Imagine yourself in a cramped room. Encircled by friends, one a voice shouts, “Drink, drink!”, another joins in, then another. Within seconds, amid the deafening chant, you give in and feel the burning bitterness crawl down your throat as you drink the shot of vodka.This is the textbook example of peer pressure, when one is influenced to take certain actions, or adopt certain beliefs, in order to blend in with a larger group. There is no doubt that everyone has experienced peer pressure of some sort in their life. Despite popular belief, peer pressure is, in reality, beneficial to individuals, for the social skills one gains, the positive loop of motivation of peer pressure, and exposure to new experiences.
Firstly, peer pressure helps in acquiring social skills, while the brain’s neural connections are strengthened for increased cognitive function. When dealing with peer pressure, one eventually matures to the point where they start to think independently, and learns when, and how, to reject their peers even when pressured. Furthermore, according to “Teens and Decision Making: What Brain Science Reveals”, neural connections within the brain are refined, in a process called “synoptic pruning’. Through interactions with peers, strong neural pathways are established and strengthened in the brain, boosting cognitive function. Social skills are essential for personal growth, as well as establishing and maintaining long-lasting ties.
Secondly, peer influence within groups creates a positive loop of motivation and lifestyle changes. One might argue that peer pressure directly leads to negative behaviors and loss of individuality. However, this statement is as ignorant as looking at a room through a keyhole. Other factors, such as family influence, school education, even general opinions within society makes a significant impact on individuals, especially adolescents. Furthermore, as easily as one may be pressured into smoking a cigarette or drinking alcohol, individuals can motivate each others to work towards common goals, whether it be studying for an upcoming test, or exercise regularly. Similarly, good habits can be adopted, replacing bad ones and keeping our lives in check. With a positive lifestyle, individuals can now work more efficiently towards their goals.
Lastly, peer pressure may allow one to experience new things, and even develop new interests and find their own identity. Under the persistent influence of peers, one may muster just enough strength to try that one thing he or she has wanted to try, but previously struggled with for whatever reason. As a result, one may stumble upon a new passion and talent in a certain sport which was previously hidden, and develop it into a hobby. It is the same peer pressure we often want to shed that leads us into unexpected ends, even waking up the next day to find a new face staring back in the mirror.
All in all, peer pressure is beneficial as it helps in the acquisition of social skills, provides motivation, and allows us to try new things. Although it may appear unsettling or even threatening, for most of the time, peer pressure should be viewed as an old friend rather than a foe, and you’ll be surprised by the benefits it brings.