Image Credit: Hannah Kentridge
As a student, there are a lot of different things that stress you out. The academic pressure of deadlines, essay crises, problem sheets, tutorial reading – it never ends. On top of that there’s the societies you eagerly sign up to as a fresher (only to be bombarded with emails you have no idea how to unsubscribe from). As well as the job searches and ‘internship hunts’ every student systematically begins to undertake in their penultimate and final years – suddenly trying to understand the complex workings of ‘Career Connect.’ (Top-Tip: you have to click the logo to login)
But what I don’t think you’re warned quite so much about, or even are necessarily aware of at all; is the pressure we put on each other. Yes, folks, that’s right. I mentioned it, that dreaded thing known as ‘Peer pressure’. It’s the kind of term that normally the concerned older generations label millennials with, it’s not the sort of thing you really think about when you’re hanging out with your friends.
Yet, actually, when you think about it, most of us at some point or another have either done something we didn’t want to do at university, or put pressure on someone else to partake. I’m thinking here about nights out, drinking, and just generally getting irritated when someone doesn’t feel like socialising. There are so many instances that occur on the daily, where we put pressure on each other to be out-going and to have the ‘perfect uni life’.
But the thing is, when you pause for a moment, and ask your friends, why we’re doing what we’re doing, a lot of the time it turns out no-one else really knows either. So why do we bother to force ourselves to burn the candle at both ends? Isn’t it probably better for us all, to just socialise when we have the time, and not worry about missing the odd social event for an essay deadline; rather than seeing it as yet another pressure we have to live up to?
I think its time to own up to the fact that actually, much as university is for having fun, going out and meeting new people, its also ok to take a night off to cuddle up in bed with a hot drink and watch Silent Witness. Do we really need to force ourselves to constantly be in social contact every hour of every day?
Don’t get me wrong, isolation is a massive problem too, and we have to be concerned, that if someone’s withdrawing and they seem unhappy, they might not be ok and we should check on them. But more often than not, university creates this social expectation that we have to be extroverted all the time. Why though? Is it not ok for each of us to find our own level and be content, that for some people going for coffee or to the cinema, is preferable to getting drunk, and vice versa?
I’ve experienced it from both sides of the coin. I’ve been the introverted person whose quite happy to sit content with their own company, but at other points, I’ve been one of the people who goes out a couple of times a week and maybe has a few too many stings (a Worcester speciality). What I’m trying to get at, is that both should be socially acceptable.
We don’t stay the same and neither do our lives. Sometimes we’re more stressed and want to work harder, sometimes we need a break. But it doesn’t matter. Of course, we should ask people if they want to do something social, most of us can’t live successfully as hermits.
However, I think we need to be a bit more lenient with ourselves and others, on what that means. I love going on the odd night out to Bridge or Park End, but could I manage it every week? No; maybe at one time, but its just not what I fancy doing anymore.
I think I’ve also realised, as someone who currently is in a non-drinking phase, but has at other times very much enjoyed a drink, is that we tend to question why people don’t drink ALL THE TIME. For some reason, saying I don’t fancy it, or I don’t like the taste; doesn’t seem to be enough of a legitimate reason for turning down a drink. To justify not drinking seems a funny thing, when really it seems to affect no-one else.
In fact, I’d say from experience, that often people drink so they don’t feel embarrassed or awkward in the social situation. For me, not drinking is a positive sign that I feel comfortable enough with the people I’m with, that I don’t need alcohol to have a good time. Equally, there are people who love clubbing but don’t like drinking, and people who love a trip to the bar but can’t stand going out.
It seems to me, that in this constantly stressful environment (otherwise known as university) we should just look out for each other, accept our individual quirks and difference, and just be nice.
Ask someone if they want to do something, just don’t pressure them and make them feel guilty for not joining in.
I’m sure in my time I’ve been both pressured and perhaps guilty of pressurising friends into things they aren’t fans of, but we need to calm it down and start accepting our friends for their own quirky natures. Its good to be different, and it’s necessary to accept that we all have different pressures and priorities at different times. This isn’t an issue for good friendships, because if they’re really your friends, they’ll care about you no matter what.