This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The forty-sixth through fiftieth entries deal with introversion/extroversion, social interaction and popularity.
I’m sure we could have a whole discussion about why some kids are popular and some are not. Suffice it to say that it seems almost arbitrary to me. Although physical attractiveness seems to play a lot into it, doing extra curricular activities that play on qualities of attractiveness are also important. The guys should play sports that demonstrate physical prowess, and the girls should dance or cheerlead. Noting that that statement is awfully sexist, I would argue that popularity is sexist. Popularity reduces everyone to a certain paradigm, and outside of that paradigm you simply don’t fit in.
I think one also has to be average in other respects, such as and especially intelligence. You can’t be too smart or too dumb. Too smart, you are made fun of for being a nerd. Too dumb, you’re made fun of for being, well, dumb. I don’t remember any “dumb” popular people. The popular people squeaked by grade wise and didn’t attract any attention.
I tried for a minute or so to think up an unattractive popular person from high school. I could not. Same for my college career. I can’t think of an ugly popular person. People have to be drawn to someone to make them popular. The first thing someone notices about a new person is how pretty they are, not how well spoken or smart or athletic. It is physical attractiveness. People are shallow, me included. Now, I’m not arguing that attractiveness is the only important quality. I can think of many, many pretty people that aren’t popular. Outward self-confidence is important; self-presentation is important. You have to know that you’re popular to be popular. That is connected to knowing how to handle oneself in public, knowing how to talk smoothly, knowing amicable gestures and body language, not being socially awkward (see SC part 48). There is a lot to it, and I’m sure psychologists spend entire lifetimes studying the issue. Additionally, I’ve noticed that people who do not care about popularity are not generally popular. Again, you must know you are popular to be popular.
There definitely is a hierarchy to popularity. Just speculating, I’d have to say that the Alpha Popular comes from the paragon. They are the most attractive, the most adept at social convention, most self-confident, etc. They are the epitome of such a character. Others aspire to be them. From personal experience I think that adolescence is the trigger for all of this. I remember being great friends with just about everyone in elementary school, but when puberty kicked in I wasn’t good enough anymore. I suspect it was because of my demure stature. I was a nerd and not good at sports, so I simply became irrelevant.