At those moments we are subjected to “peer pressure”, which is the social leverage that we feel when someone pushes us to behave in one direction or another. Usually, if we feel a good connection and a sense of balance with the other person (or persons) we are able to have our judgment override the social pressure—“No, David, I’m not diving five hours before we have to fly back!”
But sometimes, particularly when we are feeling a need to prove ourselves or need a sense of approval, it becomes more difficult. Typically, when people think of peer pressure, they are referring to the influence exerted on an individual to engage in “anti-social” (BAD!) behaviors. Peer pressure is often cited as the culprit in smoking, drinking, drug use, dangerous sexual behaviors and eating fast food.
But, there are also “pro-social” (GOOD) forms of peer pressure. For instance, good pressure includes dive buddies or groups who insist on consistent use of precautionary decompression (safety stops), have good reef hygiene, and observe good hydration. The pressure exerted by the group has often made me a safer and more ecologically friendly diver than I might have otherwise been.
How should you deal with peer pressure to engage in risky activity?
Probably the best advice is to dive regularly with a buddy with whom you are comfortable, and who dives at about your skill level. If you are very inexperienced, then diving with or near a divemaster is probably the best idea anyway. If you find yourself having regular concerns in this area (or haven’t yet found a set of good dive buddies), taking part in professionally organized activities is a good idea.
Dive professionals will insist on things like good reef hygiene, safety stops, and good dive profiles. If you are a woman who has been introduced to diving by a male partner who frequently presses you to move beyond your level of comfort, consider finding another partner with whom to dive, or suggest that your partner dive with another aggressive diver.
Several years ago, I came to Bonaire with my wife (who had become pregnant just before the trip) and another couple. He and I dove often and enthusiastically, sometimes by ourselves and sometimes with his wife. My wife and I took frequent snorkels on that trip (1000 Steps was her favorite) and everyone was happy.
I have another dive buddy (who shall remain nameless, although his name usually appears on this column) who has a hard time finding buddies who will dive frequently enough to satisfy him and whose wife often refuses to accompany him when he goes on dive trips! In reality, peer pressure in diving is similar to the effect that most people feel about drinking, smoking and eating hamburgers.
The final answer is always; “Get better peers.” ■
For more information, please visit www.divepsych.com