During an enlightening conversation with Cherry Valance, she describes her social group as a bunch of materialistic, selfish individuals, who are participants in one big rat race. A rat race is an idiom for people constantly engaged in competitively pursuing wealth and social status. The rat race that the Socs are engaged in with each other is a constant competition for attaining the newest material items and being viewed as the most popular individuals. The Socs value material items and are portrayed as an extremely superficial social group. Cherry Valance explains to Ponyboy that the rat race is exhausting, and she is sick of competing against her friends. The rat race also emphasizes the pursuit of having the best reputation and being viewed as the coolest individual in their social group. Whether it is hosting the most entertaining parties or owning the most expensive outfits and cars, the Soc members are constantly competing against each other.
Cherry is trying to explain to Ponyboy that their lives are not what everyone thinks them to be. She is letting him know that they also have pressures and stresses in their lives. She tells Ponyboy that the Socs are always chasing something, but they don't really know what they are chasing so they end up constantly buying, posing and trying to be what is "expected of them," but they end up still not knowing what it is they are chasing. The Socs lives turn out to be full of things, but not full. They have a lot of stuff, but no real substance.