The peer pressure of tomorrow

Neerja Singh

In 2023, 26 suicides, and 5 in first 2 months of 2024, along with 3 disappearances. These tragic events shook Kota, Rajasthan, a coaching hub for the JEE and NEET exams. Stress, depression, and despair are rampant there due to tough competition and unavoidable peer pressure.

Peer pressure has always been a powerful force, especially during adolescence. With the rise of social media, however, it’s taken on a new form. It is true that social media connects people and shares information, but it also intensifies peer pressure. The constant comparisons create unrealistic standards, making many individuals feel inadequate.

Recognizing the impact of social media-induced peer pressure is crucial. But how does one tackle it? Schools need to promote digital literacy, encourage open communication, foster self-reflection, set realistic expectations, and build offline connections. This way, students can navigate the digital world with resilience and authenticity, balancing both the positive and negative aspects of social media.

Looking ahead to 2035, one wonders how peer pressure will evolve! Can young people be readied for this emerging landscape? To thrive in a digital world while maintaining authenticity and mental wellbeing, they’ll clearly need new skills, knowledge, and support systems.

Though predicting the exact evolution of peer pressure is challenging, we can certainly speculate based on ongoing trends and emerging technologies. One certainty is that peer pressure will intertwine more with digital platforms, like virtual reality, augmented reality, and immersive online experiences. Artificial Intelligence (AI) algorithms are already shaping user behaviour, and personalized content tailored to individual preferences could likely create echo chambers, reinforcing existing viewpoints and potentially isolating individuals from diverse perspectives. Then there is the phenomenon of biometric data and wearable technology for instance, where individuals might feel pressured to maintain certain health metrics or lifestyle choices.

More and more it seems, that we must start early for a healthier future. Comprehensive digital literacy education should be integrated into school curricula, equipping students with critical thinking skills to navigate emerging technologies and distinguish between authentic and manipulated information. As the world becomes more interconnected, peer pressure may transcend geographical boundaries. Imagine all the globalized communication facilitated by social media impacting and threatening local cultures and social dynamics. This is where emotional intelligence becomes a crucial skill. Teaching our young to manage emotions, build empathy, and make informed decisions would enhance resilience against negative peer influences, both online and offline.

We are already seeing a shift towards more niche and specialized online communities, intensifying conformity within those niches. Fostering critical thinking skills is sure to empower individuals to question information, challenge social norms constructively, and make decisions aligned with their values. Creating a culture of independent thought and respectful disagreement is essential.

Mental health awareness has been growing. Future dynamics may shift towards promoting wellbeing, with peer support, acceptance of vulnerability, and destigmatization of seeking help becoming integral components of social dynamics. This points in the direction of integrating mental health education into school curricula, providing coping mechanisms and support systems to address mental health challenges associated with peer pressure and online interactions. Leveraging technology for mental health support could become a life and death issue, with accessible resources, counselling services, and peer support networks.

It is evident around us that positive peer pressure is evolving towards collaborative efforts for social impact. Many of our young feel compelled to participate in collective actions, environmental initiatives, or community projects, tying social validation to contributions to the greater good. This is a long due and welcome shift. Promoting positive online communities that celebrate diversity, inclusivity, and authenticity is therefore vital. Teaching students to find and contribute to supportive digital environments aligned with their interests and values has become essential.

Take the case of dynamic cultural norms and societal expectations. Our future generations will witness shifts in what is considered socially acceptable. Parental and caregiver involvement will become a key factor here. They will be called upon to equip themselves with tools to understand the digital landscape, engage in open conversations with their children, and provide guidance on setting boundaries.

There is nothing like an emphasis on education about digital wellbeing and mental health to equip future generations to navigate peer pressure healthily. Only critical thinking skills and emotional intelligence can help shape positive social dynamics. This would involve guidance on healthy online behaviours, responsible social media use, understanding the impact of cyberbullying, and fostering positive digital relationships crucial. Encouraging open communication between parents, educators, and young individuals about their online experiences is essential.

Advocating for the ethical design of technology platforms is additionally vital. App developers and designers have to be urged to prioritize user wellbeing, implementing features promoting positive interactions, and minimizing harmful algorithms.

Establishing a continuous feedback loop amongst researchers, educators, and technology developers will keep all the stakeholders informed about emerging trends, potential risks, and effective strategies. Regularly updating educational programs and support systems is necessary to address the evolving nature of peer pressure.

As we move forward, it is not merely about preparing for the challenges presented by the peer pressure of tomorrow but actively shaping a future where technology enhances our collective wellbeing, individuality is celebrated, and our shared spaces foster diverse perspectives and informed decision-making. Only through a concerted effort to balance technological progress with human values can we navigate the complex interplay between AI and peer dynamics in the decades to come.

We truly stand on the cusp of a future shaped by the integration of artificial intelligence into our social fabric. This brings us both unprecedented opportunities and challenges. We must think ahead with the objective of enabling all to shine in a digital world while staying true to oneself.

Let’s create a future where everyone feels wholesome, seen, strong, and confident!

The author is a generational diversity speaker, author of five generational books and a consultant on working with GenZ; Leading with Social Impact and Suicide Prevention & Destigmatisation. A millennial in spirit, with the benefit of hindsight, she uses her 37 years in media and education to help harness generational diversity at work and at home. She can be reached at

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