So you’ve read the Street Talk in the April issue of TeenZone magazine. Peer Pressure is a biggie and is something we focus on every year. See below the article we have published a few months ago in the magazine…
The Pressure Is On!
In today’s exciting times, we are continuously being bombarded with messages. The power of advertising and television is so incredible, that even I, as an actress can’t help buying into most of it!
On the flip side, some people have become desensitised to these messages. Instead, they sit unaffected while messages just don’t penetrate – messages centred around HIV/Aids, crime, even PEER PRESSURE! So, allow me to give you a little twist on this predictable subject!
According to Wikipedia.com, ‘Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group, encouraging individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviours in order to conform to group norms’. When I read this, the words ‘exerted’ and ‘encouraging’ jumped out at me! When something is exerting or encouraging you, it implies that you are either in a position of being vulnerable or unassertive. It implies that you ALLOW that thing to get to you and it also implies that you put yourself in a position that makes it easier for someone or something to take advantage of you. Have I got your attention so far?
We live and grow up in communities all our lives and therefore it’s almost impossible not to be affected by what happens around us. That’s why social media and networks have taken over our lives. I will be the first to admit that I’m a Twitter junkie; I love having access to information and the latest news of people I admire or aspire to meet. I’m almost certain that I’m not the only addict, especially because this thirst of mine started way back when Facebook invaded cyberspace! There is only one reason why most of us are hooked; it’s the need to belong.
When you are still in school, a part of you has no choice but to be there; our folks put us into schools so that we can make something of ourselves by getting the best education they can afford. But what school also does is teach us to live and become a part of a society. The need to belong becomes so important to us that as we grow up, we start developing relationships that make us feel safe, but more importantly, acknowledged. What we don’t realise is the extent to which we exert pressure on ourselves to keep those relationships. That’s when peer pressure is born.
Even though most of us come from different cultural backgrounds that make us unique, it’s the subcultures that emerge around us that bring us together: what music you listen to, fashion trends you follow and even what phone you have and use to connect with friends and family via social networks. All these things form a part of subcultures that we move into and celebrate to a point where we feel like we can’t live without them. Lines start to blur between things or people you need as opposed to want around you. The pressure starts weighing down on you to keep up, or you might be left outside. When you’re still a teenager, a lot of things matter.
I remember when I was in high school, who you dated or how far we got intimately, mattered big time. Depending on whom you considered ultra-cool, being and staying a virgin was either really silly of you or seen as severely uptight, especially if you were seeing one of the cool guys. The pressure to keep him was so high, that even he knew you would succumb to it and give it up soon, otherwise he would have no choice but to move on (and trust me, it was usually with someone close to you like your best friend). Smoking meant that you were daring, especially if you could slip into the bathrooms between breaks and walk straight back into class smelling of a hint of tobacco; just enough to let those around you know how fearless you were of being caught. Don’t even let me start on drinking! After all, what would Friday nights in the hostel be without a cider or two?
Nowadays, alcohol and smoking more than cigarettes has become a norm for teens. Why wouldn’t it be? We see it everywhere in music videos and the parties we go to. Television is always selling sex, it’s no wonder that sexting has become so popular with teens; I mean everyone has a phone! Why talk about geography or science over Whatsapp, when you could send great pictures of yourself chilling in your bikini flaunting your latest version of your cleavage. Or even better, receiving a very loaded text from a guy you fancy telling you about all the things he wants to do to you. And even though that message was meant for you, it wouldn’t be that sexy until the rest of your crew gets a peek at it, just to affirm how deep your cool goes! But how cool does it REALLY make you feel?
The conversations we have with ourselves when we are alone at home tend to sound very different when we’re chilling with friends. Most of us get approached by our anxieties and insecurities. We start hearing that little voice in our heads that we work so hard to shut off telling us not to do it! “Don’t go there!” “Are you even ready?” “Is it worth it? For who?” We question ourselves because deep down, we’re the only ones that know what we want, but mostly deserve. So in essence, what am I saying here is simple: WE are the ones who EXERT the pressure on ourselves, ENCOURAGING our inner self that we need to do it, so that we can belong.
Here are a few signs of how to identify peer pressure, even when it’s coming from yourself:
- When you’re concerned with TIME! Most people spend their whole lives chasing time; we live in a world where we think that every day could be the last! Messages like: ‘Live for the moment!’ confuse us. But it’s only the smart who know that even though tomorrow is not necessarily guaranteed, you have to live with a plan in mind. Self-preservation is the key to feeling sure about whatever may come your way the next day!
- When someone PLANTS the IDEA in your mind! If you’re not the author of the decision you’re about to make, you are likely to be a victim of peer pressure.
- If you live in FEAR of being left out! Fear is usually a telling sign that you’re not ready or confident enough to take responsibility for your actions.
So, instead of allowing peer pressure to control you, take a second to assert yourself by deciding that YOU are just as influential! Start a movement where the people around you want to belong in YOUR circle of friendship because they are likely not to feel judged, or pressured to conform to things they are not ready to become! Don’t be afraid to speak out! Be the trendsetter! If all else fails, get back to what you know: being YOU.
Lehlogonolo ‘Nolo’ Phiri
LoveLife Youth line: 0800 121 900, www.lovelife.org.za
011 646 5641 – Pregnancy Crisis Personal Telephonic counseling
012 343 6401 – Teenage Pregnancy Guidance & Support
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The toll-free helpline number is 0800 121314.
SMSs can also be sent to 32312 and will be charged at regular service provider rates.
SUICIDE PREVENTION & AWARENESS
0800 567 567 or 0800 70 80 90 (SADAG) Support for teenagers – suicide prevention
051 444 5000 – Friends for suicide & crisis support
011 642 4345 – Rape Crisis Centre – Support
021 447 9762 – Support