Peer pressure is usually the anxiety or feeling caused by you having to do something that you may not necessarily have chosen to do by yourself. It usually happens when one is trying to fit in with their peers. It also happens because of phrases being shouted at us by our peers in trying to persuade us into doing something like, phrases like: “Come on don’t be weak”, “You’re a chicken”, “You’re frigid”, “Come on, everyone else is doing it”, “You dress like my parents”, etc.
Everybody, no matter how old, faces the pressure to ‘fit in’. However, young people often feel this the most because they are trying to find their place in the world and the media targets a lot of messages at them. Peers are a powerful force in the life of a teenager. Whether they know it or not, teens face peer pressure almost constantly. Friends can sometimes put pressure on young people too – pressure to talk, dress and act a certain way.
Peer pressure can also be pretty sneaky.
Sometimes we don’t even know it’s happening or that we are choosing to do things because of it. Sometimes people might use the fact they know you want to fit in to make you do things you don’t want to do.
A lot of people have bought expensive cell phones, sport cars, clothes and even married because of the pressure their environment is pushing on them.
The types of peer pressure range from direct, confrontational pressure, to more subtle pressures to look, dress and act like everyone else.
Negative peer pressure can persuade a teenager or child to shoplift, drink alcohol, take drugs, smoke cigarettes, cheat at school, vandalize property, bully other students, skip school and participate in racist and discriminatory behavior.
Direct Negative Peer pressure happens when your peers confront you, like, “We’re going behind the bleachers to drink. Come with us! Don’t just sit here studying. You never do anything fun!” It puts you on the spot through direct confrontation.
This is where your peers convince you to do something you shouldn’t do. When peers resort to this type of direct pressure, it’s difficult for teens to find an excuse to do the right thing without risking ridicule.
The other type, which often is not clear and people do not notice when they experience it, is unspoken, indirect peer pressure. This pressure happens all the time, everyday and in all ages.
When it seems like everyone else is doing something dressing or acting a certain way, people feel a tremendous pressure to go along with the crowd and be like everyone else.
Most teenagers don’t want to stand out as being different. Everyone wants to fit in.
Imagine all your friends have bought cars and always show off with their girls over the weekend; sooner or later, you would have joined the crew.
Peer pressure cuts across all ages though most people believe it affects only young ones.
The whole basis behind peer pressure is knowing that a person will follow a group.
I interviewed several people on peer pressure and the response was that everyone has, at some point in their lives, gone through peer pressure.
“I believe peer pressure is always negative,” said someone only willing to be identified as Dimpho. “It always pressures you to do bad things and young children are the ones who are mostly affected.”
She said that she experienced only good influence from friends which she does not term as peer pressure but as advice.
However, ‘Cecil’, a student at the University of Botswana, says: “It’s there throughout life, regardless of your age, race, colour, sex and I think if anyone says they haven’t gone through it, they’d be lying. I experienced both good and bad influence at different times about different issues from my peers.”
Another student, “Tshepo”, an employee at UB, said that she once experienced a bad influence from friends but never gave into it.
“The way I understand peer pressure is when you envy what your peers are doing and you feel pressured into doing it because you feel left out,” she said.
Even though peer pressure is very difficult to avoid, it is very possible to defeat.
Some of the ways to avoid or defeat pressure is to take a stand by your opinion and not let go of it. Another way to avoid peer pressure is to just simply walk away as it gives others a clue not to do it either.