Peer Pressure: It's Not Always What You Think It Is

The phrase “peer pressure” makes us imagine sketchy teens pressuring an innocent kid into smoking with the promise of popularity. All in all, peer pressure doesn’t feel like a problem we can’t rise above and overcome. What we don’t realize is that peer pressure still very much exists, but not in the way we expect— and we’ve all probably given into it at some point.

One of the many decisions first years entering college make is whether or not to drink. While some students enter college with vast drinking experience, there are others on the opposite end of the spectrum with no drinking experience and no desire to do so. Yet, it’s surprisingly easy for even them to get swept up in all the chaos and excitement.

Drinking is a social activity. If you don’t want to drink, you don’t have to, but you will likely run into people drinking at an event. No one is going to force you into drinking by telling you that you are uncool if you don’t. It’s more likely that people will silently respect your decision while continuing to sip from their own red solo party cups. There is no antagonistic figure egging you on. And so, if you decide to drink, it feels like it’s a decision you’ve made on your own.

What we don’t realize is that peer pressure exists just by being around people who are drinking and having a good time. Even if they don’t give any indication of judging you for not drinking, you unconsciously feel pressured into drinking. If everyone else is doing it, it’s easy to think, why not?

Is giving into this kind of peer pressure bad? Who is to say? Most people don’t even realize that it is peer pressure and never look back, and are happier because of it. It’s possible they will regret it later, but for now, it’s hard to tell. I can’t make that decision for anyone else. College is a time for exploration and growth, and for making mistakes. Sometimes the best and worst things are a combination of both.