Monday, April 30, 2007

The naked mile and peer pressure

It's this time of the year that the naked mile usually held in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The Naked Mile is a tradition at the University of Michigan where graduating Seniors run through campus naked the evening of the last day of classes. It started in 1986 and finally was banned in 2004.

I went to the event while in Ann Arbor, 1998-1999. The crowd was superb - the runners as well. Some runners would shout "pervert!" to the spectators. But no one seemed to care. Everyone was too busy taking pictures.

And it was cold too. Late April in Michigan can be as cold as in the 40's degree Fahrenheit.

No, I'm not sharing any naked mile pictures in this blog. An article from the Michigan Daily has a considerate picture of naked mile in 1998. And of course, there are websites selling pictures and videos of the naked mile. Just google "naked mile"...

One would wonder why these students would do such things. Some would say fun. Others would say keeping the tradition.

The rest were under peer pressure, as implied in another Michigan Daily article written by an ex-runner sharing her experience, and an article where a student was having an inner battle whether to run or not to run.

I agree with Cam who said: "It appears to me that the power of peer pressure and social acceptance is the main attraction here. The old saying, "Would you jump off a cliff if everyone else is doing it?" certainly pertains here. Most people would say no, but when confronted with the actual decision, they cave in and conform."

Peer pressure is, loosely, a concern with being accepted by others. Here's a brief TV ad that we used while discussing peer pressure as a motivation for conforming to others. It's quite a big challenge for teenagers. It's a mix of positive and negative influence, and may include things from fashion to alcohol, and from way of life to getting actively in sports.

By the way, it is actually illegal to run naked through the streets. But at the same time it is not illegal to take pictures of naked people. There was a period where most runners were wearing underwear to avoid arrest. That way, the only violation was interfering with traffic...