Rejection: "Kicked off the Island"
Humans are, by nature, social creatures. Cooperation and acceptance are all key factors in ensuring our species survival; rejection, especially in more primitive times, meant death. Evolutionary psychologists theorize our aversion to rejection started back when we were hunters and gatherers. To be rejected from the tribe, to be ostracized and “kicked out” meant we were completely on our own. And with harsh climates and a myriad of predators, it was unlikely any of us would have been able to survive on our own.
“As a result, we developed an early warning mechanism to alert us when we were at danger of being “kicked off the island” by our tribemates — and that was rejection.” [ x ]
Essentially, our need to “belong” has been hardwired into us.
Now, enter the digital era.
Instant messaging, the world at our fingertips, everything simply seconds away from being in our grasp. In seconds we can meet someone new and form a connected, or have an enlightening conversation on a topic we’re passionate about. But, as Spiderman has taught us: “With great power comes great responsibility”. And in this case, a whole new way to be rejected.
A post of ours doesn’t get many likes, or the person you messaged on a dating app turns you down (or more than one person), or someone writes something nasty and passive-aggressive about you in their Facebook status--
Our exposure to be both accepted and
rejected has never been greater.
So it’s only natural to want to be accepted, to need to be “one of the pack”.
But with so much of our communication being done online (especially the last year or two during the pandemic) are we becoming really bad at it?
When most of our socialization is done online, we miss out on so many important cues. Body language, tone, facial expressions-- all these things are missed when all we’re doing is replying to an email, or reading a tweet. Having a face-to-face conversation helps build a stronger connection with the other person as well. And when we feel more connected, we’re less likely to feel that rejection so hard.
Missing out on these cues also means more room for a misunderstanding.
Our in-person social skills are like athletic skills-- they need to be constantly flexed and worked to “stay in shape”. When we’re out of practice, we’re more likely to miscommunicate with someone else.
The online space can be a minefield.
People are more likely to say whatever they’re thinking with little filter when it comes to online spaces. Researchers call it the “disinhibition effect”, and it can either be benign (being more open with themselves, random acts of kindness or generosity) or toxic (rude language, harsh criticism, anger, and even threats).
It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of an online argument or get lost down a rabbit hole of “he said she said” articles. A simple tweet can spiral into a huge mess if taken the wrong way by someone else. But it’s so important to remember that, at the end of the day, there is another human being behind the screen.