By Marisa Balanda
Adults are infamous for asking children, “If all of your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”
Often, children question how this extremely hypothetical situation relates to seemingly harmless situations they may be facing. Adults and parents, however, use this age-old saying to try to emphasize the dangers of being a “follower” in a society where the dangers of blindly following can be more dangerous than ever.
Following blindly and succumbing to peer pressure are major ways that teenagers today lose individuality and can potentially put themselves in danger.
At Hershey High School, some traditions are strong. Hershey High School varsity cheerleaders each have a “spirit buddy,” who is a member of the football team. Each Friday during the school day, the cheerleaders give their “spirit buddies” a bag full of snacks, candy, Gatorade, and other small gifts to encourage them before games.
Do the football players have to give gifts to the cheerleaders in return? No. For eight or nine games per year, for two or three years, varsity cheerleaders spend money and time preparing spirit buddy gifts that might get them a “thank you” in return.
This one-way exchange screams “sexism” and perpetuates age-old gender stereotypes, yet it is continued without question year after year. The relationship between the cheerleaders and the football players should be one of mutual encouragement and appreciation. If cheerleaders continue this tradition, the football players should do something in return to show their appreciation for the cheerleaders who spend time, money, effort to encourage their efforts.
Many people follow traditions blindly without thinking about the possible messages that they may be sending. The “spirit buddy” tradition may seem harmless, but in reality it is silently encouraging gender roles that place women below men.
Another act at HHS that seems innocent is the chanting of the student section at sporting events. The student section should be there to support the team, but they sometimes warp this support into insulting other schools. When members of the student section yell things like “Slower Dauphin” or “go back to your trailer park,” they are disrespecting the students from the opposing school and are not lifting up Hershey’s team.
Being able to say “no” is a valuable skill that can distinguish a person above others. According to a study from Parent Further, 90% of teens admit to being persuaded by peer pressure. Peer pressure can lead to teenagers making unwise and dangerous choices that can affect them now and in the future.
In a society where “fitting in” is expected of teenagers, defy the norm and make individual decisions. Think about the nuances and ramifications of all actions, especially when blindly following others. Be the bigger person.
Standing up for the right choice may leave people feeling isolated or unwelcome with their so-called “friends.” Teenagers should have the courage to make individual decisions, even if these choices are unaccepted by the majority.
Say “no,” even if it is unpopular, because it is the first step toward a better lifestyle.