The Illusion of Popularity

Everyone wants to be popular. You may struggle to force some to admit it, yet being popular has crossed everyone’s mind, whether they’re 6, 16 or even 60. But what is popularity?

Google defines popularity as “the state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported by many people”. Let’s translate this statement to fit a modern scenario – does the number of Facebook ‘likes’ that someone gets really equate to real popularity?  Often the Queen Bees at school are the people everyone seems to like, the people with gigantic friendship groups and scores of Twitter followers. This is what you would expect. In my experience that isn’t always the case. Throughout my schooling experience and of many I have discussed this topic with, those who do have an impressive amount of followers on social media and a big group of friends but still don’t make the cut for the ‘cool kid’ parties. Why are they not classed as popular enough?

In addition it would be wrong not to mention those popular kids in your class with their exclusive friendship group who have never actually made a kind comment to anyone else? What makes them so popular? Such contradictions are confusing when you think about what makes people ‘popular’. For example you can be popular in a variety of different ways yet you can somehow fail to be popular, even if you try to fit in with those moulds. I believe that it is because of the labyrinth that is ‘teenage judgement’. So should we measure popularity in terms of breadth or depth, quality or quantity? 

But have people ever had to be genuinely nice to be popular?

Being charismatic and attractive has always been in style, and consequently people have never really had to be a nice person to be approved of in several instances. This is not modern. These are generation-spanning tropes. However as a teenager of today, I can safely say that we teens have been both equally fortunate and unfortunate enough to grow up with an ever growing world of technology at our finger tips.

Although our horizons have been certainly broadened, in the future we will look back and have few memories before the takeover of social media and the way that it has distorted our perception. In modern society you can post a picture that lots of people like and as a result feel popular. This is a temporary popularity that’s completely based on appearances rather than personality. I believe this opens up a much riskier whole world in which a teenage girl posts more provocative pictures on Instagram, in spite of her own self-respect, to get herself extra likes so that she can make herself popular. If a few boys behind a computer screen like a photo of you flaunting your goods and it puts you on a road to popularity then is being popular something that people should actually want?

  Looks fade. Fact. And even if this was not the case, beauty is subjective. There will always be someone out there who thinks you are the most beautiful person they have laid eyes on and someone else who just cannot see it. So, surely those who try to use their looks to make themselves popular rather than focusing on actually being kind to everyone are chasing fool’s gold. Even if being kind doesn’t make you the most popular kid in school, that is a quality that will stand the test of time. When people look back on their school days, they will not even remember 90% of their classmates names and good looks cannot change that.

Popularity is not everything. In fact, I would go so far to say there is no place for it in the bigger picture.

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