Stressed, but connected
MedienPädagogik: Zeitschrift für Theorie und Praxis der Medienbildung
Among social network sites (SNS), Instagram has become one of the most important platforms for adolescents (age 10–19 years), especially in Germany. They use it to share experiences and meaningful content and above all, to interact with their peers. Norms, defined by the peer group, influence adolescents' behavior, online as much as offline. This influence on aligning one's needs with expectations in the SNS environment leads to pressure. How adolescents perceive this pressure from their peer
... e from their peer group in detail on Instagram and how they cope with it has seldom been the focus of qualitative research within communication studies thus far. What patterns and potential coping strategies become apparent in adolescents' behavior? Do these strategies tend to be problem-solving or avoidant oriented? This paper addresses this need and uses in-depth interviews, drawn via purposive sampling, with 30 adolescents to investigate the strategies adolescents develop to cope with perceived forms of peer pressure. Results show that the peer group has both positive and negative effects on adolescents. Positive in that they are an important reference for adolescents, an effect, that is enhanced by Instagram, which allows interpersonal connections with peers. Then again negative in that adolescents, among other things, feel pressure to communicate with the group and to follow its aesthetic ideals at Instagram in order not to be excluded from the group or otherwise sanctioned. In order to deal with this perceived peer pressure, adolescents develop both active (problem-solving oriented) and avoidant coping strategies, including designing their own media environment according to their needs, supporting each other, and encouraging each other in their own actions. In these coping strategies, the peer group can again have positive or negative impacts. Positive, e.g., as adolescents can share their experiences; negative, e.g., as adolescents might obey the group norms disregarding their personal interests. The findings thus highlight the need to support adolescents in coping with these forms of peer pressure. To be able to act and counter the perceived pressure, adolescents need motivational, emotional, and reflexive skills that can be promoted through media literacy programs.