Popularity as a Privilege

I’ll admit to being the type to fall under the spell of charismatic, extroverted, loved-by-all types. I can’t help but find such people interesting, especially since I have always struggled to make connections. I always wondered how I am always alone, rarely ever being asked to hang out by other people. If it’s because people suck at asking people to hang out, then why do they all seem to still be hanging out with each other? I guess that means no one likes me. That just makes me feel more depressed and lonely.

I was spending time with one of these magnetic people, walking through campus, and we saw several people he knew in a short amount of time, all of whom called out to him to say hi, and whatnot. I don’t ever come across so many people I know, so I jokingly teased him, saying, “Wow, you know so many people. So popular.” He brushed this comment off, saying it was only because he’s been at our school for quite a while now. But I’m certain it’s not just that. He’s been at our school for two years longer than me, and I’m certain he knew more people than me when he was my year than I know now. He’s also so popular that people he knows recognize him before he sees them. Later, I saw one person I knew as we were walking, and we waved hi to each other. The person I was with teased me back, and said, “See? You know people. So popular.”

During future interactions with this person, I teased him about his popularity. He is also someone who has been thinking a lot about privilege, his own privilege, and being sensitive about it (but in a good way). He then asked me, “Is popularity a privilege?” I then realized it kind of was. We often may attribute popularity to personality type, and whatnot, but personality can be affected by a number of factors, such as opportunities and societal pressures. For example, the class clown tends to be a cis white guy. Think privilege, think white supremacy culture, think white beauty standards, think neurotypical, think gender roles, think cisheteropatriarchy.

Having privilege can foster an environment where an individual can develop a strong, charismatic personality. And then once popular, more opportunities arise, because others want to be around you and ask you to hang out. It’s a cycle of privilege and opportunity.

Society is geared towards likable and extroverted individuals. As an AFAB and anxious Aspie, my social skills are a bit off, and my weirdness is used against me because of how society thinks I should act due to my assigned gender. What is the end result? I don’t have many friends, I’m lonely, people think I’m strange, I’m introverted, I’m anxious, I’m depressed…

Whenever I do have the opportunity to hang out with someone, I never cancel my plans. Even if I’m feeling unwell, or sad, I try to keep that plan in action. Because I know that every opportunity for social interaction is vital. It could lead to that person asking me to hang out again, or me reaching out to them to hang out again. And if I’m sad, canceling plans and being alone isn’t going to make me happier.

I see people around me who cancel plans to hang out with others, or cancel their plans to hang out with me. I know I should be sympathetic, because they probably need that time alone, and you should put yourself first, and socializing can be draining. But I’m not empathetic, because they have the privilege to not worry about having a lack of future interactions because they chose to cancel. That’s what it means to be popular. People still want to be around you, even if you don’t want to be around them.

I’m a bit bitter. I hate having people cancel plans on me, and I hate people flaking on me. And it’s always ever privileged people. Does my company mean so little to you?

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