Psychology of Cliques

Everyone is familiar with the general concept of cliques, but what is really happening inside the head when they form?

Kalyn McLeod, Editor of Campus Life and Sports

We all grew up watching those early 2000’s teen movies, and believed that life in middle and high school was actually like that. With parties and football games everyday, it seemed like a dream. And unfortunately it was. But one part of those movies was actually realistic, and that was the cliques. While many schools don’t have the stereotypical cliques like cheerleaders, nerds, and jocks, it is undeniable that schools have friendships with similar characteristics. But why?

Ever since kindergarten everyone has been a part of a friend group. This is because the human brain naturally wants to form groups, especially with people who are similar to  us, but it is more than just sharing the same interests that form bonds between people. As Psychology Today explains, we as humans form friendships and bonds with those we see most often. This is why young children form friendships with people in their class, even if all the classes have recess at the same time. We get more and more comfortable with these people, and start to grow up with them. And by middle school, there are clear cut friend groups. And this is the age we start to label ourselves and create cliques. A clique is a small group of people, often friends, who share the same interest, and are also labeled by this interest. Marcelina Hardy with Love to Know explains that, “One of the biggest reasons why teenagers join cliques is because they value friends before anything else.” This is one of the few positive sides of cliques. Strong bonds and friendships will form, and can create a relationship that lasts a lifetime. However, a lot of the time these strong bonds can be very unhealthy. Many teens feel pressured to fit in, especially with the people that spend a lot of time with. They get persuaded to do things they don’t want to do, or look a way they don’t want to look. According to NOBA, when people  do not validate their need to belong they respond negatively. People will do crazy things to get that need fulfilled. This is also why it is so hard to leave unhealthy relationships with others.

I have had a lot of trouble trying to fit in with my group, and be “cool and trendy” like them. I am the group member that is constantly left out and picked on, mainly because I don’t care about being popular. And with my only true friend doing virtual learning right now, things have only gotten worse. They have made my anxiety so much worse, and I just want to leave the group. But it is more complicated than that, because of the fear of rejection. As NOBA states, “Across individuals, societies, and even eras, humans consistently seek inclusion over exclusion, membership over isolation, and acceptance over rejection.” I fear that if I leave my current group, I will never be able to find a new group that I fit into. This is also because of the stereotypical cliques. Even in middle school, everyone has been given a label. A label that is hard to change in other people eyes. So, no matter where I go, it will probably never seem right.

This is why it is so important to find good people to surround yourself with. With all kinds of changes going on inside the human brain, it is hard not to follow the stereotypical status quo of cliques, and how they act. It is important to remember that only you can control and make decisions for yourself. It is up to you to make changes in your social life, all it takes is a little perseverance.