Latin's Social Dynamic

By Danielle Martin Co Editor-In-Chief   I still remember the first time I noticed the traces of clique culture at Latin. No, it wasn’t in middle school when the entire grade sat in the same exact seat in the cafeteria day after day or at the freshman retreat when the majority of lifers switched rooms to be with their old friends. It was in fourth grade when I was forced to choose which two friends to take to my double plus lunch. For those of you who didn’t attend Latin lower school, a double plus lunch is a fourth grader’s rite of passage: the opportunity to dine in the classroom with two friends and no adult supervision. I’m sure we can all understand why the fourth grade teachers limited the number of 10-year-olds left unsupervised in a classroom with a whole tray full of mashed potatoes. But I’m not sure that they—or us fourth graders for that matter—completely understood the implications of this event, but looking back as a junior I can see so much wrong. In an elementary school whose motto was “you can’t say you can’t play” and that regulated birthday parties to either five friends or the entire class, our teachers’ intentions were certainly pure, but restricting the number of friends we could invite forced the idea of exclusivity upon us at such a young age. Now in high school, many Latin students say that we are an inclusive community and I would argue that there is much truth to that statement: first things first, there are no more exclusive double plus lunches and we all sit scattered throughout the cafeteria—not defined or constricted by any social barriers. School sponsored organizations, such as clubs and sports teams, integrate the community and create social circles across grades. And I can’t speak for everyone, but personally I’ve never felt outright unwelcome within the walls of this school. However, the remnants of fourth grade cliquiness are still prevalent in Latin’s social hierarchy today—whether visible or not. Just as the fourth grade version of myself didn’t recognize the exclusivity of double plus lunches, it wasn’t until recently that I realized how a common, seemingly innocent social practice of ours may be interpreted as a means of exclusivity: group chats. Welcome to 2016: the era of virtual cliques. Perhaps even more exclusive than the cliques portrayed in teenage dramas circa 2000—think Mean Girls—group chats strictly confine the limits of a single group. With a clear list of who receives a text, and maybe more importantly who doesn’t, group chats may just as well be the modern-day definition of a clique. Or are they? Group chats also serve as a practical means of communication, and this mass communication can also be viewed as inclusive—everyone within the chat is clued into the same conversation. Also, of the 20 students that I asked, only one said they didn’t belong to an active group chat, because they “don’t want to get bombarded with 30 texts within 20 minutes,” not because they aren’t invited into one. In no way am I suggesting that we should eliminate the practice of group chats or remarking that Latin is an exclusive community. In fact, I’d argue that—for the most part—we are remarkably inclusive. All I’m saying is that oftentimes we do things with the purest of intentions without even realizing the repercussions, and it’s time we expand the discussion from the virtual world to consider what group chats really mean in this day and age. As one sophomore put it, “no one’s first thought when creating a group chat is, ‘oh, let’s be exclusive,’ but I can see how limiting the conversation could define a clique.” It wasn’t until recently that I fully understood the cliquiness of a double plus lunch—which was at the time every fourth grader’s dream—and it’d be a shame to look back on my high school years and say the same thing about my group chat. So please, I urge you to share your thoughts in the comments!  ]]>