Being Popular Is Not Cool

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Being popular is no longer a big thing. As everyone used to say “it’s not what it’s cracked up to be,” they now say more: being popular is just not cool.

So, when popular is not what you strive for, what is? Being an insider. And there’s a difference. Kind of like how TV, fashion, music and the rest of what we call “popular culture” are subdividing up into smaller groups or “niches,” so is culture in the more general ‘people’ sense. Being an insider does not being the overall insider, but the insider of your group. You could be the insider of your geek group, your band clique or just about anything.

What’s the proof of this change? The OC:

Even on the pretty-people high school soap “The O.C.,” it’s dorky Seth who gets the girl. And Mischa Barton, who plays has-it-all Marissa, recently told Cosmo Girl, “I was never popular like she is.”

What’s happening, writes author Neil Feineman, is “a cataclysmic shift in what society considers cool.” The title of his new book, Geek Chic, says it all.

Nerds have been due for a renaissance since the ’70s, says Feineman. “The hippie and the punk movements were all about outsiders empowering themselves,” he says, and he sees geeks as their heirs. (Yuppies, he concedes, were a setback.)