where they also buy alcohol). People are not attempting to steal anyone’s personal identification or information. I personally hold the belief that the drinking age should be 19 anyway, which would seriously help battle this problem, but that’s a whole different debate. In the end, I think the fake IDs are pretty harmless. True, a person is not presenting their self honestly. I don’t a person with a fake ID is truly “changing their identity” because they are still themselves every day. That identity just changes each time they walk into a liquor store.

  3. weinben Says:

    Fake ID cards are pretty commonplace with college and even high school kids. They are not too expensive for all the use people get out of them and are easy to make. Most use them to buy alcohol or get into venues that cater to those over 21, like bars and clubs. If you do not have one it is easy to find someone that does who looks like you. I agree with the post that the ends justify the means. Kids are going to drink so its better that they get it themselves and minimize the risk of other people. Also, having a fake ID is not a case of using a fake passport or trying to pose as someone else to gain information or financial statements or something of that stature. They are lying about their age and that is all.

  4. mturner1013 Says:

    I think that you make a very interesting connection between fake ID’s and Mullins situation. Although Mullins says that she can essentially adjust her identity, I don’t think that her theory would apply to fake ID’s because what she is doing is not illegal, but when underage students obtain a fake ID it is illegal, and I do not think that Mullins would agree with that. However, as you stated we do not truly know what she thinks, so we can only speculate.So on to the idea of fake ID’s and students changing there identities. I partly agree with you, but I do not think that students are changing there true identities when they get a fake ID to purchase alcohol, rather I think of it as students are changing the laws so they can legally obtain alcohol. I do not think they are right, but I do not think they are wrong, and judging by the amount of kids that use them on campus, I can assume that not very many students think they are wrong. The reason I say students are not changing there identity when they purchase a fake ID, because an ID isn’t what makes your identity, its you that makes your own identity, not some little piece of plastic. So regardless of what an ID in somebody’s pocket says, it is how they act and carry themselves that defines who they are.

  5. chkeeler Says:

    I feel that the idea of obtaining a fake ID is a big deal, but society has allowed for fake IDs to become a commonplace. This has given underage kids the perception that getting fake IDs is acceptable because many others do the same without getting punished. I completely agree that college students are going to drink and find ways to get alcohol regardless of their age, but getting a fake ID should not be a way of going about doing so. I understand that the idea of a 21 year old being more mature in his decision making choices, in regards to alcohol, than a 19 or 20 year old is completely absurd, but unfortunately it is a rule in our country. This is one of the sacrifices we have to make as part of living in the great country. I do find it annoying, however, that Canada’s legal drinking age is 19 and Michigan citizens are allowed to get a license that allows for travel to and from Canada but can face massive penalties if they are found bringing alcohol back to the country. I understand why the system is set up like it is, but I think it needs to be revised.
    There are some instances where having a fake ID is not a huge deal. Gaining access to a club or bar where you can enjoy life with your friends in a monitored environment by using a fake ID is not a huge issue (at least in my eyes.) But using a fake to purchase alcohol , especially in bulk, for underage drinkers is a serious issue. If you are going to get a fake ID, use it at your own risk and don’t get others involved.

  6. hannahlevitt Says:

    In terms of identity, I do not think that fake IDs are a big deal. I don’t see the use of fake IDs as defining oneself or disrespecting one’s identity; fake IDs serve only one purpose and that is to aid underage teens in getting alcohol. I believe that this is not so much a question of identities, but more so a question of dirty hands. In the case of fake IDs, do the ends justify the means? There is really no right or wrong answer to that question, it depends on who you’re talking to.
    Those who would argue that the ends do justify the means would do so on the basis that they don’t believe in a law and therefore are going to find a way to navigate around it. Everyone who uses a fake ID is exercising a sort of civil disobedience, because they are aware that there are consequences if caught and are choosing to do so anyways.
    Those who would argue that the ends don’t justify the means would do so on the basis that drinking under age 21 is against the law and therefore obtaining an illegal substance does not justify using illegal means to do so.
    Both sides have a good point when it comes to the legal side of fake IDs, but in terms of identity fake IDs are not a big deal.

  7. asgersh Says:

    I believe that fake IDs do not have much to do with changing a person’s identity. Often people just take the first ID they can find that looks anything remotely like them and could care less who the person is or what the person in the picture is portraying. All the user of a fake ID is essentially looking for is a way to have the same kind of social experiences that many of their friends are having. I think the bigger issue is that at 18 you are allowed to be sent to prison, join the army(or register for the draft), as well as vote, but society sees you as still being to young to consume alcohol. I think these factors are what drive many people to get fake IDs because they feel that they are ready for the responsibility consuming alcohol can bring. on the other hand i can see how fake IDs can be used to make up your own identity and feel that this might be the case sometimes, but typically i feel that they are just used to be able to have access to more social experiences.

  8. jrphilli Says:

    I do not believe that fake ID’s are hurting anyone. Yes they are giving people who would not be of age, to do things but is it that big of a deal. If they get into trouble, that is on them. They thought it was worth it to get the fake id. Also, people get fake id not only to drink, but to get into places they could not without them (21 and up, bars, s.casino). I do not believe that the fake ids are taking from that persons true identity, because they are not running around calling themselves that new person, they are only using that for specfic occassions. Now, if someone is using that ID to take someones identity, opening up accounts with their name, that is a different story. As long as the drinking age is 21, younger people will contiune to obtain fake id’s.

    Now, as for Mullin, I do not know what she would think. But what she is doing is not hurting anyone else, it is benefiting her. Fake ID’s are not really hurting someone, but age limits are set for a reason, so maybe they are. I know I do not see any real problem with them, other then they are illegal.

  9. kirtip Says:

    As most of the other comments in this thread, I believe that fake ID’s are not truly a case of a stolen identity or changing one’s identity. They are simply a way for underage people to acquire alcohol. They are not a change of identity. The people using them are not taking up a whole new identity, but simply pretending to be 21 so they can purchase alcohol. As soon as they walk back out of the liquor store they return to being their normal self. They only put on the show in the liquor store or bar. I do not believe that fake ID’s are a bigger problem than simply being illegal. Furthermore, it is quite commonplace in college to have them and it wont stop being commonplace unless something in the system changes.

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