Life Is High School

A new study, which one can only assume nerds released very reluctantly, shows that not only is life high school, but the prom queen always wins.

As someone with a looming high-school reunion, it was with chagrin that I read the following summary of an ISER "Popularity" study in the new issue of New York magazine:

The study uncovered "a popularity premium" that seems to quasi-scientifically confirm what Kurt Vonnegut once observed: "Life is nothing but high school … you get into real life and that turns out to be high school again-class officers, cheerleaders, and all." There was a 2 percent bump in how much money the former student made for each additional friendship nomination he or she received. And friends were worth 40 percent of additional years of education, earnings-wise; so instead of doing that master's, you should have made two and a half more friends.

As the write-up points out, this rather gives the lie to the alleged renaissance of the last few years (and, as someone I know who went to high school with neo-nerd poster-boy Marc Jacobs scoffed, 'Oh, he was always cool.' And real nerds are not cool, and people dressing up like outcasts of 30 years ago does not change anything for kids in high school now.) But then, people toss around the term "nerd" pretty loosely, and kids can be social outcasts for all kinds of reasons, be it legitimate behavioral or social problems, or simply an unconventional self-presentation in a deeply conventional community. And by the same token, "popular" can be those genuinely friendly, well-rounded people, or else a select few who most people resent but who are for some arbitrary reason elevated to special prominence in the tiny universe of one's school. I'd guess it's the former who succeed, the latter who live off high school dreams.

Besides, Facebook has changed everything. Not only has the late bloomer lost the ta-da! factor a reunion once meant, but somehow, in cyberspace, in the great universal rush to have more connections, a bigger profile, a larger network, a lot of these old animosities have disappeared. If life's high school? Well, we're all "friends" now.

No Revenge Of The Nerds? [New York]