A clique is a group of insular people with not much concern with the outside. A stereotypical clique is one that shuns anything outside of that group. Everyone has either been in one or seen one in their life. School is made up of cliques. This is based on a primal need to belong and the instinct to fear something different. I didn’t enjoy high school all that much. Cliques were certainly a part of it but they were a bigger problem for me in primary school. Our high school had a dress code, which gave a fair bit less power to the cliques – but there was certainly one particular group who rose to the top. From what I’ve read about those members since then, none have actually gotten anywhere in life. “4 touchdowns in a single game” syndrome I guess
When I was a teen, working in a grocery store, we had our own little clique or sorts. We had a lot of fun and I’m sure people looked at us with a “what a weird bunch of folk”. Insular I would say but not so much shunning of outsiders as to be honest, we were a bunch of outsiders ourselves. You don’t work and associated yourself with co-workers in a grocery store if you’re cool right? It was good times. It was social growth.
As an adult, I am certainly subject to cliques. I have a group of friends, all extremely bright, and that intimidates most people trying to fit in. If you have an ounce of self-doubt, I can assure you that you will feel it grow exponentially. My wife loves to remind me of the first time she met the group as a whole during a party. It was getting a bit late, we had a few drinks and we decided to play a drinking game, but a quiz-type based on numbers. Most games would be something like “name 7 colors” or “name 5 sports with balls”. Not this game. The first question out of the gate was “name 7 countries that assisted in the invasion of Iraq”. The odd thing was that there wasn’t much drinking done during that game. We haven’t played it since.
The round-about point I’m trying to make here is that at a very basic level, cliques serve a useful social purpose. They breed familiarity and comfort, allow like-minded people a place to share ideas and provide a foundational support structure for social endeavors. It’s like an extended family if you will. There is a tipping point however, where familiarity leads to isolation and near xenophobia. Different is shunned rather than explored. A lack of trust with the outside world starts to permeate every discussion, seeming to create conspiracy theories everywhere.
It’s easy to point out that type of clique from the outside but near impossible to do so from the inside. From that perspective, everything seems like an attack and a relatively low sense of self-worth, combined with a need for acceptance can make even the most cheerful of people aggressive. That’s the key if you think about it – people within the clique need a better sense of internal self-worth. If they need someone else to tell them they are good and that’s the only positive stimulus, why in the world would they drop it? Maybe Stuart Smalley had it right all along.