Little Willow asked for the team's thoughts on popularity and has posted them collectively at her site. So, with the song from Wicked running through my head,
here are my thoughts:
I'm thinking middle school is when popularity is defined most narrowly. If you can grind through it, you will have the rest of your life to find your peeps. That's really the bottom line: find people that matter to you, those you can relate to.
If you find yourself in the "popular" group, know you have a much bigger responsibility. Your influence is wider and people are watching. Don't lose yourself to maintain your position. If you are tempted to do so, maybe you haven't found your peeps after all.
Once you find a group that has meaning to you, foster your friendships. Who cares if everyone knows or watches? You've found a place to nourish others and be nourished. That's what matters.
It's good to remember that whatever popularity is gained, there's always a bigger group out there that never recognizes it. Actors, statesmen, even countries pass from popularity and are forgotten. So, find your small corner of the world, and be a good friend. Matter to your people.