The presence of social pressure can be silent and unnoticed, as well as, very outspoken and intended. I’ll be considering four types of social pressure in their increasing order: from silent to outspoken.
You can examine an in-depth definition of social pressure here if you don’t know what it is.
Types of Social Pressure
1. Societal norms
This is the first, most basic, and most common form of social pressure everyone faces. No human on earth is exempted from the social pressure of societal norms, although we can learn to be free from it. It starts right from birth with the expectations and conformities that our immediate family expects from us.
We are taught to behave in certain ways and react to certain situations in certain ways, and whenever we go against those ‘codes of conduct’, we are treated badly or made to feel guilty or like a misfit.
These responses we receive from our environment for our actions and inactions, go on to form our inner critic— our self judge, and our conscience (moral sense of right and wrong). This inner critic is built in us that even when we are taken away from such an environment, the judge will always judge us whenever we don’t conform to the expectations it has learned.
For example, you will always feel bad if you’re trying to take a career path that your society considers contemptible even if you are in an environment where no one sees you or cares, except you get free from the societal pressure that has been built into you.
The social pressure caused by societal norms can become so subtle and ingrained that we see them as our decision when in fact, we detest them.
2. Social media pressure
Pressure from social media is almost unavoidable these days owing to how our lives have become intertwined and almost inseparable from social media. Society today is incomplete without social media. We can safely say the social media is our society. In fact, it is the only society some people know.
But our focus here is the social pressure that social media puts on us. A study shows that the use of social media directly affects self-esteem (one of the dangers of social pressure).
The reason for this is not far-fetched: there is so much pressure from social media on us to “level up” or try to fit in– what to wear, where to go, what to have, and how to look. Since this is more on the subtle/quiet side of social pressure, one might not quickly notice that the motivation for some of their actions is what they see on social media.
Both from those who truly possess their display or those hiding under a ‘social facade’, the pressure from social media is real.
For example, seeing someone flaunting what you greatly desire (and maybe you are already working at getting), even though they might not necessarily show it to stir up jealousy in you, you might be pressured to want to get it immediately and discontinue the process you were already going through. The pressure to get therefore becomes the hindrance from getting.
If not handled well, the pressure from social media can be the greatest for many in this generation.
3. Peer pressure
This type of social pressure is more in between: it is noticeable, sometimes forced, but mostly unforced, and still very strong. Peer pressure has received the most attention among the different types of social pressure since it is the most studied in trying to help kids make the most out of their life.
However, peer pressure is not limited to children/teens alone. Every single person experiences some form of peer pressure or can experience peer pressure.
Peer pressure simply means the somewhat forced influence that comes from your peers– people you hang out with, colleagues, companions, neighbors– to do or become something you wouldn’t have done or become on your own.
Considering this definition, it is obvious that peer pressure or social pressure, in general, can spur you to become a better person if the pressure from society is pressure for growth.
Not all social pressure is peer pressure but all peer pressure is social pressure. Social pressure is a subset of peer pressure.
Intimidation is the strongest form of social pressure; it is very outspoken and confrontational. It manifests in people outrightly telling you or enforcing what they want on you.
From parents insisting on the marital choice of their children, to employers dictating the social life of employees, and members of the higher social class oppressing those of the lower social class, intimidation is seen in every area of human life.
Mostly, people suffering from intimidation are in a disadvantaged position that they do not have enough resources, power, or leverage to fight back or resist. Intimidation is the most brutal form of social pressure and can only be overcome with some sort of revolt.
Ironically, intimidation, although it is the strongest form of social pressure, is the easiest to overcome because the victim can easily get tired of it and fight back. Intimidation stops once confrontation takes place.
Other forms of social pressure because they are more subtle, are difficult to fight, either because they are not easily noticed as social pressure or because it is not clear enough so there’s nothing to fight.
10 Examples of Social Pressure
Below are some practical examples of social pressure in our society today, most of them which are largely unnoticed.
- The pressure on a male by society to be masculine and muscular
- The pressure that people quit their jobs and pursue business or entrepreneurial passions
- The pressure on youths and teenagers to become millionaires at young ages
- The pressure to get married and to get married at certain age bracket
- The pressure to be sociable and have a very tight clique or close friends
- The pressure to live a luxury lifestyle
- The pressure to be up-to-date and flow with trends
- The pressure on children by parents to choose certain career paths
- The pressure to be religious/unreligious
- The pressure to have a driving and goal oriented personality
The four types of social pressure are societal norms, social media pressure, peer pressure and intimidation. Every human will experience these forms of social pressure in one way or the other but we can all live above them.
Olusegun Iyejare is a career coach and certified counselor. He helps individuals discover and maximize their potential to live satisfying lives regardless of obvious limitations holding them back.