Popularity is not the same as friendship
Episode 21 – Eugene, Age 13: Wanting to be more popular
Think About It Questions
- Popular kids are socially powerful. What do you think that means? How is that different from being well-liked?
- How can someone be “cool” if they are also unkind? Do you know anyone like that? How do other kids react to that kid?
- Why do you think some kids care a lot about being popular? What do you think about popularity?
- What are some ways that kids could try to increase how well-liked they are?
- Think of the happiest kids you know. Would you say they are very popular, medium popular, or unpopular? Do many, some, or few kids like them? Do they have close friends? What do your observations suggest about how happiness is related to popularity and friendship?
Hi, there! I’m Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, also known as Dr. Friendtastic. I’m an author and clinical psychologist based in Princeton, NJ.
Here’s today’s question:
Hello, my name is Eugene. And how can you become friends with somebody more popular than you?
Hi, Eugene. You’re not alone in wondering how to get in with the popular crowd. But let’s take a step back and think about what it means to be popular.
Popular kids are socially powerful. Other kids notice them and follow them and want to be liked or accepted by them. Classmates tend to describe popular kids as attractive, athletic, wealthy, nice dressers, and “not boring.”
One thing that scientists have found–and that you’ve probably noticed, too–is that “popular” is not the same as “well-liked.”
Some popular kids are kind and friendly. They tend to be cheerful, outgoing, and get along with everyone.
Other popular kids are “cool” but not kind. They might be friendly to some kids but ignore, exclude, bully, or spread mean gossip about other kids in order to make themselves seem more socially powerful.
Popularity is also not the same as friendship. Sometimes the kids in the popular group are mean to each other because they’re competing to be on top. There’s a lot of in-fighting and back-stabbing, so they can’t trust each other.
So, back to your question: How do you become friends with someone who is more popular than you are?
You might want to ask yourself why you want to be friends with this kid. Do you have a lot in common? Do you genuinely like him? Do you like who you are when you’re with him? Do you have fun together? If that’s the case, then just keep enjoying each other’s company and doing fun things together and the friendship will likely take root.
On the other hand, if you have nothing in common with that kid, you’re probably not going to become friends with him.
If you just like the idea of being popular, and you only want to be friends with this kid because you think he can boost your social status…well, that sounds more like using him than caring about him. I think he’ll be able to tell the difference.
If you want to increase your social standing, focus on becoming more well-liked rather than worrying about popularity. Make an effort to be friendly and talk to more kids. Be genuinely interested, helpful, and kind. Avoid doing things that annoy or upset others. Get out of your comfort zone and try new activities where you can get to know more people, and then be brave and invite them to get together with you.
Over time, all of this is likely to expand your social circle. And. more importantly, you’ll be able to feel good about how you’re showing up in your interactions with other kids.
Popularity is temporary. Friendships can last. The happiest kids are generally the ones who are in the middle on popularity, neither super popular nor super unpopular, and who have real friends.
This has been Kids Ask Dr. Friendtastic. If you have a question about making and keeping friends that you’d like me to answer, go to DrFriendtastic.com, and click on the podcast tab to see how to submit your question.