Being ignored or snubbed online leads people to feel 'numb', 'distanced' and 'withdrawn', researchers found.
The finding suggests that for many of us, the internet is as 'real' a place as the real world.Having a Facebook 'friend' request turned down - or even just ignored, hurts just as much as real-life rejection.
Unfriend? Seeing a friend request turned down leads people to feel 'numb', 'distanced' and 'withdrawn', researchers found
‘If you've ever felt bad about being 'ignored' on Facebook you're not alone, ‘ said Joshua Smyth, professor of biobehavioral health and of medicine at Penn State.
‘Facebook - with its approximately 800 million users - serves as a place to forge social connections; however, it is often a way to exclude others without the awkwardness of a face-to-face interaction.
'Most people would probably expect that being ignored or rejected via a remote source like the Internet would not hurt as much as being rejected in person. Yet, our studies show that people may experience similar psychological reactions to online exclusion as they do with face-to-face exclusion. ‘
The study of 77 university-age students found that people being snubbed and ignored during conversation felt rejected - and that the 'bad' feeling happened regardless of whether the conversation was 'real' or online.
Researchers found that being ignored in an online chat scenario hurt just as much as being rejected in real life - and were surprised by the finding
The team found that participants in both scenarios responded similarly to being excluded.
‘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, ‘ Smyth said.
The results suggest that our culture may not differentiate between in-person and online experiences as much as we might think, according to the researchers.
‘Although the meaningfulness of online or remote interactions may seem troubling, these data may also hold a more positive message, ‘ Smyth said.
‘Meaningful online interactions may allow for remote interventions that can enhance physical and psychological well-being, in turn providing increased access to opportunities for people who are in need. ‘
However, the researchers caution that these findings may be related to the types of individuals who participated in their study.
‘These studies were conducted with college-aged students who have grown up with the Internet and other related technology, ‘ Filipkowski said. ‘These findings may not apply to individuals who have much less experience with technology and remote communication.'