Popularity gets a bad reputation


Sarah Booth

Popularity. Whether you love or hate the concept, the label is still a prominent stereotype in high schools nationwide. Although the dictionary definition of popular is someone who is “liked or enjoyed by many people,” the slang term used amongst teenagers has morphed its meaning into something very different.

“There are people who are considered ‘popular’ but for the completely wrong reasons,” junior Lily Briscoe said. “They feed off of gossip and rumors at others’ expense and always have expensive things. Popular people generally create drama just to get a reaction out of others.”

Not only is the definition of popularity ambiguous, but the process of how one attains this coveted, yet ridiculed status is enigmatic as well.

“To me, it seems that popularity simply depends on the person. It could take  just a couple of days for someone to become popular or it could take a few years. The one trait that all popular people have in common is that they are trendsetters. They create the norm and expect others to follow it,” senior Will Neary said.

As students attempt to climb the social ladder, a fundamental question has been raised pertaining to the origins of popularity: is just being yourself not enough anymore?

“Being popular is advertised so much on TV and in music that it has become the media’s ideal person to be. They project popularity as a free ticket to an easy life and I think that’s why everyone wants to be popular,” freshman Madie Grove said.

While popularity may appear to be a sacred rite of passage for students, in reality it is merely another social group.

“There are a lot of different interest groups around school. From sports teams, to the Speech and Debate club to the Marching Band there is a place for everyone,” sophomore Kent Robinson said. “Not everybody is going to be friends with everyone. If we didn’t have these groups, it would be hard to find people who you connect with so I think it’s a good thing we have social groups, including the popular circle.”

However, problems occur when popularity transforms from a social clique into a hurtful label for which students are too quick to judge their peers.

“Labels keep us from getting to really know people. We become biased towards other people based only on what we hear about them. We judge people by what we have heard about them instead of finding out what a person’s true character is,” freshman Jonah Hathaway said.

Not only does stereotyping students as ‘popular’ or ‘unpopular’ hurt individual students, but it also has a negative impact on the classroom environment.

“It’s sad because the division between interest groups even makes its way into class. Instead of everyone just being friends, you can feel the barriers between people,” senior Greg Robson said.

Ultimately, corrosive labels like ‘popular’ will continue to degrade West’s social climate unless individuals are willing to alter their perceptions of others.

“There is no foolproof way to get rid of labels, I think a start could be a change in mindset,” freshman Erin Puhan said. “If we approached people based upon their character and not solely upon their looks or rumors we have heard about them, I think labels, like ‘popular,’ would disappear.”