Social media rejection really does hurt. Most people think being rejected or ignored in person is worse than being unwanted or unnoticed online. However, people can actually feel worse from being rejected online, according to scientific research.
In a 2012 study published in Computers in Human Behavior, researchers found being excluded socially hurts the same, whether on social media networks or in person.
In a press release, Joshua Smyth, Ph.D., the study’s author and professor of biobehavioral health and medicine at Penn State, provided the following statement.
“Contrary to our expectation, the students’ responses to rejection were not primarily characterized by severe distress, but rather characterized by numbness and distancing or withdrawal.”
When an individual experiences rejection in person or on social media sites, his or her brain releases opioids, which work like natural painkillers to deal with the emotional pain. A study published in Molecular Psychiatry points out that people who had high scores on the personality trait resilience had the highest amount of natural opioids released into their body.
David T. Hsu, Ph.D., lead author of the 2013 study and research assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Michigan, reveals more.
“It is possible that those with depression or social anxiety are less capable of releasing opioids during times of social distress, and therefore do not recover as quickly or fully from a negative social experience. Similarly, these individuals may also have less opioid release during positive social interactions, and therefore may not gain as much from social support.”
On the other hand, parts of the brain in people release more opioids when they come to find that they are accepted in social media networks or in person.
Dr. Hsu explains.
“The opioid system is known to play a role in both reducing pain and promoting pleasure, and our study shows that it also does this in the social environment. The knowledge that there are chemicals in our brains working to help us feel better after being rejected is comforting.”
Any kind of rejection, including social media negative responses and exclusion can make an individual sick. Rejection from online sources like social media, as well as other forms of rejection may contribute to aggression, lowered immune systems, unhealthy sleeping habits, and poor impulse control.
Pain caused by burns or psychical injury are detected quite easily. However, emotional trauma from social media rejection or in the flesh is very real and not so obvious.
If you or someone you know and care about is dealing with pain from loss, isolation, or rejection, including social media, think about reaching out to a spiritual or religious organization for counseling and guidance.
Psychotherapy is also helpful for coping with feelings of isolation and social rejection. Building stronger bonds with people through participation in social networks, social groups, or social media networks can also help relieving feelings of isolation or rejection.
[Featured image courtesy of Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]