Multi-Faceted Peer-Pressure


by Natalia Tapia Moreno, United World College Maastricht
30 November, 2020
Illustration by Carla Guillermo


Peer-pressure is one of those words that make an appearance around the time of firsties’ arrival. We talk a lot about making the island a comfortable place for everyone, and we question the influence that our actions have on others. It is assumed that peer-pressure is a concept with purely negative connotations in our community, and as such, once it loses momentum, we tend to forget about its existence.

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Nevertheless, leaving personal opinions aside, peer pressure is, at its core, “the strong influence of a group, on members of that group to behave as everyone else does.”   It is the idea that the general social dynamics could shape an individual’s actions by exerting pressure on that person. But the moral judgment of this pressure and its outcomes is something we decide upon.

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It seems like the real danger of peer-pressure is failing to understand its definition, or more importantly, not contextualizing it in our community. If we do not recognize the multiple layers of peer-pressure at UWCM, we could completely miss its burning – and even overwhelming, presence on our campus.

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Since the very first day of your arrival, there is an incredible amount of peer-pressure to speak in English because this is the main language that the community uses. If you are not a native speaker, it might be extremely challenging for you to adapt your life around a new language. But in the long term, this peer-pressure could have positive outcomes, such as you becoming fluent in a language other than your own.

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Another example of peer-pressure is the almost invisible expectation for you to be an extrovert. In many cases, the lessons and activities on campus are designed to fit this personality. In the short term, we could say that introverts could benefit from stepping out of their comfort zones. But the continuous demand for social interaction could be exhausting for the introverts on the campus.

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The example that everyone thinks of when talking about peer-pressure is most probably the issues related with intoxication. But the issue with this example is the way in which it is understood. It would be imprecise to say that you engage in those activities because people in the community force you to do so. Instead, the issue seems to be that if you prefer to not take part in it, you somehow “miss out” on a portion of the social life in the community.

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Just like those three examples, the list could continue indefinitely. I could mention the peer-pressure to act and think with a western mindset, the peer-pressure to hate on the IB, the peer-pressure to stand somewhere in the political spectrum, or the peer-pressure to be productive.

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The curious thing about peer-pressure in our community is that it does not come in a single shape. It is of a multi-faceted nature. Perhaps we struggle to perceive its presence in our community, or if we do, we mistakenly disregard it as what it is.

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We cannot unpack something that we do not like to acknowledge the existence of. We cannot solve an issue that we do not understand. The first step to come in terms with peer-pressure is to accept its existence, and that it will not go away as far as we are a community. Afterwards, we need to be more critical of our actions and the possible effect that these might have on others. We need to be critical of our environment and reflect on how it contributes to our own actions. But above all, we must be more empathetic of our community and sensitive towards each other’s experiences.

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