Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Many people strive to be popular.  Many people are crushed by their lack of popularity.  It is a central issue in all of our lives.

Our society values popularity.  It girders the entertainment industry, influences politics and controls access to fame and riches.  Yet, despite its ubiquity and importance, popularity is rarely discussed.  It is seldom even acknowledged.  It is an 800-lb. gorilla nobody wants to talk about.

Human behavior fascinates me.  Your attitudes and beliefs interest me.  So...  I have two questions for you.  They are open-ended; you can say as much or as little as you want.

1. Were you popular in your youth? 

2. As an adult, how do you feel about popularity?  Do you crave it, hate it, or ignore it?


  1. 1. I was NOT popular as a kid. I was a "loser" who was made fun of or I suppose bullied often. Shameful secret: one of the biggest things I got made fun of was my ears being large and sticking out. I came home crying every day so when I was 9 I had my ears pinned back. Apparently the government is concerned about the emotional scarring of children and covers such procedures if you are being bullied etc. Thank you OHIP! After I remember one of the boys in my class telling me that my ears were too close to my head and i vividly remember thinking to myself "this is a lesson. you can never listen to what anyone says about you"

    2. I just want to around people who appreciate me for me.

    1. What a heart-wrenching story. Thank you for sharing. I appreciate you.

  2. 1. I wasn't popular as a kid, but I wasn't unpopular either. I was my school's best female athlete (from middle school on) so I was appreciated for the wins I brought to the school (including some state titles) but I wouldn't say I was popular. I was a mixed race girl at a time when it was still somewhat unusual, especially in Oregon. I had uncontrollable hair, a gap between my teeth and then and now, I smiled too broadly.

    2. I'd like to liked but for the right reasons. At work, I don't care to be popular, but I want people to respect my work. As a blogger, I want people to actually like my blog. My sense of humor, my broad smile, my style and my writing. I don't want to be popular just to be popular; sometimes it snowballs and people only like something because they think they should.

  3. Hm, this is an interesting question to me. I was a "little Miss High School," popular without trying very hard. For many years I was content to keep a low profile and the blogging I've done in the past two years has, once again, surprised me. Ironically, I think of Gracey as a popular blogger!

  4. I was very unpopular. I was so unpopular people didn't even know I was there. And I felt like a wierdo most of my junior high and high school years. Looking back, I think I cared too much about it really. Always on the outside looking in. If I had a better self-esteem back then I probably would have attracted a few more friends because of it. Instead, I just gazed at the popularity of others and never felt like I fit in.

    Now, my life is very contained and simple. I socialize so little sometimes I wonder why. But I don't feel I'm missing anything though.

    I look at others that may seem popular and I think that they're where they're at because of confidence, self-esteem and not giving too much of a rip what others think. If I'd had some of that, would I have been popular? Who knows, but at least I would have been happier.

  5. I was decidedly not popular. I was pretty unaware of it too. I talked to everyone equally, frequently floated from group-to-group. I dealt with my share of bullying, but it came from "popular girls" and my so-called friends as well. I spent a lot of time alone reading.

    I do crave recognition, but as a creative type person - of course I want to be recognized. I love that my blog, my art, my accessories have all gained popularity. It's been my literal job this summer. I would have been a lot poorer without popularity.

    However, I fear popularity because of the demands on my time. I feel like I need to refresh after being around groups. I do prefer my friendships to be close ones, and sometimes when you divide your attention, it's hard to develop deeper friendships.

    I don't mind if other people are "more popular" - I don't have that jealousy of people who have thousands or millions of followers.

    I do find it intimidating to become friends with people who are popular. In my experience, people with lots of friends don't want to spend as much time with new friends. I know I've probably missed out on knowing some really cool people because of that.

    I think it's a double edged sword that I try to find the sweet spot of balance on.

  6. I was unpopular, mainly due to shyness, and was considered unattractive by many, even to this day. I've written blog posts on this, and after blogging two years, I still cringe over every picture of myself I post.
    I'd love to be popular, but not just to be popular. I'd rather be genuinely loved.

  7. Like many who've already commented, I was not popular, or at least I wasn't in the earlier parts of my youth. Throughout elementary school I was constantly teased for looking like a boy. The teasing wasn't extreme, but it was hurtful. However, unlike many, instead of becoming sullen and soft spoken I became increasingly aggressive, serious, and strong-voiced.

    Going into high school, I went the direction of the rebellious lone wolf. But somehow I found myself being subject of much admiration and encountered popularity without even trying. Looking back on it now, it's obvious that I had suffered ugly duckling syndrome, and my development into a would-be "swan" (as well as my artistic talent) opened the gates of peer acceptance.

    Now, as an adult, I understand the positives and negatives of the popularity dynamic. What I don't understand is the mindset of the adulators or worshipers, those who fawn over others and revel in their popularity. I don't often find myself having much respect for figures in the popular spotlight, mainly because their personalities so often leave a sour taste in one's mouth.

    I guess being one to see through it, the cult of popularity seems bizarre. I don't crave it. Though I do wish to succeed in my endeavors, in my mind that has to be accomplished through force of will and talent, not kissing the ass of whatever alpha may be present.

  8. Okay, posting first, then reading the other responses because I don't want to lose my train of thought. :)

    1. Were you popular in your youth?

    No. I was about as far as humanly possible from popular. Grew up poor, moved into a crappy house in an insular community midway thru elementary, wore cheap ugly glasses and braces, conspicuously obese mom cut my hair in the kitchen and sewed my tacky clothes, skipped a grade so I was smaller and smarter than my peers... and oh yeah, sometimes my clothes smelled like cat pee. The good old days? Not in any sense.

    11th and 12th grade sucked a little less, but really it all sucked. I was fortunate to have some adult friends and teachers and a good shrink. But I've never been one to "fit in" anywhere, even in adulthood. I stand out. Sometimes it's good, sometimes not.

    2. As an adult, how do you feel about popularity? Do you crave it, hate it, or ignore it?

    I have it. I'm smart and funny and easy to get along with. I'm also in a leadership role in my job so clients and staff alike tend to blow smoke up my ass and act like my fan club. It's pointless. I tell them point blank I'm not here to be friends.

    What I want, that I don't have here and is almost the opposite of shallow "popularity", is real face to face friendship. All my friends live in my computer or my phone. My family is geographically near but emotionally distant, and spouse is deployed. This week I have felt very alone as I deal with some stressful work stuff. I have some buddies I meet up with for music stuff, but those are topical acquaintances, and since they're primarily male I won't be looking for closer relationships with them.

  9. You hit it right on.
    1. I was NOT popular in high school. I wasn't an outcast either. One thing I had going for me was I come a very known family (last name) so that helped but I still wasn't among the 'coolest' kids.

    2. As an adult amazingly in all the groups and social settings I am in I am quite popular now. I naturally strike up conversations and build relationships with people I connect to. I am very open and direct and sincere. I am a 'leo' though so by character I do seek and love being center of attention so may be I do 'seek' popularity. Not sure. All I know is it just comes naturally. I don't go about working at it. :)


  10. 1. I was bullied really bad during middle school. It was just a horrible time in my life. And all that bullying lead to hurting myself and depression. Then during high school it was better, a new school and new people lead to new start, I wasn't that popular but people liked me. I started to change and it was a great time for me.

    2. I don't care if I'm popular or not anymore. I have friends that like me for the right reasons, and that matters the most to me.

  11. Hmmm I really don't know if I can consider myself an "adult" even if I'm 24, but I'll try and answer remembering my highschool years. I definitely wasn't popular- I had some friends and I wasn't bullied or anything either, but I can't say I was popular, neither I wanted to be. Teenagers are the same everywhere, but I feel like here in Italy popularity isn't as important as in the U.S. (or maybe I watched too many movies...).
    And, now that I'm not at school anymore, I can say I definitely ignore popularity.

  12. Another engaging post! Not sure if I would consider myself popular in school. I was a floater. I didn't really have a "clique" but instead hung out with different groups depending on my mood that day. I got bored easily so I always needed stimulation from something new all the time.

    As an adult, I could care less about being popular. My life is too busy to worry about being popular :) Heather

  13. I was not popular as a youth, and I was okay with that. I feel like with blogging I have come to find more friends, but I don't feel like I am popular by any means and I am still okay with that.

  14. I was not popular as a youth. Though I had a little group of friends, so I wouldn't say I was lonely. And I began dating my husband when we were sophomores in high school, so much of my life was more about him than being around a lot of groups.

    As an adult, popularity really doesn't matter to me that much - what matters more is having true genuine relationships with people I can trust and know will be there for me. More of a sense of feeling loved. Numbers don't matter. I guess quality of relationships over quantity.

  15. Oh god, I was so unpopular when I was a pre-teen. I was "that weird girl" that no one really liked. In high school, I finally found my way into a really great group of friends, but then my family moved 500 miles away. In the new high school, I was on the fringe of a group of semi-popular kids, but I later realized it was just so they could use me as a punching bag.

    As an adult, I say eff it. I'm friends with the coolest people I know, and that's all I really need :)

  16. 1. Were you popular in your youth?

    Oh, gosh no. I was bullied in elementary school, very nerdy in junior high, and finally hit my stride in high school, where I had a few close friends. I was never, ever popular.

    2. As an adult, how do you feel about popularity? Do you crave it, hate it, or ignore it?

    I'm what they call a "people pleaser" - I want people to like me and I try very hard at it (goes back to my parents basically ignoring me for most of my childhood while my brother got all the attention). I'm friendly and engaging in social contexts, but it's something I have to work at. I want to be liked, but I'd rather have a few solid, close friendships than have everyone like me. Although I will admit, I'm always a bit shocked when people DON'T like me (does that sound vain? I hope not!). :-P

    My situation is very much like Megan Mae's, above.

    Great thought-provoking question, Ally. I love all these responses.

  17. Not sure how to answer these questions. I was fat, had braces, and wore glasses as a kid. I was bullied constantly. BUT, I was invited to tons of parties and I always had people wanting to spend time with me. Maybe I was just average?

  18. I was not popular. I was picked on sometimes. I went out a lot BUT not with people from school
    I think i was average.
    I am not popular now, and i am fine with it.

  19. No, and no, I don't care. I like having good friends around, but I don't need thousands to be happy. I'm also KIND OF a loner, and I like it that way.

  20. You always ask the best questions. It's a gift.

    1. I was popular in the *literal* sense of the word, in that I was well-liked and sought after as a friend by plenty of people, but I wasn't popular in the high-school sense of the word of being with the "in" crowd. I wasn't cool, I guess? But neither did that crowd shun me. I knew how to get along with people but never knew how to be cool, which is a barrier to that kind of popularity.

    2. The very idea of popularity seems so...irrelevant? as an adult. Who would I be popular, or unpopular, among? I suppose colleagues (back when I worked in an office), but even with that there are so many other considerations. I'd say that no, I'm not a "popular" adult, but I'm much the same as I was in high school; I'm likable and that means I have a lot of friends (though not really a community per se, which is what I feel like I'm lacking).

    However, a couple of years ago I enrolled in a program to learn how to teach English as a second language. All my classmates were adults between 25 and 45, but something about being back in a school setting made us revert to high school. And for the first time ever, *I* was the popular girl! I chalked it up to being the only American in the crowd (everyone else was either Czech or British) so therefore having that kind of guileless friendliness we're famous for. In any case, people were actually jockeying to sit next to me at lunch, and everyone laughed loud and long at my stories, and I was a favored partner for class exercises. It was bizarre being in that position! I admit I liked it, but it was also sort of draining; people want your attention a lot, and that can be exhausting. I'm not cut out to be popular overall, I don't think!

  21. Thank you for these thought-provoking questions, Ally!

    1. I've never in my life been popular.
    2. As an adult, I almost always distrust popularity.

    Fortunately, I've also never felt real longing for popularity as an end in itself. I prefer fewer and deeper connections, and quite early on came to apppreciate the multiple advantages of outsider status and perspective. Isolation is definitely a drawback, though, and at some periods of my life, it has been acute.

    Unfortunately, though I've generally considered myself to be well-liked by those who have liked me, I continue to deeply grieve the near-scorched-earth effect that extended illness had on my relationships. So many connections which had survived so much else, even one of 20+ years, didn't survive. Between decreased energy and increased introvert-brain, my capacity is limited and so I'm extremely grateful to the blogger-verse for opportunities to connect.

  22. Never been popular and don't want to be. I used to want to be in high school but I've learnt that being popular is nothing really..

  23. After reading all the replies I am struck by how many of us were not popular when we were in school.
    I wasn't popular but I did have some very good friends who were not popular either. I always questioned things like religion which did not make me popular in the deep south. I also had friends who were gay and black and in the late 60's that wasn't done much either.
    As for the rest of my life, nope not popular then either. I am too outspoken and proud of it. I am the odd duck in my family too, but I do my best to get along with everyone. I always felt alone in the crowd. I think that goes along with my Meyer-Briggs INTJ personality type which is a very small percentage of the general population.

  24. Debbi makes a good point. I wonder if it related to how we now experiment with clothing/appearance/image? I know "fitting in" at the corporate level is a big motivator for me.

  25. I wasn't popular at school ~ lived in the shadow of a younger/pretty/skinny/sporty/outspoken popular sister and made up for it by being the kind one and I think being known for kindness is much more important than being popular and the kindness continues as an adult.

  26. I was just average in school....hung out with everyone. I can see wanting to be popular in school...kids were cruel, and sometimes you just wanted to belong. As an adult, I'm not sure what popular means?!

  27. I do love you as a blogger - you put me to shame in a very good way! I mean that in a way that makes me think of some of the petty things I've posted and how I know I'm a better writer than that and can do better (like my new friend shybiker) :) I want to say this, too; this is one of these posts I want to respond to and I am in my heart but I'm not in a good enough place where I can type out my pain yet.

    Know that I am heart-responding <3