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Pressure

March 2, 2023

Comparing oneself to others has a clear correlation with problematic social media use on Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and Facebook, according to an August 2022 study by researchers at Michigan State University and the University of Delaware.

Since increased social media use can lead to increased self-comparison, when one sees that others are participating in hookup culture, they may feel pressure to hook up as well. An anonymous source describes this experience.

“[Social media] normalizes [hookups] for me and other people,” the anonymous source said. “‘If other people are doing it, it’s not weird if I do it,’ or ‘if other people are doing it, shouldn’t I be doing it?’ type of thing.”

Pressure to engage in hookup culture is felt by many students at West High. (Sachiko Goto and Athena Wu)

UIowa Associate Professor of Instruction and Director of Undergraduate Studies of Sociology Jennifer Haylett believes hookups can be an attractive alternative to relationships. One can satisfy their sexual desires without taking away the time and focus required for an intimate relationship.

“Relationships can be greedy of our time and our attention and not jumping into one that’s so serious early on can have some benefits,” Haylett said. “It can be a satisfying alternative to relationships, and people can find that it actually increases their self-esteem [when] they feel like it matches their particular interests.”

One anonymous source explains how brief, purely sexual encounters can be appealing after a breakup, as one may not want to make another long-term commitment for a while.

“If you’re in a relationship and then heartbroken, and you don’t want to do a relationship ever again, you’re gonna start hooking up with people because it’s fun. You’re just looking for excitement,” the anonymous source said.

However, another anonymous source reveals how transitioning from a trusting relationship to hookups can be risky.

“When you’re in a relationship with someone, you form a deeper connection and hopefully you trust the person,” the anonymous source said. “But, with someone you’re just hooking up with, there’s no way for you to tell if they’re lying about how many people they’ve had sex with or if they have an STD … There’s just so much room for lies.”

Additionally, one anonymous source reflects on how following a hookup, the dynamic between the two parties involved can change negatively.

“Before the hookup, I feel like the guy calls you pretty, talks to you, compliments you and Snap[chat]s you all the time, but then after, it’s like they already got you — they got what they wanted,” the anonymous source said. “It’s just a very different dynamic; it feels like they don’t try anymore.”

The source discloses that hookups can make it difficult to be emotionally vulnerable and open to exploring romantic feelings.

“It’s hard to let your guard down and get into an actual relationship once you’ve experienced hookups because it twists how you form an original connection,” the anonymous source said. “You’re always scared that it’s just gonna be a hookup and not anything more.”

You’re always scared that it’s just gonna be a hookup and not anything more.

— Anonymous West student

Another anonymous source details an unwanted outcome they faced after their only hookup.

“After you engage in your first hookup, people just think you’re all about that. I feel like that’s what happened to me,” the anonymous source said. “The word got out, and then I just got hit left and right with [people thinking that’s what] I’m all about. When in reality, no — I would never want to experience that ever again.”

Along with the stigma of hookups, high school gossip can create a toxic environment for both those engaging and not engaging in hookup culture.

“When I used to talk to this one guy, I didn’t do the stuff [he] expected me to do. His friends would literally call me over at lunch and be like, ‘Why aren’t you giving him [oral sex]?’” an anonymous source said. “It really puts you in an uncomfortable situation, and then you think, ‘Oh, am I supposed to do this kind of stuff? Am I expected to do this kind of stuff even if I don’t want to?’”

It really puts you in an uncomfortable situation, and then you think, ‘Oh, am I supposed to do this kind of stuff? Am I expected to do this kind of stuff even if I don’t want to?’

— Anonymous West student

Despite feeling uneasy with hookups, the anonymous source comments on the inherent fear of not belonging as the reason for many deciding to participate in hookup culture in high school.

“Who doesn’t want to fit in, have friends, and go to social events and be in the front row, or be recognized or be welcomed?” the anonymous source said. “A lot of times, we’re just so scared that if we say no — if I don’t do certain things — I’ll be excluded from that.”

Yet, in spite of social pressure, the anonymous source realized they only want to be in a committed relationship.

“I want to find someone whom I really like and have an emotional connection [with] and actually get to know that person, but I feel like a lot of times that’s not what [high schoolers are] looking for,” the anonymous source said. “It’s really hard to find a person who actually has the same values as you.”

An anonymous source who has been in a relationship for about two years gives advice to anyone who is looking for commitment instead of a no-strings-attached agreement.

“I would say just give it time. The right person will come along, and in the meantime, focus on yourself because loving yourself will make your future relationship so much better,” the anonymous source said. “Also, always trust yourself. If someone is moving too fast for you or making you uncomfortable, you have every right to leave that situation to protect yourself.”

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