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Why Rejection on Facebook Hurts as Much as in Real Life

Everywhere we turn in life we face a gauntlet of rejection. Our colleagues go to lunches without us, family members forget our birthdays, spouses rebuff our sexual advances, neighbors don’t invite us to their barbeques, and friends don’t include us in their weekend plans. It used to be hard enough to get through a day or a week without some incident or another hurting our feelings. But now we have Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and other social media platforms. While the ability to interact with so many people at once has enriched us in many ways, as we often discover, social media provides just as many opportunities for rejection as it does for connection.

The kinds of rejections we experience on social media can vary in their severity, just as they do offline. And just as in ‘real life’ even relatively minor rejections (such as when friends fail to ‘like’ or to ‘retweet’ our posts) can really sting. One of the most common forms of rejections online occur when our invitations to connect with friends or colleagues on LinkedIn or Facebook are met with silence, or when someone we know well doesn’t follow us back on Twitter. Our feelings can be extremely hurt in such situations. Indeed, we often experience any lack of reciprocity on social media as a kind of shunning. Shunning is such a painful form of ostracism that historically, it was used as a vehicle of severe social punishment (e.g., the Scarlet Letter).

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Stuff We Talked About