By: Lillabeth B.
         At my school, there’s one group of kids that deems themselves better than everyone else. For me, it started in the third grade, when a group of girls gravitated together, and never let anyone else in. They go by many names like the clique, the cool kids, even just “them” but they can always be recognized by one name: the popular kids.
         But ever since the appearance of that clique, I’ve been watching and wondering. What does it mean to be popular? How do you become popular? How many kids actually think they’re popular? So I decided to conduct a survey of students from Northwestern Middle School, Alpharetta, Georgia, to discover their answers. This is the story of my survey, what I learned, and how it changed the way I view popularity.
         I walked into school one Thursday morning with a stack of surveys. I’d been working on the multiple-choice questions for about a week, trying to keep things in the third person, avoid asking biased questions, and cover all the subjects I wanted to. During the day, I got 36 students to fill it out for me. On my way home, I looked at some of the answers and was surprised by some of the responses.
·  Exactly 50% of those surveyed agreed that popularity is measured by the number of friends a person has.
·  Only 22% believe that they could become popular by improving their social skills.
·  About 38% agreed that you could become popular by befriending a popular student and asking to be introduced to the popular group.
·  76% of those surveyed don’t think that they’re popular, and exactly 75% of those had no interest in becoming popular.

         I was most surprised by the answers to the final question of the survey. The answers were split in half between those who believed popular kids were mean and unfriendly, and those who didn’t. But there are so many people who are compassionate as well as popular. I know a popular girl who’s kind to everyone she meets. I know another who always sticks up for you. There’s another who will make you laugh every second of every day. But none of these people are unkind, and all are compassionate.
         Of course, there will always be those who make themselves seem popular by excluding others, and conforming to a popular style. But then there are the popular kids who are kind, generous, honest, and loyal. And for those people, they’re popular because their kindness makes them so.
         Looking back on it now, I see how much this survey really transformed the way I think about popularity. Before the survey, I thought that people were popular not because of how many friends they have, but because of how many people they exclude. I thought to be popular, people had to shun outsiders, or treat them like dirt, or not even acknowledge their existence. Now, I see popularity in many of my friends, nestled right next to their kindness and compassion. You shouldn’t be kind to others to become popular; you should do it because you’re a good person, and because giving others happiness makes you yourself happy. And this perhaps lies at the core of popularity itself. As said in the New Oxford English Dictionary, popular people are “…liked, admired, or enjoyed by many people or by a particular person or group…”

            Sounds right to me.

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