Today’s Hot Topic is about the influence friends have - or don’t have - on the choices you make.
Last year at my daughter’s high school, there were big signs posted in the hallways reading, “Think everyone at Wilson High smokes pot? Think again. 70% don’t!”
But as my daughter pointed out, that meant 30% did. And in a way, that was a pretty big percentage (given that she thought some people might be less than honest on a school survey).
It’s likely that most of those kids made the decision to smoke weed when a friend asked them if they wanted some.
So what influence do friends have on the decisions teens make?
When I was in high school, there were only a few groups of teens - the popular kids (which included athletes, cheerleaders, and kids elected to student council), the smart nerds, the theatre kids, and the kids who cut classes and smoked cigarettes on the corner. And then there were the rest of us, the remaining faceless herd in our huge high school. (And some kids from all these groups smoked pot, and, this being the seventies, quite a few of them ended up using harder drugs and lost big chunks of their lives - or their lives altogether.)
But from what I can see in 2011, it’s easier for teens to find a niche for themselves. (Maybe this is due to the Internet, where you can find someone who shares your passions and beliefs even if no one in your home room does.) It seems like the groups at school (at least my daughter’s school) aren’t as rigid and there are far more of them. Girls can skip makeup or wear Kabuki-like eyeliner. Boys can be openly gay and most of their classmates just shrug. Cheerleaders and athletes, at least in my daughter’s eyes, aren’t that important at all.
Being a nonconformist is no longer a cause for whispers. In fact, there is no single “normal” to conform to.
So maybe that makes it easier to resist being influenced by your friends? Or harder, because you have such a tight little group that you all identify by how alike you are?
Studies have shown that we tend to be follow our friends’ lead. If our friends are overweight, we’re more likely to be. If our friends lose weight, we might too.
But what if your friend is a binge drinker? And wants you to accompany her, or at least not stand in her way? What if your boyfriend smokes pot - and wants you to, too? What if everyone in your group of friends is constantly bumming smokes off each other - are you more likely to join them?
What do you think? How much influence do friends have? Have you ever done something at a friend’s urging that took you out of your comfort zone?