Left Out – Social media messengers like Facebook and WhatsApp have become increasingly woven into our social fabric, making socialization public and interactive. Nick Lowndes
In October, two of my best friends broke up. Everyone who knew this couple—I’ll call them Blair and Nell—was shocked. At least they were a great couple.
I tried not to be defensive: I vowed to be friends with Nell, even if I let Blair on the couch for a while. Most of our friends did. But the Saturday after the breakup, while a few people were drinking, my friend Tom did a quiet, thoughtless thing.
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The room fell silent. A friend held up his phone and showed Tom the screen. “I’m trying to be Blair’s friend,” Tom said. For him, this meant cutting Nell’s out of the place we’d been planning for three years – you could always find someone willing to meet up for a beer, breakfast or both.
My friends and I, all approaching 30 or on the other side of it, organize most of our social life through group chats. They’re perfect for meeting places—making plans, sharing news, and getting away from work—and with just a smartphone control.
But with ever-present, real-time conversations in our social lives, increasingly uncomfortable questions arise: Who can participate? What happens when they leave you?
Over the past decade, group chats on Facebook, WhatsApp and Google Hangouts have become woven into our social fabric. A recent Facebook survey of 12,500 people found that 59 percent of people use its messaging service two years ago, and 65 percent said “messaging has made it easier to communicate with a group.”
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Neither Facebook nor Google disclose the number of group chats they currently have, but in 2014, when Facebook bought WhatsApp, a spokesperson said the messaging app hosted billions of group chats. Research firm EMarketer also doesn’t have group chat data, but projects 173 million Americans will use mobile messaging apps by 2020 — more than double the number in 2014.
“What platforms like group chats facilitate is an open, transparent and interactive way for people to leave,” says Rebecca Hayes, a communications professor at Illinois State University who studies social media interactions.
Yes, it’s always annoying to find out that you’re no longer part of a certain group of friends, or that people you’ve just introduced prefer each other’s company over yours. But ubiquitous digital conversations, Hayes says, “take processes that have existed since the beginning of time and amplify them in ways that can have a psychological impact.”
There isn’t a lot of data specifically on group chats, but there is some research on the effects of non-adversarial online messaging. This includes a 2015 study from Germany’s University of Mannheim, which looked at unreplied Facebook messages with read receipts — that is, messages marked as read but not responded to. For participants with high social need, these milder extremes were correlated with stronger negative emotions.
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And that’s one-on-one communication: Studies have shown increased power levels for group rejection from chat rooms. “Its effects haven’t even begun to be studied,” says Hayes. She recently conducted focus groups to explore ostracism in social media. Themes continued to shift focus to more personal exclusion: specifically, exclusion from group chats.
“Participants told me I was asking the wrong questions,” says Hayes, who is now building on his own research to learn more about how group research affects personality processes.
The chats mentioned above are a few that I check on a daily basis. Some days my phone rings with messages from four or more groups, including one that seems to be planning an annual guys’ trip, but mostly it’s for bad jokes – although there is another group with the same members. insult far away
I hadn’t been invited to the last one a few months before, but I knew about it through personal tips and jokes from friends, and I was pretty bummed when I got left out. Hayes says I’m not alone.
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“Especially among young women, if they feel excluded from an online or mobile conversation, their personal, in-person communication is affected because they question their social position in the group,” she says. Digital isolation can lead to an escape from real life.
Kipling Williams, author of Ostracism: The Power of Silence and a professor of psychology at Purdue University in Indiana, says that even episodes of rejection by strangers, for example, can leave us unturned. Not surprisingly, negative products can get progressively worse the closer you get to exclusive parties.
Williams did not specifically investigate group chats, but in 2004 he co-published a study on text message extraction with some similarities. Participants were led into a group text conversation that stopped abruptly, and “your imagination allowed you to believe that others were continuing to engage each other, but not you,” he says.
“Even though there was no concrete evidence that other people were still involved with each other, they thought it was,” Williams continues. Participants felt that basic social needs were at risk. “The need to have a high level of self-esteem, to feel in control and to feel worthy of attention – these four people were very much at risk with this texting method.”
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By showing my group chats here, I’m sure I’ve singled out the people I thought were good friends – because they now know that I’ve small but purposely excluded them from my own version of the social circle. A cousin of mine once told me that she had two main chats: one with all her friends, and one with the same friends minus the ones they secretly wanted to escape from.
It gets worse when you realize that ostracism comes with psychological side effects. Other studies have found that an area of the brain that detects pain may be activated after social rejection. “It’s a very real thing, it’s interpreted as if our brains are on fire,” says Williams.
Even if someone doesn’t want to exclude a friend from a situation like a group chat, Williams says, “people fear that if they include the [excluded] person, they’re going to get kicked out.” This explains why Nell wasn’t invited back to our main group chat.
“If he had at least wanted to send me a message saying, ‘Hey, I better get you out of the group chat,’ I would have understood,” Nelle told me. “He did it in a shady way.”
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This new form of social exclusion is very similar to the old form. Ostracism is now taking a hit, but it’s still burning. Whether you experience a moment of complete disconnection in the company of friends, or absolute bliss when you tuck into your cattle at the end of the day, your feeling of “loneliness” is not at all. based on the availability of others.
You see, the fear of abandonment is hardwired into our biology, and we can’t kick it. We call it FOBLO.
This amazing 12-minute video explains how FOBLO focuses on biological survival techniques shared by all humans. Being “abandoned” left our ancestors at the mercy of Mother Nature, so we must seek safety biologically. FOBLO resurrected your ancestors.
FOBLO is a feeling of abandonment rather than a social aspiration. With social media you’re inundated with entire social circles, you’re completely disconnected on a daily basis – these days it’s impossible to truly connect with every community around you.
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So, if social media is making you feel lonely or you’re using it to keep you from experiencing your real social life, take a hard look at how you’re spending your social capital.
Social media isn’t just about your life; you can spend a lot of time and energy with other people and it seems like a total waste. You may even feel resentful because the social exchange did nothing to fill you in – you feel left out and they won’t return your call if you need a hand. It’s not an attainable investment, but it’s not personal—we’re all social capital and working toward a limited number of relationships, according to science.
You are biologically designed to maintain 150 relationships at once, and only 50 of them can be considered intimate. Having your naturally limited social capital allows you to harness this primal drive and invest it in relationships you truly care about.
Let it sink in
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