5 Reasons You Don't Need to Be in the In Crowd

Surprising discoveries about what becomes of those we consider the most popular.

Posted Dec 22, 2014

The scene in Clueless in which the outcast Ty is invited to hang out with Cher and Dion, the most popular girls in their high school, illustrates that quintessential moment when an awkward duckling morphs into a bona fide cool girl by way of shopping, a makeover, and a charm-school crash-course montage.

As an impressionable youth, I also fantasized about being rescued by the patron saints of high school cool. Alas, I was never as lucky as Ty. Although during 7th grade, I do remember one girl from the in crowd advising me, “You’d be really pretty with makeup on.”

Almost two decades later, I have finally realized that I won’t ever hang with the cool kids. It’s OK. So what if the bulk of my life experiences and “fun” aren’t documented on sepia-toned Instagram photos? As our mothers used to say, being in the popular crowd isn’t everything.

In fact, science says that being cool isn’t actually cool either. Here’s why:

  1. Herd mentality negatively affects our ability to make the right decisions. According to a recent study at the University of Exeter, copying others causes people to stop responding to changes in their natural environment. People stop trusting their own instincts (which are usually correct) and simply do what others do. In other words, people, we need to stop being sheeple.
  2. Teenage cool kids turn into...uncool adults. According to a new study from the Society for Research in Child Development, “Teens who were romantically involved at an early age, engaged in delinquent activity, and placed a premium on hanging out with physically attractive peers” were considered to be popular; however, by the time they were in their early 20s, “those once-cool teens were rated by their peers as being less competent in managing social relationships…[and] more likely to have significant problems with alcohol and drugs, and to have engaged in criminal activities,” the researchers wrote. 
  3. Shyness actually makes your brain work better. Recent findings suggest that introverts “have rich, complex inner lives and a better ability to process the world around them.” In the workplace, sensitive wallflowers may also be “better bosses and leaders in certain situations.” Not surprisingly, extroverts have a greater tendency for getting into conflicts with colleagues. 
  4. Popularity makes you more vulnerable. Researcher Joseph Allen finds that "the very thing that makes teenagers popular—being in tune with the needs and norms of their peers—can have negative consequences.” Perhaps, they realize just how unstable popularity can be. Just look at any celebrity tabloid magazine to see the proof.  
  5. No one actually likes the "popular" kids. In a Scooby-Doo turn of events, it turns out that being popular and liked are not the same thing—in fact, "popular" people aren’t usually well liked at all. Researchers have found that popularity increases “relational aggression," which includes spreading gossip; taunting and bullying; and being generally awful to everyone so one can maintain elevated social status. None of these qualities scream best friend, if you know what I mean. 

Were you popular in high school? What happened?

Dion, Cher and Ty are the most popular girls in school

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