Friends Don’t Let Friends Believe In Peer Pressure

The Wikipedia definition of peer pressure is: “An influence exerted by a peer group, encouraging individuals to change their attitudes, values or behaviors in order to conform to group norms.” My personal definition of peer pressure is that it is an excuse for weak people. I am sure you have heard it before: “But so-and-so was doing it,” or “I had to because everyone else was doing it.” The fact is that you have a choice, and that choice can be to say no.When I say “weak people”, I am referring to those who are not strong enough to say no and stand up for what they believe in. Personally, I do not have experience with peer pressure because I did not allow it to exist. When I was young, everyone I hung out with drank and some did drugs as well. When they would offer me drugs or alcohol, I simply said no and stood my ground. There were times when kids called me names and thought I was a punk, but my true friends respected my decisions. All throughout high school, I never drank alcohol or did any drugs. High school was one of the best times of my life and I did it my way. I was well known around school and everyone respected my choices.

After high school, it was time to start all over. I joined the U.S. Army and it seemed that everyone in the service drank alcohol. All of the men in my unit referred to themselves as “the most physically fit alcoholics in the world.” They all knew I did not drink and I was still accepted among them.

When we got weekend passes to leave the base, we went out into town and raised all kinds of hell (but that is another story). The bond of friendship we had in our unit cannot be explained.

We were part of a brotherhood; it is difficult to understand unless you’ve experienced it yourself. I feel that it is similar to the bond that Swatties show here on campus. Stay true to your beliefs and do not feel pressured to do certain things to “fit in.” I feel that it was best said by William Gibson: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure that you are not, in fact, simply surrounded by assholes.”

This is not just another school; this is Swarthmore College. The fact is all of you
Swatties and I have so much in common: high school, college, the real world, death, drugs, depression, raging hormones, puberty. You name it, we have suffered through it all and we still are suffering. Some people have moved away, others have joined. It does not matter; we know we can depend upon each other. So even if we all do not end up together, it will be alright. The kind of friendships we have will last forever. As you rock your way through the four years here at Swarthmore College, remember that there is no peer pressure, only choices and decisions you make for yourself. If you are feeling pressured into something you do not want to do, you always have a friend at Swarthmore to help.

I would like to end this article with a true and funny story that happened last year. My 13-year-old son, Noah, was in the D.A.R.E. program at school. A police officer came to talk about peer pressure, and as he was talking, Noah raised his hand. He told the police officer, “My dad said there is no such thing as peer pressure. It is just an excuse for weak people.” The police officer just stood dumbfounded…

By David Toland

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