I wasn’t incredibly popular in high school.
I had a few close friends and a lot of acquaintances but I wasn’t, say, cheerleader status.
Although now that I think about it, one of my best friends was on the Pom-Poms squad so that friendship surely benefited me in the long run. I was able to vicariously hang on the fringes of the more popular groups that included athletes and “cool” kids.
In Facebook lingo I’m guessing this is the equivalent of “friend of friend.”
However, I was always aware that there is a huge difference between the fringes of popularity and being the center of it all.
This “fringe” status meant that I was neither shunned nor embraced.
But in the weird, hierarchal, social world of high school this worked just fine for me. I never would have been allowed attend the events/parties/gatherings of the “cool” kids; so, being on the fringe allowed me to quasi-run with the pack without having to be embarrassed by the rules of my home.
It was a win-win situation.
Recently, however, I was able to discover what the world of popular people is really like. And I’m here to tell you it is pretty heady stuff.
With my oldest son graduating from the University of Michigan and Barack Obama being the keynote speaker, I quickly became the most popular girl in town! Friends I never knew I had came out of the woodwork to fawn over me because I was holding eight, count ‘em eight, precious tickets to the most highly anticipated event in the state.
At 51 years old I had finally attained cheerleader status!
In keeping with the six degrees of separation philosophy (sometimes referred to as the “Human Web”), being my close friend put anyone in very real proximity to Obama—even if that person was sharing a stadium in which more than 100,000 people would be packed.
And apparently there are a great many people who cherished just such a spot.
My own political and religious views of Obama as speaker aside, this experience made me deeply conscious of how easily it is to succumb to fame and popularity— even when it is neither deserved nor pursued.
In the midst of all this I began creating a Facebook page. I’ve been told I need to do this to be part of the ever-growing world of social networking and as a publisher it is the way in which I can market the excellent Catholic books that I’ve published — which I believe in my heart deserve all the attention they can get.
So here I am, trying to maneuver my way around Facebook, and I’m getting all sorts of “So-and-so wants to be your friend” messages in my inbox every day. I feel very “wanted” until I see that this person has 1,037 friends and that person has 593 friends and I realize I only have 17.
In my mind 17 friends is a nice amount of friends but apparently I am terribly wrong!
Great, I think to myself, Facebook provides one more opportunity for me to be on the fringe. Just what I need!
I continue to fret because there are so many popular people on Facebook and I don’t know how I will ever be able to compete. Should I let everyone on Facebook know I have tickets to see Obama? I am positive that will increase my amount of FB friends.
I want to be popular even when I know that popularity, no matter what the cause, at some point is bound to give every recipient a false sense of self. And no one is immune — unless he or she practices constant humility and other virtuous behaviors.
This is why St. Paul welcomed the knowledge and presence of his weaknesses and shortcomings — they made him always aware of his need for Christ. Let’s face it, it is difficult to be pursued and receive constant accolades and not let it go to your head. Someone whose very business puts them in this sort of spotlight on a day-to-day basis, even the best among us, is bound to be affected and to some degree begin to believe the hype of having 2,048 FB friends.
But let’s get back to me…
So here I am, with access to eight tickets to graduation and I’m hearing from people that I haven’t heard from in ages. People are contacting me and my status is increasing with each passing day! At first I have to laugh but after a while it becomes almost pleasing.
I may be the oldest cheerleader around but I like being liked. Who doesn’t?
But the gnawing in my stomach won’t subside. Somehow I know that once the tickets are handed out — the decisions made on who will hold the coveted pieces of paper that allow access to the most popular event in the state of Michigan in a very long time — I will just go back to being plain old Cheryl Dickow.
I will once again be a “nobody” in just about everybody’s eyes — except for Christ’s.
In Christ’s eyes I am someone.
I am someone who has a journey and a purpose and even when I no longer hold tickets to that highly prized event, Christ will love and cherish me. I am a star in Jesus’ eyes regardless of how many FB friends I acquire or how many Linked In connections I make. Fortunately for me, Jesus tweets through the hardcover Bible sitting on my desk.
I realize that no matter how old I am, I can still be a cheerleader for Christ.
And for all that I am incredibly grateful.