Tag Archives: peer pressure

Arizona Teen Believes Positive Peer Pressure Could End Bullying

Drum roll please… What started out as a crazy idea has manifested. Our goal of spotlighting 50 heroes in 50 states has resulted in numerous blessings, miracles and new friendships. We’re so excited to unveil our first hero to you!

The Be O.N.E. Project

Who: Matthew Kaplan, 16-years-old

What: Peer-to-Peer Anti-Bullying Program Targeting Middle Schools

Where: Phoenix

Why: It’s cool to be kind!

The Catalyst: Bullying is a topic of concern in schools across America. With convenient access to digital devices and social media, hurtful messages are multiplied and spread like chicken pox. Adding to the angst, kids can post harmful messages with anonymity, ease and without a real-time reaction from the victim.

Two years ago, when Matthew Kaplan’s kid brother Josh was bullied in middle school, he decided he had to do something. “One day, he came home from school and his self-confidence was shaken,” Matthew said. “He started to withdraw and wasn’t himself anymore.”

Josh said he received dozens of hurtful text messages, like “you suck”. What made things worse — he discovered that his friends, disguised behind blocked phone numbers, were sending the messages. It may sound benign, but at that age, friends are your world, so when you get several messages, you start to think there really is something wrong with you. “It felt horrible,” Josh said. “I probably cried every day in the 4th and 5th grade.”

Big brother Matthew took advocacy to a heroic level by creating the anti-bullying peer experiential program, The Be O.N.E. (Open to New Experiences) Project.

The Act: Through this journey, Matthew discovered his passion: Building community and fostering a positive school culture.

But how? He researched anti-bullying programs targeting middle schoolers, but could only find high school programs and believes that “the damage” is done by that age. “It’s been ingrained, become habit. You have to get them in middle school — that’s when they’re figuring out their sense of self,” Matthew said.

Without an example, Matthew decided to create a middle school anti-bullying program using peer pressure in a positive way. “What if it were cool to be kind?” he preaches enthusiastically. “What if peer pressure could be used as inclusiveness instead of exclusiveness? When they have this tool, they could either be supportive or disruptive. I want them to recognize that they have the power.”

The Be O.N.E. Project is a “positive peer pressure” program. It starts with fun exercises, like holding hands in a big circle and passing a hula hoop around without letting go of hands. There’s joy and lots of laughing. Kids get to know each other and make connections.

The day progresses with focused, serious exercises when kids are asked to sit in a circle and have 90 seconds each to finish the following sentence: “When others see me, they think _____. But if they really knew who I am _____.”

“The Be O.N.E.” challenge is the last activity. When Matthew, who delivers self-defining statements with the passion of an older brother and conviction of a minister, describes a situation, kids are instructed to stand in a line and “Be One” to cross an imaginary line, if the description resonates with them.

At the end of the program, there is a noticeable change of enlightenment and compassion in the kids. Many have tears.

Grab a tissue and watch how every single kid has “crossed a line.” Be inspired to take action — you will discover that you have the power to BE ONE person that is the change-maker in your community:

The Ripples: Matthew has inspired more than 150 Arizona teachers and high school students to be team leaders during the day-long middle school program.

We spoke to students who participated and asked them how it changed their lives. Their answers were mature, candid and give me hope.

“If I was going to send a text that would hurt their feelings, I would think about it
and delete it and say something nice.”
-Sam, 14, 8th grader

“A group of 6th graders that didn’t go through the program, they’re like the popular
kids, now they’re bullying a bunch of the 5th graders. But all the kids that did (go through the program) are trying to stop it. Really helps to go through the program. It changes your ways.”
-Kayla, 11, 6th grader

“I look for people who are eating alone (at lunch) and I talk to them. I made many new
friends this way.”

Matthew’s goal is to get “The Be O.N.E” program in every Arizona middle school. We believe he will reach this goal. Join in on the fun and be the one who inspires kindness in your community. After all, it is cool to be kind.

What can YOU do?!

Take Action:

1. Support The Be O.N.E. Project

2. Be the O.N.E. to change your school culture. Invite Matthew Kaplan to come present at your school: thebeoneproject@gmail.com

3. Learn more about what YOU can do!

For more information on our 50/50 campaign, check out our blog: 50 Heroes, 50 States, 1 Inspiring Journey!

Hit share if you care, please share, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or comment.

Join us & Go Inspire Go…

You Think For Yourself but You Act Like Your Friends: How Homophily Changes the Way We Think

Birds of a feather tend to shop together.  That we know.  They also tend to talk together and walk together; and who their friends are affects more than just what type of jeans they buy.  Their friends have the capacity to affect their tastes, activities, and their lives overall.  Sociologists call this phenomenon of being affected by one’s friends "homophily" – the tendency to associate with people similar to you and the people you associate with tend to act like you over time (and vice-versa).  
Humans naturally conform to social influence – to their surroundings, environment, strangers, peers, friends, and the like.  People tend to socially conform or mimic their friends’ behaviors, attitudes, etc.  Besides the need for information, it is understood that people conform so that they will be liked and accepted by other people. 
We tend to associate ourselves with those who are similar to us in interests, attitudes, values, background, and personality.  The old saying that "opposites attract" doesn’t hold much weight; research evidence by Miller McPherson shows that it is similarity that draws people together (imagine starting with another on social networks like you). 
The Effect Your Friends Have Over You
Your peers are very important.  Judith Rich Harris’s groundbreaking book, The Nurture Assumption, suggests that peers have a much greater influence on child development than parents or teachers.  An immigrant 4-year-old boy from Poland (or China) who just moved to St. Louis is more likely to speak perfect English and love baseball within a year because he wants to fit in with the other kids.  He might still like traditional Polish food, but he’ll also quickly love hamburgers and pizza.     
The social psychology phenomenon of "mirroring" – people that are your friends or people that like you in general, tend to physically mimic or mirror your behavior, vernacular, movements, etc. – is example of the type of subconscious influence your friends have over you.  As a social experiment, try incorporating a new word or phrase into your lexicon and notice how your friends will slowly adopt and use this word or phrase.  Or try crossing your arms during a conversation with one of your friends and see if they mimic that behavior.
On a gender basis, women are slightly more prone to be influenced by their female friends than men are by their male friends.  In her research Sex Differences in Social Behavior, Alice Eagly hypothesizes that this stems from the social roles men and women are taught in our society.
How Your Friends Affect Your …

– Health

Nick Christakis and James Fowler published a study last year in the New England Journal of Medicine which suggests that your friends greatly affect your health.   According to the study:

A person’s chances of becoming obese increased by 57% if he or she had a friend who became obese in a given interval. Among pairs of adult siblings, if one sibling became obese, the chance that the other would become obese increased by 40%. If one spouse became obese, the likelihood that the other spouse would become obese increased by 37%. These effects were not seen among neighbors in the immediate geographic location.

If your friend gets heavier, it becomes more socially acceptable to gain weight.  And you start to get a different perspective on what is thin or fat.  And because you are friends with this individual that gets heavier, you may likely partake in activities with this friend that are unhealthy, thus increasing your chances that you too will gain weight.  Of course, if your friends start to eat healthy, it can be a motivating factor to eat less chocolate cake too.  

– Music Preferences

Birds of feather even sing together.  Noah Mark, Assistant Professor at UNC Charlotte, wrote a paper in 1998 that suggests that our music preferences are highly influenced by who we hang out with.  This makes complete sense.  We are limited in our time and capacity to try everything.  So we tend to try out and learn about things that our friends are doing, acting as a filter to all the noise that permeates our ear drums.  I suspect this is also true with the type of sports you play, art you like, food you appreciate, etc. – all your habits, likes, and dislikes are massively influenced by your friends’ habits.  

– Mood

And not surprisingly, much of your mood and overall disposition can be heavily influenced by your friends and the type of people around you.  Happy friends will make you happier.  Sad friends will make you more depressed.  Even thoughts of suicide can be contagious.  Essentially, mood is virus that is highly contagious.  Likewise, when someone out of the blue smiles at you, you usually can’t help but smile back.  Humans are susceptible of being influenced and we’re reciprocal beings at the core.  

– Political Stance

Political leanings is very closely linked to homophily.  If you live in an area with more than 65% party registration, you’re probably getting massively influenced by your neighbors. 
Using the Understanding of Homophily for Good Use
Homophily can be actively used to positively impact your life.  Christakis and Fowler did another study where they found quitting smoking is contagious and targeted interventions are most successful when done within a group.  It’s analogous to going for a run with a friend and pushing yourself harder and longer than if you were to just run by yourself.  Having many people around you can reinforce positive things like community service or negative things like UFO cults.  
If you are always trying to hack your life, the best thing you can do is systematically eliminate unhappy people from your encounters.  Even a reduction of 10% unhappy people will likely have dramatic affects on your mood and disposition.  Good-bye complainers, hello smilers.
The best way to deal with homophily is to understand how you are impacted by it and to hack your life and make adjustments accordingly.  To inoculate yourself politically, for instance, start considering the "other side" of the political isle.  If you are in San Francisco (84% Democratic), you might want to read the Wall Street Journal editorials every day.  Similarly, if you are in the back countries of Alabama (70% Republican) you should read the editorials of the New York Times every day.  Don’t let yourself be blindly led by those you know.  
So the next time you go shopping, be sure to bring along that frugal friend of yours to help curtail your spending spree – which is definitely not recommended in this economy.
(special thanks to Vivek Sodera for his edits and research)


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