By Alexa Mastrangelo
If you walk inside any middle or high school at lunchtime, you will probably see small clusters of kids keeping to themselves, whispering, pointing, playing, or eating together. These small groups of kids are called cliques. Many people claim that cliques are an important part of middle or high school life, to help kids be who they are with a small group of friends. Most people also claim that they are simply harmless. However, while they are correct that cliques are mostly formed when kids are in middle school, they are wrong when they refer to cliques as harmless.
Generally, people from the ages of 12-14 or from 16-18 are more likely to form a clique. Many of the cliques formed include people who have very similar beliefs. What many people do not know is that most cliques are formed to exclude people from groups of friends. Some excluding factors are different races, nationalities, genders, hair colors, eye colors, and even body image. While most cliques are formed mean-spiritedly, it is also possible for a clique to be formed accidentally. The meaning of forming a clique accidentally is simply when a very close group of friends who have the same interests, trust each other more, and feel more comfortable with each other start to hang out with those friends only, unaware that they could be excluding other people.
Most cliques begin as a way to keep a close group of friends. As people get older and their personalities change, many cliques grow to be mean spirited. An example of a mean spirited clique is when the people in the clique start to deliberately ignore people with disabilities, different skin colors, or other groups. Before the mean spirited cliques ever started to “pop up,” keeping small groups of friends was simply a way to have a sort of “family” when you weren’t with your actual family.
So how did modern cliques branch out to become so mean? Well it all started when school “social classes” came into play. A school social class is almost like an economic class. The main school social classes are made up of different groups that students view as the “popular and accepted” kids, the “average” kids, and the “neglected and rejected” kids.
These different groups of students include those who are stereotypically the most talkative and assertive, with exceptional social and leadership skills. There are also groups of students who are not leaders but are still commonly accepted by others. Other groups of students include those who are quiet and perhaps unnoticed, and those who are the “class clowns” or “bullies.” There are also students who are sad and depressed from being ignored or bullied by their classmates, or are prone to violence. When stereotypical “social classes” were established, the rate of cliques and bullying went up by twenty-five percent. Some students don’t fit into the typical groups and just don’t even associate themselves with them.
To further my information on cliques, I interviewed a thirteen year old who wishes to stay anonymous, but is involved in a clique. I asked her to describe all of the factors of her clique. She said, “I have three friends whom I always stick with because I trust them and because I don’t like forming big bands of friends. Most of the people in my clique have similar interests, but it really depends on the person. Some of the interests we share are reading, art, and bilingualism. Our clique is not mean spirited, and we do not exclude anybody, but we do tend to stick to ourselves and just help each other out. I think it’s important to have cliques for some people, but for me, the most important thing is having friends whom I trust.”
I also interviewed thirteen-year-old Dionysios Valentis, to hear about his clique.. He said, “My friends and I formed a clique because we were all in sports together. All of us like to play sports and we are all very competitive. The point of our clique was never to be mean-spirited, but sometimes we do exclude people. I think that cliques are important to middle school because you can be with people who have the same interests as you, and you can form long-lasting friendships.”
It’s hard to choose who to be friends with, but choose wisely because some cliques or social classes can have a lasting impact.
Source: Feder, Andrea. “What is a Clique?" Teen Health and Wellness. June 2015