Peers, the incorrect spelling for a sweet fruit, but more commonly known as people of your own age that you spend time with and who influence you. Peer group pressure is when the people around us influence us to act in a certain way. What often drives our actions in response to group pressure is the wish to be accepted and liked.
It is usual for teenagers to be influenced by their social group and it is important to realise that peer group pressure can be both positive and negative.
Group dynamics might be such that group members support each other and learn from each other. This is very evident in the Tribe where the Mall Rats have encouraged this supportive and positive dynamic. There is a Œpressure’ to act in the group’s interest and to support all members. Even members such as Lex, who is sometimes, let us say, tempted towards the fringes; is brought into line by the group’s expectations. The Œleaders’ such as Amber and Salene usually act responsibly – and most of the others tend to follow their example.
In your social group, members may give each other encouragement in academic work or sports, for instance. Through their peer group, individuals can broaden their knowledge of social norms and how to act in particular situations.
Negative consequences of peer group pressure can be numerous. Pressure can exist to make you act, dress, talk and think in a different way from what you would usually feel comfortable doing. Actions brought about by negative peer group pressure can have major ramifications.
Some minor peer group pressure is normal and is probably not to be worried about too much. The trick is for you to recognise the minor so that you can act if a Œmajor’ should happen to come along.
In a group situation, one or two group members may emerge as dominant. They may be looked upon as the Œcool’ ones and exert influence over the quieter group members. The less dominant members may feel like they want to be accepted or liked as much as the others. They may be prepared to act in a way that they feel uncomfortable with in order to be accepted by the wider group as a whole. I wonder if Ram uses a form of peer group pressure on Ved. Ved will do almost anything to be accepted by the Technos, including taking advantage of his own brother.
Often the dominant members may get the others to do something that he or she has no interest in risking themselves. They may be counting on the fact that some of the peer group are prepared to merely follow in order to be accepted.
At the same time, group members may also be genuinely curious about trying out activities such as smoking, drinking or drug taking for example.
Peer group pressure is very influenced by the media these days. Peer group expectations of Œcool’ often parallel those considered cool on TV or films.
Many people feel a need to conform to these Œnorms’ and pressure may be put on you by others to conform to dress, language, activities depicted in the media.
Sammy and Mouse’s addiction to the game, along with the addiction experienced by the majority of the city, was brought upon partly through the media promotion of the game as Œcool.’ Sammy and Mouse, in some ways, impressed by characters such as Gladiator Lex, exerted a form of peer pressure on each other to embrace the game.
Take time to think
We have all been tempted to do things by our peers that we would later regret. It takes a great deal of character and confidence to step back from the situation, consider your options and act in an alternative way.
Remember that in any situation of peer group pressure, knowledge is power. Do not just react to a situation, use your head. If it does not feel right to you, there is bound to be a valid reason underneath it all.
Think about the consequences of the proposed action – how might it affect others or you?
If you are going to do this thing, what is the point – is it just to impress others or is there a valid reason?
It is easier said than done sometimes, but try not to be just a follower. Everybody has a right to make their own choices.
Choosing your friends wisely
I’m sure you’ve all been told this many times but the importance of it should not be underestimated.
It does pay to be a bit choosy about friends. There is absolutely no doubt that friends do have an influence on your behaviour in some way or another. Think about your own social group.
Are you enjoying yourself – are you involved in activities that you would choose?
Are you making the decisions or are you being led?
What is the mentality within your social group – is it about having a good time and supporting each other or is it more about a mob mentality?
Is the group acting in a way that you feel uncomfortable with?
Are you accepted for who you are or do you constantly feel like you have to impress the group?
Do you feel like there may be repercussions if you don’t act in a certain way?
Is there a dominant leader, as was previously mentioned, who holds more power in the group?
Does the group support each other in the ways that you consider are fitting and constructive?
A true friend is somebody that is supportive and accepting. They will protect your reputation when you are not there and will not put you in a position where you feel uncomfortable.
Time for Action
After considering these factors, if you think that your social group is making you feel uncomfortable; it is time to act. If it is a one off situation, it may just mean removing yourself from the group when you are feeling uncomfortable.
You may wish to confront the group but this is a tricky thing to do – it might be wiser to talk to a few individuals on their own.
If it is happening regularly over a longer term, it may be time to make a decision and remove yourself from the group completely. The greatest fear, I suppose, for many of us in making this move is that there may not be other friends out there beyond our normal group.
Back yourself – there are lots more people out there and you might find that they are more likely to be better friends.
If you see somebody being led by a group into a decision that could negatively affect them, it would be a good idea to go and offer your support to them in private. You may wish to talk to them about their options and show your support of a positive decision. The person may well be more likely to act against the group if they know that they have your support.
It is sometimes easier to follow blindly like sheep – but it can certainly lead you into a lot of trouble. The tougher option is to be true to yourself and forge your own path – making your own decisions on what is after all your life. Like anything, making decisions independently and acting accordingly is a practised art – the more you do it the better you will get at it.