Re: Popularity !!

From: Kate Distin (
Date: Tue 24 May 2005 - 07:47:29 GMT

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    Kenneth Van Oost wrote:
    > A group of investigators of the University of Virginia claims that popular
    > youngsters are extremely vulnerable for social pressure.
    > " Being popular by its own peergroup holds risks " says the professor in
    > charge Joseph Allen. " On the one hand popular adolescents have many
    > friends, but on the other side there is the fear that those same friends
    > will
    > desert them one day ."
    > In the study which will be published soon " Two faces of a popular teen ",
    > shows that youngsters with many friends have strong family ties and
    > possess a sound look of their own personality. The bad news however
    > is that their ability willingly to good for everybody makes them extremely
    > vulnerable _ sensitive _ to be hurt. As a direct effect they follow rather
    > quickly others in ' more risk bearing ' activities, like shopping and
    > smoking
    > pot.
    > " Teens try all the time to dare their parents, but in the same token their
    > resistance makes that they tune their own behavior onto that of their
    > contempories. "
    > The most striking conclusion was that ' light deviant behavior ' seldom
    > leads
    > to more ' heavily deviant behavior ' and that in contrast with the group
    > of the
    > more timid or less popular teens, who will commit more rapidly a serious
    > ( criminal ) (f)act.
    > " Popular teens embrace norms and values to keep up their good work.
    > Deviant behavior is no option, and they tend to keep everybody happy and
    > so they step more easily into the footsteps of what the group dictates."
    > Friends and social circuits are important, but still also the parents.
    > " It is very important that parents keep on talking with their children.
    > They
    > are supposed to give advice and guidelines. Teens who are popular will
    > ask more easily questions. But even so, they must be continuous be
    > stimulated to talk to mum and dad. "
    > Translated by Kenneth Van Oost, May 2005
    > Original article, De Morgen Monday 23/ 05/ 2005.

    This research supports observations that I've made, both as a teacher and in counselling work with gifted children and their families.

    What I've observed is the apparent paradox that those young people who are perceived as socially enviable trend-setters at school will often grow up to be very conventional adults. The paradox is resolved by the fact that in both settings what's really going on is that this is a group of conformists: as adults that's readily apparent in their lifestyles, but as teenagers it may not be so obvious, to their peers anyway. One of the major tasks of the teenage years is to establish our own identity: to dismantle much of what's been built up during childhood and rebuild it all in a way that will suit us better. The tendency is to move away from family influences, towards our peers. So the apparent
    "trend setters" amongst teenagers are often, in reality, following the rest of the herd in its fashions: they are successfully moving into the world of their peers.

    In contrast, those young people who at school are seen as outsiders with little feeling for what will gain them social acceptance (in terms of taste in music, clothing, activities, etc.) are often those who go on to develop less conventional lifestyles as adults, and may even be the real trend-setters themselves. Thus traits which in the teen years are socially unsuccessful (e.g. independence of mind) may in adult life lead to great successes. In particular, gifted young people will often delay their adolescent rebellion until later in their adult lives. This means that during their teenage years they are perceived as "square" and terribly conformist, because they have not yet started the move away from their family norms. In reality, again, their behaviour is
    *un*-conventional compared with "normal" teenage behaviour.

    Memetically this is interesting, because it implies that there is a core of people who do very well by conforming to expectations, both as adults and (even though they may not admit it, and others may not see it like this) as teenagers. As teenagers they are especially susceptible to the prevailing memes - and this may well also be the case as adults.

    There is another block of people, though, who are less susceptible to the prevailing memes and as a result may do less well socially (and indeed this may be one good evolutionary reason for the emergence of memes). Amongst them are many gifted people, who have a persistent tendency to behave like the little boy in "The Emperor's New Clothes", constantly questioning accepted fashions and opinions and challenging prevailing perceptions. This tendency will stand many of them in good stead in the long run - but there will be other teenagers (some of them also gifted) who rebel not only against their families but also against the socially successful block of their peers: they keep pushing at the boundaries and if they don't find any resistance they'll keep going until they come up against the law.

    Perhaps teenage behaviour is a good longer-term guide to each person's memetic "immune system". As children we're sponges, absorbing almost any meme that influential adults and peers throw at us. It's in our teen years that many of us start to question the memes we've absorbed up to that point, and it stikes me that the ways in which we replace them
    (with the same ones as almost everyone else does? or with our own idiosyncratic set?) should be fertile ground for research into patterns of memetic evolution.

    Or something. Seeing the teen years as an intense time of decisions between alternative memes should give us some new memetic information, you'd think, anyway.

    Hmmmm . . .


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