Popularity may be defined as the state of possessing the affection and confidence of the people in general. Popularity is of two kinds-intimate and long distant. An intimately popular man is one who knows the art of winning the affection and regard of those with whom he comes in contact. He is respected and admitted by all who know him. On the other hand, a man who enjoys long distant popularity is one who, by some means or other, has succeeded in creating a favorable notion of himself among those who do not know him. Popularity has also come to signify something cheap and of lower quality. For example, we speak of popular art and literature.
In the modern democratic age, popularity is essential for success in life. It has been raised to the status of a fine art. A politician must be popular within his own community, for there are elections to the student’s union and other academic organizations. A teacher must be liked by his students, if he wants to be successful in his career. Gone are the days when he could keep them within the fold by wielding the rod. Now he must assiduously cultivate such qualities as are liked by students. In short, he should try to master the art of popularity. Innumerable books have been written in recent times which claim to teach us how to win friends and influence people. The true importance of Milton’s remark, “fame is the last infirmity of a noble mind”, seems to have been realized only line modern democracies.
The art of popularity is based on the art of conversation. One who wants to be popular must be a good talker. He must know how to please others. When in company he must be considerate to all his listeners and must say and do nothing which is likely to wound their sensibility. He must never be eager to speak himself, but must listen patiently to what others have to say. He must agree with the opinions of others and as far as possible avoid saying ‘No’ to them. Once this art of speaking in apt and soft works is acquired, one would become easily popular. The way to popularity lies through the art of flattery.
There is nothing wrong in thus humoring others and in catering to their tastes. This is necessary for the happiness of life. But attempt at popularity should not lead to hypocrisy and insincerity. One should be capable of sayings ‘No’ when one cannot agree with others; one should express one’s views politely but firmly. Great men who have been really Gandhiji enjoyed world-wide popularity, but he remained firm as a rock when principles were concerned. Similarly, Nehru, an immensely popular man, was never swayed by the current of popular opinion. Great men, in short, have never cared for cheap pop0ulariy.
True popularity, popularity which is rally worth having, is always based on worth of character. Virtue is it’s only sure and basis. Honesty, integrity, considerations, humanity, is only a few of the many qualities of mind and heart which go a long way towards making a person popular. Character is the only right basis of popularity.
But such popularity is hard to acquire, few possess such qualities of character. As long as men are not angels and this world is not a paradise, people would continue to cater to popularity in the cheap way. This art of popularity is like the art of dressing well. An element of show and artificiality seems to be essential for all those who want to cultivate this art.