A Popularity Contest
Saturday, September 07, 2019
I am a member of a Spark Team and everyone is voting for the best Spark Pages. I am a bit upset about this. It's occupied my mind for a few days. I can understand the concept of a friendly competition to become healthier. I can understand Spark Members getting awards for things like most weight loss, most goals attained, most improved blood-pressure or blood sugar.
These are measures of success in which we admire those who star and encourage others to do better.
It is not like saying 3 people out of 12 are the best three.
Must the entire world become a continuing high school? Sometimes I fear that the concept of popularity has metastasized into our adult lives and we need too much verification from things like "like" clicks on our social media pages and "followers".
It might be a sign of my distinct lack of popularity throughout much of my life---I always had just 1 or 2 very close friends. As an introvert, also, such contests remind me of the way many introverts are minimized as people because they are not full of self-bluster. Of course "popularity" means well-liked or even "best-liked". And of course being "popular" can be a huge advantage in many ways.
I felt enormous shame at my first "popularity contest". I was 4 and in nursery school. We were told to paint a pretty picture. And amidst all of the flowers, trees, and smiling faces that my co-students created, I just created a mess.
My picture was filled with shapeless blobs. It reminded me that my hands were not talented and that I could not translate my thoughts and the imaged in my mind to the easel.
My teacher judged the work and said that mine was the worst; that I clearly had not tried.
Fast forward almost 60 years. After my mother died, I inherited some of her photo albums and there was one of me with the other students. I was short, skinny, knock-kneed, and looked mortified. I told my younger son, Austin, about how bad I had felt because my painting was the least popular.
He told me: "Oh, no! I think yours is the best. You really rocked German Abstract Impressionism and it looks so sophisticated compared with all those cookie-cutter flowers."
I just sort of burst into tears. He had a different way of looking at things.
I had a good friend who was a bit taciturn; he was also very brilliant and funny and had a great satiric streak. But he was a quiet person who only had a small number of friends. When he died last October there were 3 or 4 tributes posted about him in the online newsletter of the Department where we both worked.
And last Saturday another colleague died. She had about 25 tributes. That's great but I was worried that the wife of the man who died last October might be feeling bad that her husband may have "appeared" to be less popular than the woman who died last week.
Our president has reduced things to a popularity contest. There have never ever been so many people as at his inauguration! He's the best ever! He's able to draw enormous crowds.
Winners. Losers. We need them for our government and for the smooth regulation of the state. But let's not consider the "winners" necessarily more "popular" than the also-rans.