It is not unusual for students or adults who have committed an act that is destructive like drinking to excess or consuming an addictive drug to say that they do it to “fit in.” In hearing about this behavior, we might assume that this statement is some kind of excuse or a weakness of character. However, one reality is that social connectors are very much linked to many of the behaviors that are destructive.
Particularly when dealing with students we must recognize the power of peers. The social acceptance of peers can have a huge impact on the choices that students make. I have spoken with many parents who are frustrated that all of a sudden their rules can be violated, their values are compromised and that peers have more influence on their child than they do.
Another powerful indicator of this reality is the significant influence of peers and social relationships within social media. We know that cyber-bullying is still prevalent. Routinely students are interfacing with their friends on their mobile devices, tablets and computers for hours each day. While a way to connect to peers and because teenagers are yet to develop many of their social skills, there can be an upheaval of emotional and relational controversy and damage in their lives.
I think this is one of the contributors to our significant problem with drug and alcohol addictions. Social connection is often related to drinking excessively which contributes greatly to some of the high-risk behaviors in our communities. Conversely social isolation is a great fear that many individuals have that can drive them to drug usage and even suicide.
Recently Psychology Today published an article which speaks to this issue in a powerful way. In this article so many of these themes are discussed with strong support for understanding the social aspects in life that contribute to addictions, overdoses and suicide. Here is the article:
It is significantly important that we realize the power of social connections and its relevance to addictions. Conversely isolation can equally impact the identity and social processes of so many who are needing to connect in a positive way to peers and trustworthy friends. When individuals close to us are isolating away from their friends and family, we need to provide positive social connections to them. We need to encourage them to find environments where they can have trustworthy relationships that will support them, encourage them and give them a sense of contribution to the lives of others.