Peer Pressure With Positive Outcomes

Rebecca Reif, Editor in Chief

The first idea that comes to one’s mind when peer pressure is mentioned is a negative connotation; something like poor decisions will be made, or risky and dangerous actions will be taken. There are the obvious detrimental effects of peer pressure, such as distancing oneself from close friends and family, changing the way a person acts or getting involved in efforts that could lead to severe consequences. Peer pressure is most commonly seen in the high school age group, or adolescents, where 85% of individuals report that they have experienced some level of peer pressure during this time in their life. A teenager is more likely to engage in an activity that most people would otherwise turn down, because they want to fit in with their peers, and repeatedly think it will make them seem cool. Therefore, when presented with an opportunity, a good amount of high schoolers will take it, with 28% of people claiming that it will allow them to move up the social ladder.

In my opinion, there are two definitions to peer pressure, however, only one is ever viewed. By the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, peer pressure is defined as, “A feeling that one must do the same things as other people of one’s age and social group in order to be liked or respected by them.” My opposing definition would consider the advantages of peer pressure. These positives include getting out of one’s comfort zone, building confidence, boosting character growth, and belonging somewhere, all through the support of similar-aged peers. In this specific age group, it is common to feel uncomfortable, or even scared, in new situations, because they are not familiar. Nonetheless, when a friend or family member encourages a person to try something new, it may actually lead them to finding a new passion or hobby, or even something as simple as enjoying themself.

An ordinary pursuit of teenagers is going to a football game. There is always that one friend who won’t want to go to the football game because they merely just don’t have an interest in football. However, the rest of the group of friends frequently will encourage that individual to go to the football game along with them, not for the sport itself, but for the comradery that comes along with a big school game. At a high school football game, there are the cheerleaders, band, student section, and so much more school spirit, that hardly any of the event for many people is truly about the game of football. This person that was originally resistant may find that being around a group of like-minded students is enough to want to be there, making a football game a prime example of why peer pressure can introduce someone to an alternate activity to attend, other than his or her normal day-to-day interests. While they are mostly there to spend quality time with their friends, they may also find a genuine delight in this fresh scene. Without the “pressure” from their friends, this hobby would never have been discovered.

An instance of peer pressure that is more personal to me has to do with my preferred dance styles. At my start of dance, I was rather resistant to trying out hip-hop, because it was out of my comfort zone, and I did not have the confidence to attempt a new style. In spite of that fear, some of my friends from my other dance classes participated in hip-hop, and motivated me to simply try the class. After a few dance practices, I gradually started to gain confidence in what hip-hop entails. Hip-hop involves a completely different type of body movement than other styles of dance, where beats are hit in the music and freestyle is performed, which makes it complicated to learn. Now, hip-hop is one of my favorite styles of dance, and I would have never known that without the support of my friends.

All of that being said, people should not jump to conclusions when they hear about somebody being exposed to peer pressure. Whether peer pressure is a negative or positive thing greatly depends on the context of the situation, and it doesn’t always need to be perceived as something an individual should not get involved in. Ultimately, everyone should make decisions for themselves, however, an extra push to try something new could be beneficial. Perhaps, the second definition of peer pressure may state, “A phenomenon in which peers support an individual through the encouragement of stepping out of one’s safe haven for his or her advantage.”

(Above) As I was apprehensive to start training in hip-hop, my studio and
team (shown above), helped me build up the courage to learn skills, as well
as perform on stage. The support that my studio shows while being onstage
is huge, with loud cheering and yelling. Also, other studios chime in with
this same encouragement, making dancing on stage and competing less nerve wracking. After the first competition, I never doubted my ability in hip-hop, and I continue to perform multiple pieces in that style. Photo courtesy of Tremaine Dance. (Photo courtesy of Tremaine Dance.)