• Digital Detangler

All The Small Things: Social Rejection In Glowing Rectangles



The emotional landscape of social media users is complex. Despite a clean interface and effortless posting of images and video (tagging your friends is now semi-automated: this is Jake again isn't it?), there are a lot of complicated ways that you can be told you are in the out-group. That slight might mean nothing...unless it does. Social media sends us signals that validate us socially (you do look great holding that beach drink on that beach vacation), but it is rife with opportunities to feel social rejection as well. Here are just a few ways that we experience rejection while hyper connected:


  1. Negative posts can send you the most direct signal possible: I don't like you and I want the world to know it.

  2. Unfollowing can be a more subtle way to let your friend know that they aren't trying to embarrass you in front of others, but they consider you less relevant or interesting now.

  3. Leaving a message read without a reply is another way to let someone know that you heard what they said but don't yet feel the urge to give it thought and respond. Snapchat and Instagram both allow users to track when recipients of a message have opened correspondence, leading to the ubiquitous question, "if you saw it, why haven't you replied?"

  4. Ending a SnapStreak lets the person you've been messaging daily (that's how you keep the streak alive and growing) know that you've moved on. It only takes a couple seconds to keep the streak going each day but today I realized you're no longer worth it.

  5. Blocking a user on Instagram or Twitter is another common way to send a firm, we're-not-close-anymore signal. You disappear from their feeds and they can't search and find you anymore.

  6. Having a text you send in confidence screenshot-ed and shared in a group text with others is common. Hopefully, this doesn't make its way back to you, but if you see it happening to others enough, chances are good it's happening to you as well.

  7. The iMessage dislike allows users to express disgust/frustration/annoyance with a particular message. The wrong person disliking the wrong post in the wrong group text can be devastating.

  8. Being removed from a group message in iMessage is a way for your friends to keep a conversation going...without you. Depending on the context this can be weaponized to hurt your feelings.

  9. Snooping can cause self-inflicted harm. If for example, you check your boyfriend's ex's feed and notice he's still liking her photos, you feel terrible. On the one hand, if you bring it up you seem like you're creeping, but on the other, you aren't comfortable with him interacting with an ex on social media.

  10. Posting an unflattering photo can cause hurt feelings. Not looking great online can be disappointing, so to have someone post a photo of you with your eyes three quarters shut can feel like a knock against you.

  11. Exposing another person can vary in intensity from revealing private news (ie. I'm wait-listed at my top school) to illegal (ie. so-called "slut pages" designed to ruin a person's reputation by posting illicit photo or video).


Social media can sometimes feel like death by a thousand paper cuts. This list is meant to make it clear just how those paper cuts happen. Do yourself a favor and spend less time connected and scrolling through social media. Solid science tells us it will improve your mental health.

© 2019 by Digital Detangler.

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