“Associate with men of good quality if you esteem your own reputation; for it is better to be alone than in bad company.” Booker T. Washington
“You are the same today that you are going to be in five years from now except for two things: the people with whom you associate and the books you read.” Charles Jones
As a parent… actually I’m not a parent so let me start again. As a child, my parents did their best to keep me away from certain kids. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve done the same thing. Kids that are disrespectful, kids that swear a lot, kids that are bullies, that have violent tendencies, that mistreat puppies. You don’t want your child hanging around with them; you don’t want your own children to start adopting the behaviors and values of their undesirable peers. We want to insulate our children for as long as possible from bad influences, until they are old enough and wise enough to be able to discern right behavior from wrong. So our parents encouraged us to make friends with the polite, studious, well-behaved kids; rather than the foul-mouthed, car-jacking, drug-peddling crew. And frankly, they didn’t care which ones were the cool kids.
As adults, we think that we are immune to the effects of peer pressure, but that is because we are just better at lying to ourselves. If you were to give me half an hour to interview the five people that you spend the most amount of time with on a weekly basis, I could paint a pretty accurate picture of the kind of person you are—without ever talking about you. Your behavior, your beliefs, the music you like, your physical and leisure activities, the kinds of movies and television shows that you watch, are all things that are probably the same as your immediate peer group.
We will become like the people we associate with the most.
You could argue “of course I spend time with people like me. I choose to spend time with them because we have similar values.” That may be the case in some instances, but most of the people that we say are our friends are our friends because we were thrown together and forced to spend time together. Most of our long time friends are from our school years. Or people who live near us. Or people we work with. A lot of our friends became friends because of geography rather than values. Think of certain mannerisms or phrases that you use with one friend and not another, then ask yourself “Did I get that from him or did he get that from me?” Even if you think that you are immune to the effects of social imprinting by your friends, then they could have just as easily got their behaviors, beliefs, likes and dislikes from you.
Since we are social creatures, and since we are susceptible to peer pressure, we should try to use peer pressure to our advantage. As responsible adults, it’s up to us to make sure we are associating with the good kids.