I'm the same way. Popularity bugs me for girls, but not so much for boys. We even named our son Aidyn and that's the #1 boys' name in the country right now (when you combine spellings). For instance, I think the name Jocelyn is absolutely beautiful, but I won't use it because I found out it's currently #70 on the SSA charts and in the 40's on the combined spellings list with 50-something different spellings and multiple pronunciations. I'm also still considering using the name Asher for a boy which is currently between #113-122 (depending on which chart you look at) and still climbing because I love everything about the name except for its popularity. I totally get why people want to use it, though. It's a great name.
I don't know why popularity of girls' names bugs me more than boys' names. I think it may be because I grew up with a top 10 name of the 80's and hated wondering if people were talking to me or someone else. It also just seems to be more accepted for boys to conform while girls tend to be ok with being different.
When I was younger I ran all names past the 'Not Higher Than 750 on the Popularity Charts Committee'.
Now, if I like a name then I like it. It could be number one which may be slotted in the middle because I know children with the name. Or it could be the featured name in a combo. It all depends on arbitrary factors.
It does for me, but not excessively. It's more important to me that a name be "consistent" than leap 600 spots in one year. I am ok with a name that's below the top 100 as long as it's been in roughly the same area for the past few years. A little bit of a climb is ok, but if it's making leaps and bounds, than I would prefer to avoid it.
Take Phoebe VS Vivienne for example. Phoebe has been on the top 1000 for a while now and in the past 3 or 4 years, it's been right in the same area, and I feel comfortable that it's not going to make a running leap for the top 50 any time soon. I LOVE Vivienne, too, but it came out of no where to jump right to number 531 and has leapt up 100+ spots every year since. THAT bothers me way more than Phoebe, which has been in the top 300 since 2006.
First names have to be 500 or lower for me to use. For middle names, it really doesn't matter. Uber-Popular or classic names balance out the first.
The name charts don't necessarily influence my favorites at all. I get inspiration for names from television, books, movies, people I meet, everywhere. For example Sophie/Sophia is a name I never liked (not because it was popular - I just didn't like it) until recently. As some of you may know I love Game of Thrones and one of the actresses is named Sophie Turner and she's just adorable and has helped the name grow on me significantly.
When it comes to my naming favorites I try not to pay too much attention to the charts right now because I'm not planning on having children any time soon, but I am pretty informed on what's popular from helping others with names.
I'm actually the opposite on boys and girls names. I don't mind much if my favorite girl names are in the top couple hundred (I love Charlotte, Penelope, Anastasia, etc), but I don't want my boys names to be anywhere near the top 300. Unfortunately, by the time I actually have children, I doubt I will be able to avoid that as a lot of my favorites seem to be gaining popularity (i.e. Augustus, Henry, Jase, Aiden) although I have a few that I doubt will ever be really popular (River, Castiel, Alaric, Renly).
Just a little bit. For the most part, I like the names I like, and I don't care about popularity, but the SSA list makes it easier to spot those meganame trends where a bunch of popular names sound the same. That kind of "shared" popularity bothers me a lot more than the popularity of an individual name.
For example, the popularity of Noah (currently #5) is irrelevant to me, but the popularity of Hayden (#90) drives me nuts. It's because Hayden also shares the top 100 with Ayden, Jayden, Brayden, Jaden, and Ayden. Abigail (#7) is more distinctive to me than Stella (#73) because Stella is marching along with Isabella, Ella, Gabriella, and Ellie. I'll take an Olivia (#4) over the less popular Kaylee (36), Kylie (58), and Kayla (59) every time.
Yes, anything in the top 100 i would steer clear of... and some 'classic' names just feel common even if their not used much anymore.