Social Hierarchies and Cliques


By S1SW (5) Chan Wing Tsun Valerie

I'm sorry that people are so jealous of me. But I can't help it that I'm popular.

Who doesn’t love a good classic teen movie? Definitely not me, that’s who. We all know the Queen Bee stereotype, and definitely someone like that in real life. Chances are, social cliques are not what they seem like in those movies, which is why today we’ll be dissecting everything to do with social hierarchies, not to mention finding out whether you’re actively participating in the social pyramid.

After doing a little observation and research, I’ve come to the conclusion that hierarchies in middle and high school can mainly be divided into ‘grades’ and ‘talent’.

Before we delve into the details, I want to make it clear that we should never ostracize anyone and that we should treat everyone equally and with kindness. The purpose of this article is just to make the so-called cliques and hierarchies (hopefully) clearer for you!

We all know the classic nerd stereotype - Cath Avery, Harriet Manners, and so on. But before we assume that this is a relatively new stereotype, look at it like this: Jane Eyre was a nerd too, which means this stereotype leads all the way back to the 18th century. So why are we still labelling people as nerds?

Now, if you think of the word ‘nerd’ and someone doesn’t immediately pop up, well, good for you! But chances are that you’d probably think of that certain someone we know as a ‘nerd’.

Sometimes, depending on the situation, being smart has different effects. Having great grades is wonderful, of course, but it might automatically guarantee you the label of ‘strange’ and ‘nerdy’. On the other hand, though, sometimes being smart might be ‘in’ and you’d be endorsed as one of the most popular people wherever you are. Who says popularity and grades can’t go hand in hand?

Anyways, it’s most likely that if you have a talent, and you excel at something, you will get at least 15 minutes of fame. When you think of ‘talented’,  just like with the word ‘nerd’, there’s probably a person popping up again.

If we believe in the ‘social pyramid’, everybody has a place on it (according to the theory). I’m sure that the talented ones aren’t low on the triangle.

Now, how do we define talent? Is the talented one the person who breaks the records at the swimming gala each year? Or the one who’s a math genius you see every year on the award podium? The student council President? Or even the one who everyone has heard about and knows all the gossip? Everyone has their own definition, but one thing is always true: the talented ones are admired, which means that they’re by definition popular.

Now, there’s one more type of person on this pyramid who we can’t ignore - the Perfect Ones.

Usually, in movies, the Perfect Ones are the Queen Bee and the head jock. Of course we can’t define this as easily in real life, but that still loosely fits. The Perfect Ones are, literally, perfect. They’re good-looking, smart, athletic, charismatic, confident and have talent(s), which they (of course) excel at. Whoever you’re thinking of may not fit all of these categories, but they probably fit at least a few.

They’re usually portrayed as dumb or evil, which is a huge exaggeration. He or she is most likely nice too. There’s nothing I can say about this, but if they fit all these labels, congratulations, they deserve to be known as ‘The Perfect One’.

No one can just point out somebody and be like “Oh, he’s the Perfect One! Let’s make him the most popular guy in the school right now!” I have no idea who chooses them, or what draws people to believe that someone is ‘popular’, but that’s the social hierarchy for you. From my extensive research, it seems that it’s the masses that have power. So when enough people all believe someone is “popular”, they then become so.

So don’t worry. Without people believing in their popularity, no one is popular.

A dream society would have no labels, with equal power for everyone, but that’s not exactly possible, is it? That means we’re all participating in the social hierarchy, however passively. Every day, we could be mentally labelling people as ‘rude’ or ‘beautiful’ or even ‘stupid’.

There’s nothing we can do about being judged, but we can try and limit our judgment to rational, real, and proven impressions instead of these impulsive first-impressions like ‘Oh, he’s a brown noser, I don’t like him’. This could be crucially important. As the saying goes, “Treat people how you want to be treated”. A bit of rational judgement can go a long way.

Of course, we can’t avoid being part of the hierarchy, but what we can also do is to make everyone feel like they belong and don’t hesitate to reach out. Who knows? You might make lifelong friendships with the girl you thought was ‘plastic’ or the boy who was ‘cringy’.

Here’s to a flourishing school year!