Standards of popularity

A inquiry that has withstood the test of time, burdening the hearts of many a teenage girl, all summed up into five words: What makes a person popular? Is it beauty, intelligence, athleticism, or maybe just general personality?

A long debated over topic, the root of popularities origin and why it seems to matter so much, is still yet to be finalized. For how does one go about scaling popularity, where are these textbooks and guidelines that can guide us through our investigation for fame? Not one chart or graph exists to mark its soaring highs or darkest lows, because there’s a difference from area to area, group to group, person to person. The formal definition is this: “Popularity (noun) – The state or condition of being liked, admired, or supported.” But does that generic description, so basic and bland for such a highly idolized concept, really grasp the true idea of status? Can that truly describe the inner turmoil and constant fight to rise above the others surrounding oneself? Popularity is the curse of status and reputation, poisoning the emotions and corrupting the actions of those deceived by its glamorous ways.

Are you hanging with the mean girls? Graphic from Looking in the Popular Culture Mirror
Are you hanging with the mean girls? Graphic from Looking in the Popular Culture Mirror

We see curses as evil, permanent consequences placed upon those in fairy-tales and movies. How could finding a seat among those who reign above all be seen as dark and awful? Isn’t it, for example, of what many high school students dream of getting a taste?  One may dream of having their identity be known throughout the school, loved and idolized, with friends and acquaintances shouting out a hello while passing by; the name of that praised being still upon their tongue, even after one’s presence has ceased to exist.

Wouldn’t this be something most people would want? Unfortunately, there are many downsides to popularity, the drag of having to impress groups of people each day, to keep everything that is done perfect and immaculate for the spotlight. When I was a junior in high school, I continuously felt the need to apply layer after layer of makeup to my skin, covering the imperfections that might skew my image. Dressing in clothing that not only was seen as “cool” or “in”, but helped me blend into the groups of reputation-conscious acquaintances I had. I wasn’t an individual; I was now just a piece in the golden-plated set. For this was where money and the level of status at which a person is thought to live by begins to become more important than keeping good morals or focusing on academics.

Popularity is thought to be a high-level achievement for those who focus more on the social aspects of life versus anything else. It can cause some to act out differently than they would if no one was watching or judging them, to gain a personality opposite to the one they might have in the silence of their room. A pressure to perform, to go along with activities or pastimes that maybe wouldn’t have been pursued before can be found, and overtime the burden begins to cause a person to emotionally deteriorate.

When I became lost to what my true identity was, I began thinking that nightlife would help me find it. Boys and partying were the main focus, and the strong, independent female that I was slowly began to fade away; as each Friday night blurred by, the morals and goals that I held were forgotten.

Not everyone is meant for the limelight, and overtime I proved to be one that wasn’t, for if the stress can’t be handled from the start, cracks in one’s demeanor can appear from the overabundance of tension. Popularity is a cold-hearted friend, looking for only material benefits and secretly ready to dump you at any time.

​Now, this definition of popularity, the one describing it as ruthless or like a curse, can be used in all instances. Sometimes gaining attention for winning a tournament or changing up a hairstyle can cause a congregation of attention to shift towards a person. Although, not all the time does this mean that they’re now under scrutinizing pressure to be wonderful and amazing, this flood of appreciation may just mean that they’re reaping some of the rewards of their success. Unfortunately, some may see these rewards as a stepping stool to fame for the people, a way to put a name into other’s minds. So as the endless battle to be perfect for everyone continues on, to win constantly and never lose, to be more than a human should be asked to be, this can be the formation of the point at which popularity can take its toll.

​Popularity is a tricky track to drive upon; its winding and foggy to those who may not be up to the challenge or made to be constantly judged. Certain aspects are important in considering how these pressures can affect a person, in both positive and negative lights, and when enough effort to impress is enough. Because reputation and status will only take one so far in life, before the more fulfilling aspects of the world slide into place. Watch your step, for falling under the curse of becoming a puppet of a particular group or the ringleader of another, can sometimes have a result that may not be as glamorous as it may at first seem to be.