Peering into the peer pressure

By Dr Muattar Hanif

It was my third week in the dental school. We were given orientation around the campus on our first week. Our lecturers briefed us on the very first day regarding the subject outlines and all the basic timetable of lectures. Hence on the very next day, they came straight to the point; ‘Today’s lecture’. Within a span of three weeks, we found ourselves into a monotonous routine of lectures, tutorials and practical classes. With every passing day, a new topic was ‘bombarded’ on students. The dental courses hence, started to take toll on us. The welcoming week of our new dental school, thus, didn’t last very long. Maybe, hardly for three days!

With all this in backdrop, were new blossoming friendships among our batch of fresh dental students. With a total of 100 students, it was impossible to not meet someone who matched your preferences. Newly formed ‘best friends’ soon started to study and spend more time in campus together. Though the general awkwardness among our batch mates faded away, the quest to become the ‘new kid on the block’ didn’t. With different backgrounds and ideologies, many students were still struggling to find validation from their new group. They still were having hard time to adjust in the new groups. Some of them started to bunk their lectures just to appear ‘cool’, and others skip lectures to hangout in nearby restaurant/ cafés. I even remember one of my classmate who used to stay longer in our college canteen, with the hope of being discovered by the ‘burger’ group. The new beginnings of dental life surely came with new pressure, peer pressure.

As written in Wikipedia, “Peer pressure is the direct influence on people by peers, or the effect on an individual who gets encouraged to follow their peers by changing their attitudes, values or behaviors to conform to those of the influencing group or individual. This can result in either a positive or negative effect, or both.” It is said that peer pressure has the strongest form of influence on young adults, not even social media, books or even parents.

The sense of freedom in the vicinity of the university is ethereal. The way to spend this newly found freedom, depend on one’s intentions. Some of the students think of ways to better their grades by competing with their fellow student. The urge to become better at their clinical skills just to beat their classmates, can in turn make them better professionals. While peer pressure benefited students, for others it didn’t end up like that.  I had seen many classmates of mine who became the brunt of the jokes. Many of them even later found themselves in unhealthy friendships and even in relationships. But none of them could break off from them.

The reason behind could be attributed to the fear of loneliness. Students at time preferred to be in toxic groups rather than be left alone. Another reason could be attributed to stressful dental courses. The overwhelming lectures and torturous books can make students feel exhausted. Hence they reach out to ‘cool group’ who spends most of their time hanging out here and there. Students who initially thought of them as an outlet for stress, soon caught themselves in the toxicity.

Overall the poor decision being made while choosing friends, could cost many students later in life. Students should always remember to prefer their responsibilities over enjoyment. The need to spend time with friends and let go of stress is perfectly natural, but always stay cautious. The validation from becoming successful professional would always matter more than the need to appear ‘appealing’. The peer pressure that one gives into absentmindedly, always come with a price tag. After all a famous English proverb says, “A man is known by the company he keeps.”

January 10, 2020

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