Chatting with Chapman: What is popularity, really?

Chapman W.

I was not popular in middle or high school.

It’s shocking really that a scrawny nerd who spent most of his time reading books and on the computer wouldn’t find himself hanging with the so-called “cool kids.” My case was also not helped by the fact that I lived in a very traditional, rural community, and that my interests were very much in the minority. I did have friends, and I didn’t struggle too much fitting in once I found my clique; however, I was never the prom king, and I was never invited to all that many parties. By the end of high school, I was simply known as the kinda weird kid with some interesting talents and hobbies who was very much getting out of the small town the first opportunity he had.

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So I did. I found myself here at CSU, and I started learning a lot about how popularity works in college. I’ve talked to lots of people about the topic since coming here. Kids who were popular in high school, kids who weren’t and kids who fell somewhere in the middle all had the exact same answer about the idea of college popularity: it’s complicated.

One of my favorite things about being a Ram is that there’s something for everyone here. There’s social groups, clubs and even jobs that lead to becoming part of a certain sort of community. While this sounds almost like a large-scale version of the cliques we were oh-so-happy to be free from after high school, it’s really not so simple.

The biggest argument I’ve heard for popularity in college is Fraternity and Sorority Life. There are many who feel that because there are always so many stories about all of the crazy things going on in the Greek world it means that they’re the only suitable evolution from the jock and cheerleader stereotypes from high school. I really have to disagree with this, honestly. I think that it’s much more pop culture that romanticizes the belief that members of Fraternities and Sororities are any more popular than say, members of student government, or even student media. FSL is simply one group on campus who is doing things that they enjoy. To be completely frank, I don’t think there’s a single group on campus that is more popular than another.

What you’re probably thinking about now is: “Chapman, are you really saying that popularity doesn’t exist in college? How then, can so many people feel like they don’t fit in?”

To that, my dear little interrupting reader, I offer the argument that in college, fitting in isn’t often times about popularity — it’s about both blending in, and standing out.

If there’s any mistake I regret most in college, it’s holding the belief that I had to change who I was in order to fit in. While trying new things is cool and encouraged, peer pressure is a dangerous part of the college social scene. I’m not going to argue on either side of drinking and other substances here — different strokes for different folks — but nobody should feel like they have to make decisions that they’re not 100 percent comfortable with in order to fit in. In my two years here, I’ve gone from feeling like a bit of an outcast, to finding myself a part of multiple groups who accept me for who I am, and liking the things that I like. And personally, I think that’s the key to the big concept of “popularity.”

My advice to everyone out there is simply this: you do you, boo-boo. If something interests you, and it’s not dangerous to others or illegal internationally, go for it. There’s always going to be people who are more popular than you. We live in a culture of celebrities and personalities, but your passions make you what you are, and I promise that’s the most important thing to be.

Collegian Reporter and Columnist Chapman W. Croskell can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com and on Twitter @Nescwick.