Ever since the birth of human civilization, there has been an urge to develop a code of conduct to suit all human needs with regard to peace and harmony and due allowance for personal freedom. Over the centuries the code of conduct has earned the titles like culture, nationality, religion or in more recent times, stud, swag etc. But what I believe has suffered a cold, inadvertent death is our sense of uniqueness, our individuality.
Over and overt acceptance and glorification of this code of conduct, since ages, has led to dwindling of self confidence among individuals. It has made us to believe the need for identification as a part of a ‘group’ (any group), is of vital importance, much as food for life; something our existence depends upon. And ever since the majority has run into believing this mundane ideology, they have come up with the concept of a society. The society precisely means, our peer group. They may be the people who live around us, study or work with us. Every peer group or society follows one such code.
Though a general agreement and acceptance of the code is reasonably important, the omnipresence and omnipotence it has assumed, has defeated the basic purpose of its conception. The debates on the society’s code of conduct about culture, nationality and religion have been well witnessed as people through movies, literature and social gatherings have made their points, both logically and dramatically. Now let’s pay some attention to the codes given by the Generation Y; that of dudes, chicks, swag and being super cool, to name a few.
No matter how much we criticize our ancestors, parents or the preachers of humanity, it’s the current generation which has succumbed the most to this peer pressure of social acceptance. The pressure can be felt everywhere. It’s there among children, teens, youth and even adults in many cases. Everyone is a victim.
The inculcation of peer pressure can be seen in adolescents when school children disobey the decorum of schools and homes. Where not paying attention in class, mocking the teacher, using abusive language, disregarding people’s emotions for the sake of humour and rent less arguments against parents have become a way of gaining respect in one’s social circle. It is social pressure which grows into mid and late teens to take shape of substance abuse, selfish friendships and materialistic relationships just to become a prominent face in one’s social group.
With no regard to the repercussions these habits have on the victim and the society, young adults keep falling prey to it. Though this has bothered most parents regarding the upbringing of their children, recent times have seen some parents add fuel to the fire. Few parents choose extravagance to have their children out shine in their groups for which they gift them expensive gadgets, encourage them at young ages to have trendy outlooks, all this with no regard to the maturity of their children or the subtlety with which they could handle it.
This creates senses of superiority and inferiority complexes among children, which stay for long and have psychological effects on them. Those who can afford it out of financial and moral expenses, rise up in the popularity chart, while others begin to feel less respected than their peers. All attributed to peer pressure and the urge for social acceptance.
A latest trend has been seen on Facebook, where people shares posts like “I have reached a point in my life where I no longer care what people say or think of me.” I guess the day we actually reach this place, we wouldn’t bother to tell this to the world. Our dire need of telling this to the world takes care of the hypocrisy. A failed attempt to appear “cool”.
People who still feel that peer pressure is not that big an issue, I reach to them. You might have noticed people being uncomfortable for being judged by others of wearing certain kind of clothes. Fair enough. The others shouldn’t tell these people what to wear. BUT, at the same time, one shouldn’t fail to see how these people judge the others who would wear something not quite up to the fashion, something which is not “classy”. So, these people have a hard time having their dressing sense criticized as being indecent, but a number of them won’t hesitate to call the others “champu” or “bhen-ji”. Why these double standards? Who decides what is classy and what isn’t? Our peer groups. So we aren’t being broad minded, only that our narrow mindedness lies in a different domain than that of the others.
Taking the talk to another level, the peer pressure hits harder when it comes to marriages. The most popular parameters which people look for in a “suitable” spouse are caste, age (boy should be elder to the girl), physical appearances, financial status of either families etc. In an era where a happily married life has become a myth for many, these are the parameters, which we assume will result in a successful family life. One of the reasons being this list of parameters can be seen and measured physically. This way, when the society is invited to the marriage, they will applaud at the credibility of parents and the bride/groom for having found a “good” spouse. So, if a very good looking, rich spouse of the same caste is chosen, the family will definitely be praised by the society. Here quite often, the prime focus lies on building a social prestige and the idea of a successful marriage is only secondary. If the marriage fails a few years down the line, we’ll blame the person’s fate. The person will curse his destiny, but never the choices which framed that destiny.
All these years of living simply fail to teach us to put our priorities right, which remains the main cause behind our sorrows. Guided by the peer pressure, we live to impress others and quite often miserably fail to impress ourselves. Many of our miseries can be traced to our urge to impress a set of people by following their norms. People whom we have almost nothing to do with. People who will never be able to justify the norms they themselves have set. People who themselves suffer under the same norms, but never refute.
We look forward to the society to tell us what will make us happy. A number of us have reduced down to being puppets in the hands of the society. We are all uncomfortable, but won’t attempt to break free, as we are afraid of being judged; afraid of being pointed out at. Life becomes a choice between outward materialism and peace of mind, with fake smiles concealing frustrated souls.
It’s our society which tells us whom to judge, whom to refute and whom to accept. It’s our society which tells us what should make us comfortable and what should add to our discomfort. It’s our society which specifies bounds on our intellectual freedom.
We essentially are programmed robots, and will act as have been programmed by one section of the society or will act as per the malware infested into us by another section of the society, but never as our own selves. Individuality today means, walking out of one peer group to be accepted by another peer group. Very few (if at all) are courageous enough to stand for their personal beliefs, while most of us are here to impress the section of society we deem to be the best.
Social pressure has existed since ages, the only difference being that today it has become multi-dimensional. They say that change is the only constant thing in the world, and the change we have seen diversifies from the industrial and technological revolutions to the advent of hippies and the rise of swag. The need of the hour, or rather the desperation of the hour calls for a moral revolution. A cult where human values become the most respected possession; where people don’t have to fake themselves and can live with their true identities; where judgments comes in the form of honest criticisms, aimed at the second person’s improvement and not to demean them. We need to build a society which has not only aims at tolerance but has perfected benevolence; otherwise human civilization shall perish, not by wars, not by food or water scarcity but under the exponential decay of human attitude!