A South England Conference Platform

Eglan Brooks

Everyone’s Doing It!

Socially Desirable Bias Is 21st-Century Peer Pressure, And Our Adventist Young People Are Becoming More Susceptible To This Phenomenon

For several years, I was privileged to lead the Pathfinder and Teen work in the South England Conference. I prayed for my young people, worked with and mentored them, and trained leaders to guide them during my tenure. I found working with young people challenging but enjoyable. They were navigating no ‘man’s land’ between being a child and being an adult. They were expected to make sensible decisions and positive choices even though the world they entered was unchartered.

Some of the young people made decisions and choices that appeared to align with the values of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Others chose alternative options. Sometimes, they seemed to make their decisions and choices based on those of their friends, and some were even accused of bowing to peer pressure.

20th-century peer pressure differs from pressures experienced by young people in the 21st century.

21st Century Pressure

In Act 2, Scene 7 of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, Jacques deliberates on the ‘Ages of Man’.

He describes infancy’s first stage, a ‘mewling and puking in the nurse’s arms’. Formal education can be challenging for ‘the whining schoolboy (stage 2) with his satchel and shining morning face, creeping like a snail unwillingly to school’. This is followed by stage 3, the teenager, who he describes as love-sick, ‘sighing like furnace, with a woeful ballad’. But by stage 4, he is a young man, ‘…jealous in honour, sudden, quick in quarrel, seeking the bubble reputation…’.

The simplicity of Shakespeare’s assessment of the path to youth bears little resemblance to the ever-increasing pressures that young people currently encounter.

‘In a PEW Research Centre (USA) survey, some teenagers expressed that social media most likely harms their age group owing to an unrealistic view of other’s lives.

In modern times, social media offers a platform where people might make irrational assessments of others’ lives based on a few snapshots and reels, leading to unmindful comparisons and unrealistic expectations, creating insecurities and mental health issues.’ [1]

The writer, Aakanksha Yelishala, continues to state that these social media can make young people vulnerable to making ‘risky decisions or choices’ [2], which include, but are not limited to, drugs, alcohol, inappropriate sexual behaviour because they wish to become ‘socially desirable’ [3] to their peers.

The pressure to mimic the behaviour of those they perceive to be higher achievers, successful or beautiful, is significant. Social media is a hungry beast that demands feeding each millisecond. Billions of people worldwide provide its ravaging appetite with filtered photographs, curated reels, viral videos, the ever-lasting promise of success, high earnings, and a stellar reputation.

Socially desirable bias is 21st-century peer pressure, and our Adventist young people are becoming more susceptible to this phenomenon.

Helping them to cope

So, how do we help them to cope?

Here are three suggestions:

Pray for them.

  1. It’s imperative as adults that we pray for our young people. Consistently, intentionally and ‘without ceasing’.
  2. Empower young people. Let them know they are unique to God and do not have to compete with anyone else or try to replicate their behaviour.

Become a mentor.

  1. Young people are navigating the unknown landscape and need guidance. Be supportive and take the time to listen without judgement.


Years ago, I spent my days working with young people, and now I have three at home. I hope those who have cared for me over the years have learned from me that because ‘everyone is doing it’ doesn’t make it acceptable or right. I trust and pray that they have learned that ‘they are fearfully and wonderfully made’ [4] and that throughout their lives, they can fulfil God’s purpose by relying on and trusting in Him.

Pastor Eglan Brooks is the President of the British Union of the Seventh-day Adventist Church

[2] ibid
[3] Ibid
[4] Psalm 139:14 (NIV)