Or are they? Hooking up, partying, skipping seventh period. Even over vacay, “everyone” is doing cool stuff like skydiving or snorkeling in the Bahamas, while we’re just watching Hulu.
Oookay, so we’re about to nerd-out and drop some serious knowledge on you.
“Everyone’s doing it” is a vastly overgeneralized statement. The words “no one”, “everyone”, “everything”, “nothing”, “always”, and “never” in and of themselves are absolute words denoting extremes. According to the rules of grammar, we shouldn’t even be using those words unless we are completely certain that there aren’t any exceptions.
In scientific writing especially, those absolute terms are rarely used, as researchers need to make precise statements about their findings and minimize unqualified assertions.
But there’s more to it than simply nitpicking vocabulary. Get ready for a sneak peak at Psychology 101.
There’s this thing called heuristics, which are learned or hard-coded evolutionary rules that affect how people judge things and make decisions. For the most part, these rules work well under different circumstances, but they can also lead to cognitive biases that deviate from rational judgement. In other words, they can lead to poor decisions.
These biases have names. “Everyone is doing it” is an example of an Availability Heuristic. It makes us (vastly) overgeneralize based on immediate examples only. Like if your Instagram feed is full of party pics on a Friday night, it’s way to easy to conclude that “everyone” is there but you. But Instagram is hardly a realistic portrait of what everyone’s getting up to, which we all totally know, but have a real tough time remembering. So here’s your cheat sheet:
1. “Everyone” is an overstatement. It’s grammatically and scientifically incorrect.
2. You only see what people want you to see.
3. Cognitive biases. Your brain is wired to pay more attention to the things that stand out.
Now you know. And now YOU can be above the influence of statistically incorrect statements.