Anywhere you go as a teen, whether it's school, work, or cyberspace, there's bound to be cliques – and possibly all the drama that goes with a close group of people. Just think of the movies American Pie, Clueless, or Never Been Kissed.
In school, part of your identity is based on who you hang out with. Usually, you become friends with people that you have something in common with, like sports, music, computers, etc. and you can be friends with a bunch of different people. But when it comes to cliques, membership tends to be restricted and exclusive.
What’s the Big Deal About Cliques?
So what’s the big deal about cliques, or, as some say, The Crew? Often people who are drawn to cliques want to be popular, cool and have social status. Others just don’t want to be left out. If you’re a cheerleader or jock, you’re probably a member of one of the “popular” cliques. But if you’re a druggie, band geek, nerd, brain, gangbanger or punk, you might considered to be an outcast – and maybe you like that status.
There are usually two types of people in a clique: 1) “the social gatekeeper” or “leader” who controls who gets in and who doesn’t, and 2) “the follower” who does whatever the leader tells them to do.
In many schools there is a hierarchy of cliques, with the popular kids at the top. In April 1999, the two students that killed several of their classmates at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, were at the bottom of that hierarchy. Some people believe that is one of the reasons why they took out their anger and resentment on those that were more popular, particularly jocks.
Mental health resources are available through your local town or community, such as services offered through health departments, religious organizations, nonprofit counseling agencies, colleges, and medical centers.
Entry into a clique is random. You might be excluded – even if you are popular – because you may be a threat to the leader. And cliques are not just for girls. Guys form cliques around sports, computer games and music too. And they can be just as mean, but more physical, picking fights with people they consider social outcasts based on how they dress or look. Consider the case of Phoebe Prince of South Boston, a pretty newcomer who had a brief fling with a football player and became a target of relentless name calling and stalking by a group of "Mean Girls." It's an extreme case, but the cliche of bullies literally mocked her to death till she committed suicide.
Cliques often have a "surviver of the coolest" mentality – members can believe they are somehow “better” or “superior” to anyone who is not a member. Teens who are excluded may feel resentful, angry and hurt. Even people who don’t want to join are bullied and picked on for being different. Members themselves face a lot of pressure that they’ll be dropped from the group if they don’t follow all of the rules.
If you’re a member of a clique, life can be stressful and you might always feel on guard. You never know if you can trust a fellow member because everyone feels so insecure. Rumors can fly and people can easily be “in” one day and “out” another.
Remember, true friends are not bossy and don’t tell you how to act or behave. They stand by you through thick and thin. The best way to develop good friendships is to be the kind of friend that you would like to have. That means being honest, caring, supportive, and loyal. Finally, if you have any doubt whether or not you’re hanging out with the right crowd, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you like your friends?
- Do you share the same values?
- Are they open to making new friends and not exclusive?
- Do you feel good when you’re with them?
- Are they supportive?
- Do they respect your opinion and who you are?
- Can you be yourself when you’re with your friends?
- Are they loyal and trustworthy?
If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then you’re in the company of true friends! If not, then you need to reconsider who you call your friends.