We all like to be a part of a group, it is human nature. As a member of a group, there is also an element that may alter our viewpoints to align with the group. Whether intentional or not, whether subtle or not there is always some peer pressure in every group. Peer Pressure is the social influence a peer group exerts on its individual members, as each member attempts to conform to the expectations of the group. When we join a dive boat to go explore a new dive site, we are to some means becoming a part of a peer group. While peer pressure is generally looked upon as a negative force, that is not always accurate. It may be peer pressure, that desire to conform to the group that makes you seek out the proper boat diving procedures. Or, you might be with a group of “experienced” divers and you see that they do not do a buddy check, so you and your buddy skip yours as well.

Peer pressure can be strong even without doing anything to invoke it. One short study took groups of ten people into a room. The group was given a question with four answers. They were told to select the correct answer and move to the sign with the corresponding letter. However, nine of the people were secretly told to move to the same wrong answer. 70% of the time the remaining person went with the group, even knowing it was a wrong answer.

Don’t Worry, I Will Look Out for You

There are many ways that peer pressure can play out on a dive. Often it centers around your comfort level. There are two key items to always remember, Do not dive outside of your comfort level and You can call a dive at any time. Your comfort level is not a fixed thing, as you grow as a diver, your comfort zone will expand. The only way that you will improve as a diver is to expand your comfort level. It should, however, be small steps. Often your first challenge against peer pressure is the selection of a dive site. A group of divers may want to go to a site you are not comfortable with. Maybe it is a drift dive and you do not have any experience with currents. But, you do not want the other divers to be disappointed, so you agree.

One thing that puts me on edge on a dive boat is when I hear another diver telling their buddy, “Don’t worry, I will look out for you”. Unless the diver is a dive instructor, if hearing that makes you feel better, consider not diving. You are giving up some control on the dive. If you are not comfortable before the dive and make the decision to trust someone else with your safety, how will you react if you lose sight of your dive buddy? If you are past the edge of your comfort, what will happen if your buddy needs your help?

While diving with an instructor can help you improve your diving, just remember they are not perfect. There have been a number of times where instructors have exceeded their own limits and have died, sometimes taking others with them. Entering caves without proper training being one of them.

There are some divers whose comfort level is such that they will only dive with a guide. If that is how you wish to dive, more power to you. I see this often where the diver only dives a few times a year. If this is you, you still need to stay within your comfort level. However, consider talking with the dive guide that you are the one planning and leading while they act as your back up safety. Do not rely on them any more than you would any dive buddy.

peer pressure scuba diving it is up to you
What Should i do? Photograph by Scott Hughes

Do not be afraid to abort a dive if you do not feel comfortable diving. That said do not let everything cause you to cancel. A rough ride out that upsets your stomach might not be enough to cancel a dive, full on seasickness yes. Just be reasonable. If you want to quit a dive early, that is up to you, just do so in a safe manner. While most of the above are focused on the new or infrequent diver peer pressure is also involved with more experienced divers as well.

Peer Pressure Works Both Ways

While most comments about peer pressure look at negative pressure it does work both ways. Many studies blame peer pressure for drug use and sexual activity among teens. However, other studies show that positive peer pressure help keeps teens away from drugs and sexual activity. Positive peer pressure can start with setting the example. As an experienced diver, you know the way things should be. You will likely know that you take short cuts. Are those short cuts setting a good example for inexperienced divers? Are they really the best way to dive for you?

I have seen seasoned divers ignore new divers even look down on them. But think back when you were just learning, did other divers sometimes make you uncomfortable? Most divers who have been diving a while have a passion for the sport, that might not be the case with new divers. It might be something to try for them. Ten or twenty years ago, when you learned to dive it was an expensive and time-consuming process. Those that learned to dive had a passion for the sport, a dedication. Now to many, it is just another activity that fits into their life. Some e-learning at home in the spare time and a couple days at a resort on their vacation.

I know that many times a diver does not want to be paired with a dive buddy that is a new diver. Some dive masters and instructors will even present their advanced open water certification to avoid being seen as a professional and paired with a new diver. That is fine, you’re on vacation and deserve the break. Still, we can all act in a manner that the new diver can look up to, we can be friendly, offer advice if it seems to be needed and share our love for diving.

This positive role model should be during your dive as well. You know not to harass marine life if you see others do it let them know later it is not acceptable. Be a positive role model and provide a situation around you that creates a positive group dynamic that will promote better diving.

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