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.

The words “everyone”, “no one”, “everything”, “nothing”, “always”, and “never” 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, these types of absolute terms are rarely used. 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 make judgments and 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 overgeneralize based on immediate examples only. Like if your Instagram feed is full of party pics on a Friday night, it becomes really easy to conclude that “everyone” is there but you. But Instagram is hardly a realistic portrait of what everyone’s doing, which we all know, but have a real tough time remembering. So here’s your cheat sheet:

1. “Everyone” is an overstatement and rarely accurate.
2. Your brain is wired to pay more attention to things that stand out.
3. On social media, you’re only seeing what people want you to see.

And now you know.

Stay informed. Stay above the influence.