What Is Social Pressure In The 21st Century? (Ultimate Guide)

Key Points

  • Social pressure is any form of social influence that forces an individual into doing or becoming something that is against their will.
  • Another word for social pressure is society’s pressure. Peer pressure is one of the types of social pressure.
  • The four types of social pressure include societal norms, pressure from social media, intimidation, and of course, peer pressure.
  • Social pressure is largely negative and comes with great disadvantages like low self-esteem, depression, destroyed relationships, guilt, shame, etc
  • Confrontation is the strongest way to get free from social pressure. However, it must be combined with other factors to be effective.

Everything we do in life comes from one form of influence or the other. So influences and normal. However, some influences are forced on us or we have to ‘accept’ although they are not what we want or like.

Those influences are called social pressure. In this article, I’ll be taking you through a journey of what social pressure is and getting free from all kinds of social pressure.

What is Social Pressure?

Social pressure is any form of influence– either spoken or unspoken, intended or unintended– that comes from the environment and forces an individual to take actions or portray behaviors that are against their wills.

Social pressure can be so subtle that it is not noticed as the influence, or so strong and outspoken that the individual (the pressured) is ‘willingly’ doing things that are not their own will. For instance, a girl might want to have her hair shaved or bald, but may not be free to take such action because of the expectation of society that women should keep long hair.

This example of social pressure is not spoken; no one comes to her and forces her to keep her hair. However, since the decision to keep long hair was not sponsored by her desire but by the expectation of society, it is social pressure.

Social, of course, comes from the word Society or vice versa. Social pressure, therefore, means Society’s pressure.

Not All Social Influences Are Social Pressure

However, not all influences that come from society are called social pressure. The word pressure connotes that someone is forced to do something against their will. There are several activities we do or behaviors we portray, that are influenced by society but were not pressured on us.

For example, eating three square meals a day was an influence we got from the environment but it wasn’t forced on us. You can decide at any time that you will only eat twice a day and nobody will make you feel guilty about it. However, eating three times a day becomes social pressure when you don’t want to do it and are forced to.

How To Detect Social Pressure

An action or behaviour can be seen as social pressure (different from social influence) when

  • you are forced to do it
  • you feel guilty for not doing it
  • you don’t like it
  • you feel ashamed or like a misfit for not doing it
  • you will stop doing it if you got the chance

These are not the only criteria for differentiating social pressure from social influence, but most times, social pressure manifest in these forms. Some forms of social pressure can be so ingrained into us that we no longer see them as pressure: we have come to think they are our decision or will like them when truly, they are not and we don’t like them.

Is Social Pressure Good or Bad?

From the meaning of the word pressure, it can be argued that social pressure is bad because you are forcing someone into doing what they don’t want to do.

It can also be argued, on the other hand, that social pressure can be good if you are pressuring someone into doing what is right. Think of pressure groups; they pressure the government into doing what is right.

Now, let’s look at it in detail…

Putting government aside and thinking of yourself as an individual; should you be forced to do what you don’t want to do? Do you consider it right for someone to force you into doing something, even though it is beneficial to you?

If you don’t have any issue with being forced, then you may not consider social pressure as something bad. However, if you think you should be left with your decision to do what you want as it pertains to your life, then social pressure will be bad.

Although, social pressure mostly comes on frivolities: that is, what society is forcing you to do isn’t something that matters to your life. (No one will need to force you to do something if you understand it is beneficial to you). Nevertheless, social pressure can also come towards important and beneficial matters. It

A parent forcing their 5-year-old son to go to school against his will is exacting social pressure on him, but in that case, towards something beneficial to him. However, the bulk of social pressure does no good to the pressured. It only leaves the individual with pressure and frustration.

All that being said, here’s my conclusion: all forms of social pressure are bad. Whatever influence is trying to force someone into something against their will is bad.

We’ve learned of God placing life and death before man and leaving him to his choice, although He wanted life for man. This teaches us an important lesson: humans were not wired to work by compulsion.

Like I said earlier, any influence that tries to force a person into doing what they don’t want to do will only leave such an individual with pressure and frustration.

Humans don’t drive under pressure!

The innate nature of humans crave for freedom.

Counterintuitively, that is the psychology working in people who claim to be more effective working under pressure. Because human nature wants freedom, such a person will do anything possible to take away the pressure off him, and in the process will get the job done since that job was a source of pressure.

That doesn’t mean such an individual ‘thrived’ under pressure; it only means they got the job done because of their detest for pressure and crave for freedom.

Back to our discussion: once an individual has an understanding of the consequences of their actions and can fully make informed decisions, such an individual should be left to their choice. But notice the two conditions: have an understanding of the consequences of their action, and is fully able to make informed decisions.

Insisting that children take some actions, for example, that are not their choice might be expedient in some cases because they, at that point, can not make fully informed decisions yet. However, it is only in critical decisions that children should be forced to choose a particular option.

That is, if they choose the other option, it will grossly affect them or cause something else that is negative. That’s the same idea behind law enforcement agencies; they infringe some of our choices because of the consequences it will have on others or ourselves.

But in trivial matters, like the choice of color or clothes, that do not have serious implications, children should be left to choose. Stifling children of their choice will bring low self-esteem or any of the other dangers of social pressure which we will be considering later on.

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