Remember when you were in school and your friends would pressure you to do something you didn’t really want to do? Maybe something you knew you shouldn’t do?
Back then, it was called peer pressure, when a majority of your peers pressure you into doing what they think is cool.
I fell into many peer pressure pitfalls in my youth. Nothing too drastic, but I did get into trouble on occasion. After I exited high school and entered the ‘real world’, I figured all of that was behind me. Then came my young adult years, when everybody and their mother wanted me to drink. Or have sex. Or do any number of things I wasn’t really comfortable with.
But then came the adult years. And the internet years. And the politically correct years.
I’ve noticed a scary trend as of late, in particular through online communities and social media networks, such as Facebook. I’ve noticed that if you don’t share the opinion of a particular majority, then you are berated, teased, bashed (verbally), and then ostracized.
It’s baffling to me. What happened to free speech? Free will? What happened to using these community groups and social networks to keep in touch with those we like and love, to voice our opinions in an environment of mutual respect, of keeping tabs on current events without having to wonder if those current events aren’t actually real, but fabricated fictional stories that the masses managed to spread as truth?
Nowadays, if you post your opinion, one person will spin it to ten others, and they’ll gather on your page and attack you because your opinion differs from theirs.
This new peer pressure doesn’t really even give you a choice. You either conform or you are destroyed. Reminds me of the Borg from Star Trek. Assimilate. And there’s a certain violence to this new peer pressure, a certain anger. People rage when you don’t agree with them – actually rage. There’s an undercurrent of hostility, pride, and self-importance.
To be honest, sometimes I fear putting my opinion out for all to read or hear or see. Then I remember that my voice matters. I remember that my opinions, my feelings, my thoughts – they all matter. Even if they go against your beliefs, even if they go against your political affiliation, even if they go against your emotions.
It doesn’t matter.
My voice counts. Your voice counts. We should be able to speak our minds with that voice (in a respectful manner), and engage in respectful conversation about our thoughts, feelings, and opinions. I’m not going to fear putting myself on the soap box every now and then.
If you don’t agree with me – I respect that. And if you say something I don’t agree with – I respect that.
I won’t give in to this new peer pressure. Throw your words at me, try to push me into a corner I wasn’t designed to fit into. I won’t go. I’ll stand firm and speak my mind on what I like and don’t like, and you can either take it or leave it. But that’s the beauty of our lives, this life. We can take it or leave it. It’s called freedom. And your peer pressure, your undercurrent of terrible menace, isn’t going to tear that freedom away from me.