Your friends have more influence over you than you think

High school is an important time of your life, but it’s more than trying to get good grades. It’s the opportunities you’re given, the lessons you learn, the people you meet. And yes, it’s possible to forget about the first two and focus on the latter. Because arguably people are the ones that shape your high school experience. You interact with your peers five days a week, and form close friendships with some of those people. So what do you do when your friends are the ones affecting that other dreaded part of school life, grades?

I know we all wish we could be the next TikTok star and say goodbye to homework forever, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen for most of us. Like it or not, homework, assignments and exams are a part of your high school life as much as your friends are. It’s important to know when you can say yes to a spontaneous shopping spree and when you need to focus on finishing the internal that’s due the next day. Balancing school and your social life is a valuable skill that’ll stay with you beyond high school. But sometimes, it’s not balance that’s the issue, rather the people you associate with.

Making friends can feel automatic, especially when you’ve known people for most of your life. But I’d argue that it does matter who you’re friends with. Your friends will dictate social trends, motivate you, and determine what you do in your free time. People are heavily influenced by the attitudes, interests, and mannerisms around them. It’s why everyone is suddenly Billie Eilish’s number one fan, why Fortnite dances are the daily class entertainment, why it’s cool to fail exams. You get the idea.

The first way friends can influence you relates to FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). We all hate being left out of inside jokes, plus witnessing your friend embarrassing themselves first-hand is always going to be better than hearing the second-hand stories. When you choose to miss a social event to focus on your school work, it’s very likely you will experience FOMO, which can leave you feeling resentful of your work.

On a subconscious level, we have a lot more in common with our friends than we might think. Humans are natural copiers of language and mannerisms, it’s why “yolo” suddenly becomes a catchphrase, why you walk at the same speed as your friends. We want to impress our friends, which leads us to doing things that we hope they’ll think are cool. In this way your friends also affect what you think is cool. Don’t believe me? Just think about the yawn phenomenon. If you see someone yawn, it’s likely that you’re next…and then anyone else who sees you yawn, and so on. In fact, you might even yawn right now just reading the word yawn.

If you’re reading this thinking, “Oh no, I never realised just how much my friends influenced me,” don’t worry. Being influenced by your friends isn’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, it’s quite easy to make it into a good thing, and this starts with who you call your friends. Remember how earlier I talked about FOMO, and how sacrificing social time to do school work often leaves you feeling resentful of the school work? Well there’s another side to this. In high school, most people have ample free time to complete their school work and hang out with friends without one getting in the way of the other. If you try and get your work completed early, you’ll be free to socialise as much as you want.

One way of doing this is working with your friends. This can be hard, especially if you’re in an environment where you’re tempted to socialise instead of work, but by scheduling a work/study session at a library or similarly quiet venue you can get your work done together, and hang out afterwards.

Even if your friends don’t want to study as much as you do, the library is still a great venue, and thus you can meet up with them after you’re done. If you’re in an environment where everyone is working, you’ll feel extremely out of place if you aren’t, and everyone is motivated by a desire not to be the outsider. Sometimes you and your friends won’t have aligned interests or academic goals, but that doesn’t mean your friendship is doomed, or that they’re a bad influence. For starters, being aware of your differences and respecting how they’ll affect use of free time is important so that you know how school compares to friends in terms of priorities. Respect and acknowledging differences will help your friendship stay solid; it’s like when your friend silently watches you eat that Hawaiian pizza, an unspoken agree-to-disagree situation.

Language, mannerisms, interests. Three ways you are unwittingly influenced by your friends. I’m not saying that you should ditch all your friends who are different from you, but that it’s important to be aware of how your friends can influence you, and to use that to your advantage rather than your downfall. Surrounding yourself with people who are going to motivate and inspire you is likely to help you a whole lot more than you think, especially when you share an interest in setting yourselves up for life beyond high school. After all, shouldn’t friends be the ones trying to help you get to where you want to be?

For NCEA Students
By NCEA Students