How many of your past choices do you think were based on you just "following the crowd"?

The thread about “relationship drives” got me thinking about this.

One of the posters opined that women get married because they see all their friends doing it and they don’t want to be left out. I can’t imagine making a commitment like marriage solely just because you want to fit in with the crowd, but then again, I do know how it feels to be the odd woman/man out. It’s not a fun place to be.

Have you ever made a major life decision based either covert or overt peer pressure? I’m also curious if following the crowd is something that people are conscious of doing. I imagine most posters are going to say that they’ve never done anything like that before. But it seems to me that rarely will people admit to being sheeple.

Maybe, if you count going to college. It wasn’t something I ever considered NOT doing. Where I grew up, it was expected. My parents had both gone to college and all my friends in High School went to college.

Now, I might argue that it was good decision, and I would have done so regardless of “peer pressure”, but how would I know? And maybe it wasn’t so much pressure as just… what one did when one finished High School.

Missed the edit window: I think a lot of things fall into a category similar to that. Even getting married. Why would one think about getting married if one didn’t see a lot of other people doing it? Maybe you’re not doing it to fit in, but you’re still doing it because you’re doing what society expects at a certain stage in your life.

Back in the 60s, I bought a miniskirt because they were “in” - but I don’t know how much was peer pressure. Beyond that, I really don’t think so.

I dropped out of college and joined the Navy while my friends stayed in school.

I eloped - not because I felt like I had to be married, but because we didn’t want to deal with all the wedding nonsense.

I was a working mom, not because of social pressures but because my husband was going to college and I needed to support us.

I opted out of a management track in my career, despite having a boss telling me I was wrong to not want to be in charge…

After I retired, I went back to work, not due to pressures but because I was bored.

Nope, I’m not much of a crowd follower.

Honestly, I can’t remember making a decision based on peer pressure after my 14th birthday. I’ve always been one who marched to the beat of a different drummer. I suffered for it occasionally, but never enough to make me want to change. I attended an education lab school for grade and high school, which may have had quite a bit to do with that. Everyone there was unique or unusual in some way. We were celebrating diversity long before it was cool.

I do remember the winter I was 12, I wanted a pale blue parka with a hood lined with white faux fur for my winter coat. I wanted it bad, and mostly because other girls I knew had them. My mother was deaf to my pleas and bought me a gray-blue coarse wool coat that would have looked perfectly in character on Edith Bunker. Lord, I hated that thing. Not only was it ugly as sin, but the material was so coarse it gave me a nasty case of contact dermatitis on the back of my neck. lol So I guess that was a bit of peer pressure at work.

Well, that’s exactly what I’m talking about. “Doing what society expects you to do” is just another way of saying “following the crowd”.

On a board full of special snowflakes, I’ll freely admit that:

  • I probably never would have done any illegal drugs if other people weren’t doing them.

  • I had long hair in the 60s, although I was a bit ahead of the curve in going short again (1975).

  • I keep my house neat on the inside and out at least partly because that’s what’s expected (especially the “out” part).

  • I usually try to dress for the occasion, within my own limits. I don’t go to weddings in Hawaiian shirt (unless that’s the dress code). I don’t own a suit (hate them), but I do own sport coats and slacks. On the whole, though, I never wear anything that would be considered outlandish.

  • I mentioned college, above.

I didn’t want to do a post-doc, but I did because of peer pressure. I didn’t want to be that one loser who didn’t do one. I didn’t want to disappoint my grad advisor either.

Turns out that I was the only one among the grad students I was friends with who actually went that route. They all ended up getting teaching jobs at small colleges or for-profit online universities right out of school. So in actuality I didn’t follow the crowd. But I think if you’d asked me at the time why I was doing a post-doc, I would have said something like “because it’s expected of me”.

(I badmouth my post-doc experience all the time, but it was so valuable. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world, even though it almost literally killed me!)

I think the majority of my grooming and dress is motivated by wanting to be like everyone else. There’s only so many times I can stand to hear, “monstro, WTF!” But that’s not really on par with getting married or choosing a career.

So I am a sheeple too, John.

On the college thing… sometimes, before you’re an adult, doing things just because that’s the way other people do them isn’t a bad thing. Most of us aren’t in a position to make an informed decision about education at age 17. I have to say my college application process was waaaaay more haphazard than it would’ve been 10 years later.

That’s a major life decision, more or less on par with getting married.

Women, of course, have the whole biological clock thing to deal with when it comes to marriage. At age 35, the alarm bells are (usually) ringing. That’s also about the time when you’re going to have very few single friends (other than the ones who are divorced).

I am definitely going to see the new Star Wars movie sooner than I would have otherwise, due to the huge number of Facebook friends posting about seeing it, loving it, and setting up special groups for discussions with spoilers.

For a slightly larger decision, I bought my condo when I did because prices and interest rates were both pretty low. However, there definitely was an element of “if those jokers can manage it, then I certainly can!” that bolstered the decision.

Zero. I’m sure most of the crowd thinks I’m insane. I’m a male and I got married against the wishes of most, for example. But they didn’t have to live inside my head and my loneliness. I make my bad choices due to my own fears, not outside pressures or to follow anyone else.

I went to college at least partly because it was expected of me. But, unlike John Mace, neither of parents had any college–my mother was a HS dropout, but they still expected me to go. Then I got into math, not a popular choice in the years before Sputnik.

Still, I often follow the crowd simply because it is easy. I wear clothes, even in the summer. In my first couple jobs I used to wear a tie, although I stopped early. I grew a beard in 1964 long before beards became common (I would stop traffic in my wife’s small town in southern NJ). When my daughter got married my wife insisted I buy a suit, although I had one that was only 14 years old and worn only once. For my other two sons, I rented a tux because they insisted. Sometimes it is easier to go along than argue.

None of them, honestly. I’ve been my own man from the get-go. I’m proud of it, but also interested in why, and I have no idea. I mean, you’d think as a little kid I’d want to do what my friends were doing but I really gave no shits if I wasn’t interested. I’ve always been ready to do my own thing, and I wonder how I got it. Pretty sure I’m not a sociopath so that’s not it.

There was the whole jumping in a lake business.


The large majority of them in some shape or form. I was recently saying to my first wife that my attitude to life has always been very cavalier. I have mostly made decisions without any great thought being put into them. I assume that most things will work out just fine and if not I will deal with it when the time comes.

I have been in relationships, marriages, had kids, got jobs, incurred debts and did things generally that had I spent some time contemplating I may well have chosen differently. Under those circumstances I think that no matter how much of a rebel I like to think of myself I was just in some way “following the crowd.”

If I did I am totally unaware of it; which is possible but unlikely. And about the only thing I ever did fashionable enough to possibly involve peer pressure may have been smoking. The majority of people I knew smoked, most of us kids smoked, and I did as well. But I fail to recall ever being encouraged one way or the other.

I spent all of my teenage years in Toronto in the 70s. The only “follow the crowd” that I can think of is seeing the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Roxy. Had I not done so I may have gone to see it for a second time (maybe) - just to take it all in. I think I saw it a total of 5 times. It was just something to do with my friends. We’d get high at the park, and then walk over to look at all the freaks dressed up for the various parts. There was a stage where movie goers would act out the parts. Looking back now it was just silly entertainment.

It’s possible my memory is faulty, but working with what I have I’d have to say: exactly none.