Great article on Alexandra Robbins’ new book about the social dynamics of high school, called latest book, “The Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth: Popularity, Quirk Theory and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School” (Hyperion). Reassuring words for any parent or kid concerned they aren’t popular enough — geeks are particularly likely to be successful after graduation.
In her latest book, she follows the lives of high school archetypes — like the Loner, the New Girl, the Nerd and the Band Geek — plus one Popular Bitch, the Paris Hilton of her upstate New York high school.
Their stories beautifully demonstrate things we know intrinsically: that being popular is not always the same as being liked, that high school is more rigid and conformist than the military, and that the people who are excluded and bullied for their offbeat passions and refusal to conform are often the ones who are embraced and lauded for those very qualities in college and beyond — what Ms. Robbins has dubbed Quirk Theory.
She also talks about the exhausting work of cultivating an maintaining popularity in high school, and the curious and unprecedented ways this has been magnified by Facebook:
“Facebook is now the online cafeteria,” Ms. Robbins says. “It’s this public space, largely unsupervised, and it mirrors the cafeteria dynamic where you walk in and have to find a place to belong. At school, you have to pick a table. Well, on Facebook you not only have to pick a table, you have to pick who’s at your table and who’s not. And then kids feel they have to be publicists for themselves, maintaining their photos and status. It’s exhausting.”
Food for thought, especially from an ex-geek like me…