Coming out of the microcosm that is college can be startling. In fact, it should be down right frightening. For the majority of us, the bubble is all we know on a regular basis. We’re ferried from grade to grade, school to school in little societies where age is the most common of denominators. Conditioned, we begin to expect similar answers to standard questions, and we in turn slowly bend and conform to return the expected answers. Which is why at the age of 23 I found myself taken aback and confused as I built up a rapport with the 28 year-old girl (woman?) on the bus seat to my left.
It was a harmless query about parenthood ambiguously near or far into our respective futures. I was conditioned to expect, “I don’t even want to think about it.” My like response was prepared before she answered my question surprisingly genuinely. Of course, the mid-20s bring about great changes, particularly and hopefully, a great leap forward in maturity, but the societal norms did not always dictate this trend. Our need to have common experiences with our peers leads to affirmative peer pressure in the short-term and equally negative pressures in the long-term.
Consider the last time you were persuaded towards an immediate experience. Chances are it was to go out, not to stay in, to try something, not to avoid it. In the long-term, it’s empirical persuasion tends to occur negatively and allegorically. A relative dropping out of school or a classmate becoming pregnant are both negative experiences that lead others away from similar fates.
Immediate peer pressures are positive because they will be instantly fulfilling most likely in nature but certainly in scope. These commonalities among peer groups forge stories that, with each retelling, create a stronger bond.
The allegorical, long-term pressures merely aim to set up the immediate variety: going to college, getting a job, getting married. All of these, depending on socioeconomical factors, set up more potential for tighter commonalities across a peer group.
It’s interesting to note how this, perhaps, instinct to create multitudes of experiences comes together. A few final questions: common experiences create a familiarity and build a relationship, so is this instinct an animalistic, long-held one to give our packs numbers for survival, or is it a more human desire for a greater sense of intimacy? What would following the inverse of positive, short-term and negative, long-term pressure grant someone? The converse?