Popularity Epidemic Affects FHS

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Popularity Epidemic Affects FHS

Carson Bonner

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Popularity. One of the most superficial yet defining elements of high school. Some people can’t live without their peers knowing their name, but others want nothing more than to fade into the lockers. Popularity has a constant presence in today’s high schools, but people don’t often consider the effects of it. 

In a school full of academically competitive students, there is a lot of pressure to excel, but pressure exists on other aspect of Friendswood High School life, like athletics, the arts, and popularity.

“A lot of things affect popularity,” Counselor Kelly Cawthorn said. “Things like social media, clothing, cars, the ability to get things you want and do what you want to do.” 

Although these factors are important when it comes to popularity, students that I spoke with shared another set of “popularity values.” Rather than focusing on what people have, these students focused on what electives people were involved in. 

I think that your electives can affect how popular you are,” Junior Jenna Tuggle said. “Being a part of a sport like volleyball or football, or being a part of a big team like band or theatre can easily place you near the top of the ladder without much effort.”

Popularity is often portrayed as something that is satisfying and that improves someone’s lifestyle and self-esteem but, according to Dr. Julia Mundy, it has some negative effects on mental health. Dr. Mundy serves as a Psychologist in the Friendswood area.

“For those who are highly popular, they often express feeling pressure to keep their status,” Psychologist Dr. Mundy said. “They may feel like they are under constant scrutiny, or a target to be knocked down from their spot on the ladder. Being the center of attention means they are subjected to not only positive, but also negative attention.” 

Attention is generally the goal of popularity, but it is difficult to maintain and is often achieved through social media. The social media apps with the highest usage are Snapchat and Instagram. While social media can give users an outlet for self-expression, people often begin to use it as a coping mechanism.

In small doses, social media can be a great resource to connect with others, socialize, and express yourself,” Dr. Mundy said. “But on the other hand, like listening to depressing music or laying in bed for extended periods of time, what starts as a relief turns into wiring a pattern that gets harder and harder to change. Our patterns on social media can wire our brains to compare ourselves to other people, seek out unhealthy people, and be dramatic or negative.”

Even though there are negative effects of popularity and social media, there can be benefits as well. 

“I think maybe one positive about working to be popular is it helps people get out of their shell.” Principal Mark Griffon said. “It gives them a chance to communicate with a group that wouldn’t normally communicate with and maybe open up to others.”

Popularity will always be a part of high school life, but it doesn’t need to be the main focus of students’ lives. The negative effects outweigh the positives and that needs to be taken into consideration when using social media and prioritizing school and social life. 

“You should never disown who your are for the sake of popularity,” Mrs. Cawthorn said. “Popularity doesn’t last. It’s better to be true to yourself and with a small group of friends than only having part of yourself show and with hundreds of people who don’t really know you.”