Why Won’t You Like Me?

How Feelings of Rejection & Betrayal on an Ignored Social Media Post Are Scientifically Valid.

I’ve been off of all social media for a few years because I had a breakdown and I introverted. I was extremely sensitive, and seeing the news, which is mostly filled with hate-mongering, disrespect and sensationalism, would really affect me. The fact that I used to work in media and knew what went on in terms of seeking out the controversial element and spinning a positive piece, soured me to most of the shit that the news outlets and the majority of their respective journalists, presented.

But now I’m back on it, using it to spread my personal experiences with mental illness in an effort to help myself and others. I share links to my website’s stories, of course, but I also engage with those whom I follow, as well as others, who post about relevant topics to my objectives.

My mentions and replies take effort; I have to carefully think about what I’m writing in that it must not only fit with my objective of promoting awareness of, and helping de-stigmatize mental health, but must also fit into the permitted 280 characters. In addition, I am always thinking about how to best support the Original Poster in a respectful way. If I disagree, my commentary isn’t an argumentative “Ur a idiot” reply, but what I believe to be a thoughtful presentation of a different perspective.

So why is the person that I mention or reply to not acknowledging my interaction when I know that it’s coming up in their notifications?

It hurts, man. It really hurts.

By definition, social media are interactive, computer-mediated technologies that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, ideas, career interests and other forms of expression via virtual communities and networks. That’s the definition from Wikipedia, which is, itself, considered social media because it is interactive; almost anyone can create or modify entries, and everyone can read it.

The key word is interactive.

So the question remains, why are many of my interactive social media efforts snubbed? It’s, both, rejection and betrayal, and that can have lasting repercussions for, both, individuals and businesses on social media platforms.

Most people that are on social media are trying to get followers, whether it’s to sell a product or service, or to validate themselves as relevant in this big world, but whatever the reason, they’re online because they have something to say and they want to be heard.

In his Psychology Today article, Guy Winch, PhD writes: “…one of the reasons rejection hurts so much is because the same areas in our brains are activated when we experience rejection as when we experience physical pain. That is why we feel a stab of emotional pain when we check our Facebook feed and find that friends whose status updates we always ‘like’ have posted updates of their own but haven’t ‘liked’ ours… We’re simply wired that way. Feeling stabs of emotional pain in many of these situations can makes us feel vulnerable and oversensitive or even as if we must be ‘losers’ for hurting so much, but we’re not necessarily any of those things—we’re just wired to experience rejection, even on social media, as extremely painful.”

So is someone’s lack of response to my carefully-considered reply an actual rejection of me?

With my BPD, my biggest trigger is the (real or perceived) rejection of my ideas, so when I see nothing back, boom, *REJECTION*. The anger level rises and I begin to plan the recipient’s take-down campaign with the mantra, “How dare they!” reverberating through my psyche.

Winch goes on to say that, we feel rejected because we interpret the lacking response to clearly mean “You’re wrong!” when this is rarely the case (although it can be in some situations).  Although we live in a tech-tethered age, some people are not consistently watching their feed, and they receive many messages an hour, which they cannot keep up with.

“The most important thing to remember about social media interactions is that you lack huge amounts of information about what might be going on for the other person.” finishes Winch.

But how important is one’s social media persona to them? If it is essential, shouldn’t they have things in place to be able to effectively interact with their “public”?

Not wanting to walk two blocks to the community mailbox doesn’t excuse you from having to pay your hydro bill, so you find a way, but if the latest grocery store flyer isn’t something that you particularly care about, letting the mail sit for a few days isn’t a big deal.

There hasn’t been much research (since 2014) that I could find about the impact that social media has on loneliness and rejection, and most of it is about Facebook – the main social media platform of that time, but one paper, published by the University of Queensland, says, “Our research shows that feelings of belonging are threatened when users stop generating content or participating online, and when information they have posted does not receive a response from others.”

The experiment’s Abstract explains how researchers examined two threats to belonging and related needs on Facebook: lurking (Study 1) and ostracism (Study 2). In Study 1, participants were either allowed or not allowed to share information on Facebook, for a 48-hour time period. This study concluded that those who were not allowed to share information had lower levels of belonging and meaningful existence. In Study 2, participants engaged in a laboratory-based, controlled Facebook activity. Half of the profiles were set up by researchers so that participants would not receive any feedback on their status updates. In this study, participants who did not receive feedback on their updates had lower levels of belonging, self-esteem, control, and meaningful existence. Together, the findings indicate that a lack of information sharing and feedback can threaten a person’s belonging needs.

Rejection, depression and loneliness.

So here’s more science as it relates to those with BPD (and why we have a really hard time accepting it):

In 2009, UCLA psychologists determined, for the first time, that a gene linked with physical pain sensitivity is associated with social pain sensitivity as well.

Their research posits that this genetic variation is found in the mu-opioid receptor gene (OPRM1), which is often associated with physical pain, and is related to how much social pain a person feels in response to social rejection. People with a rare form of the gene are more sensitive to rejection and experience more brain evidence of distress in response to rejection than those with the more common form.

“These findings suggest that the feeling of being given the cold shoulder by a romantic interest or not being picked for a schoolyard game of basketball may arise from the same circuits that are quieted by morphine,” said Baldwin Way, a UCLA postdoctoral scholar and the lead author on the paper.”

This was published in 2009, when social media was in its infancy – fast forward 10 years to today, and not getting a like on your post fits right in with the above examples.

A little while later, the American Journal of Psychiatry published that “Recent genetic studies suggest that the μ-opioid receptor gene is associated with attachment abnormalities and borderline personality disorder.”

Now, this is not to say that everyone should have to post on eggshells, fearing that a lack of response will set BPD’ers off, but I am saying that it, along with the paper’s research on oxytocin, trust and BPD (suggesting that oxytocin actually makes patients with borderline personality disorder hypersensitive to social stimuli), can explain the sensitivity that we have toward the perceived rejection.  
It can show how we see it as a betrayal when we have liked and retweeted your stuff, but you won’t do the same to ours.
It explains how we can become bitter when we have followed you but you don’t follow us back.

I’m sure that others may feel similarly snubbed, whether they have mental health issues or not, so, perhaps further research would be beneficial.  

In his article on Buffer.com, Ash Read discusses how, as a kid, he and his dad would show up early and wait at the gates of a footy game (soccer), to watch the players as they arrived. Often, the guys would come over and say “hi” and engage with Ash and his dad, and the young boy would go home with a massive smile on his face and feel good all week because of it, regardless of the game’s result.

“It’d take each player maybe 10 seconds to pop over and sign and autograph, but for me the memories will last a lifetime.” Ash tells us how a mention or a like on Twitter can make us feel, both, valuable and surprised, which contribute significantly to our self-esteem.

“To feel valued (and valuable) is almost as compelling a need as food. The more our value feels at risk, the more preoccupied we become with defending and restoring it, and the less value we’re capable of creating in the world.”


– Tony Schwartz, Harvard Business Review

I admit that I don’t always like/reply to a comment that comes up in my notifications, but after writing this piece, I think that’ll change.

So, the next time that you notice a notification that someone has liked, replied to, or retweeted your content, take a few seconds to acknowledge it and make their day, while you solidify your place in their mind, because bad blood only takes a few seconds to create, but can take a lifetime to repair.

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