“Cliques” masquerading as “Squads” remain limiting

Savera Zulfiqar, Columnist

From the silver screen media through Mean Girls to young adult novels like The Clique by Lisi Harrison, the social division of student school life has shifted away from the now frowned upon idea of “cliques,” exclusive groups of people divided by popularity or interest. Instead, social media promotes “squads.”

Not until this August did I really understand what a squad was or why tons of people referred to what I believed to be cliques as “squads.” “Squads” are not frowned upon, nor do they have the negative connotations or exclusiveness associated with them as the word “clique” does.

“Cliques,” the mean, exclusive popularity hierarchical system, though has seemed to dissipate, has actually evolved over time to become “squads,” insidiously spreading the same isolating and unfriendly environment for which “cliques” are infamous.

Social media promotes “squads” and “squad goals,” models of what the ultimate friend group should be, using celebrity friend circles as examples. Taylor Swift is known to have one of the best “squads” because of her league of high fashion supermodels and celebrities. Although praised for being a group of successful and powerful females, her “squad” honestly promotes the same cliquey behavior, but with a different name. Swift’s “squad” is exclusively comprised of white supermodels, indirectly promoting exclusion of others that do not fit a specific mold.

On a more personal level, when I was a freshman, I didn’t have many people from my middle school in my classes; my best friends did not go to South. It was time to make new school friends so that high school would not be spent in crippling loneliness. But I soon gave up because I realized, somehow, in the first few weeks of school, nearly everyone had formed mini groups that had no space for a random, friendless girl. How did these people know each other so well already anyway?

My first partner project was assigned and there was rapid hushed whispering and gesturing to confirm partners once our teacher said we could choose. But I was not a part of the whispering because I wasn’t exactly friends with anyone in the class. I had tried to become amiable enough with the others at my table, but I realized that they were already good friends and it would be of no use to try and force friendship if they were not interested.
After a quick exchange of eyebrow expressions, another kid at my table and I decided to be partners and our bus modification project was epic. Although not a “squad,” we did end up being great friends.

Eventually, I found the friends that I have now – some mutual, some I made myself. I was happy.

I had people I could partner up with for projects instead of having the teacher pair me with someone or having to work alone. I had someone to sit with during lunch, someone to exchange bad puns with. But the friendships slowly morphed into a “squad.”

I appreciated our group of friends, but I realized that it had gone from just that to a “squad,” to a “clique.” The clique made me have to feel guilty and restricted from friendships I could make and what I could do socially.

“Cliques,” or “squads,” or whatever you call your group of friends, should not limit or restrict you from making good decisions for yourself. You should also never feel obligated to be friends with people you don’t want to. As an individual, everyone should be able to make their own decisions and should not have hobbies, activities or people forced on them, nor should we mask the same exclusiveness and negativity surrounding “cliques” by calling them “squads.”

I understand the nice, fuzzy sweater feeling of a group of close friends and how it’s comforting to know that you have friends to shelter you when you need it. But if the sweater becomes a straight jacket, you know it’s time to free yourself and seek friendships with individuals rather than bulk friendships with groups of people.