Have you ever posted a Facebook status that garnered few if any likes or comments? Did you spend the rest of the day feeling rejected, lonely and unhappy as a result?
That's OK. In fact, according to science, it's totally normal.
Researchers from The University of Queensland in Australia have found that the more Facebook likes and comments a person receives, the more likely they are to feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, the opposite appears to prove true too: The fewer likes and comments your status receives, the worse you're generally going to feel.
The findings were published in the March issue of the The Social Influence Journal, a peer-reviewed academic publication.
For the study, "Threats To Belonging On Facebook: Lurking And Ostracism," the researchers divided 79 undergraduate students from The University Of Queensland into two groups. One group of students was directed to post a Facebook status that the researchers ensured would get zero likes or comments by secretly making it invisible to the public. The other group posted statuses that the researchers ensured would receive a surplus of likes and comments.
The researchers then asked the participants about their sense of inclusion, belonging, self-esteem, control, sense of meaningful existence and perceived interest. The group who experienced more Facebook interaction scored higher in all categories.
Don't worry: To ensure that none of the research subjects went home feeling less than stellar, the researchers told participants at the end of the study that the statuses that garnered zero responses were actually programmed to be invisible.
According to the report, "This was done to ensure that participants would not leave the room adversely affected by the ostracism they may have experienced."
The need for interpersonal relationships and social validation is well documented. But the study does join a growing list of others that corroborate the hypothesis that our interpersonal needs have followed us from the real world into our digital lives.
Just as in the classroom or boardroom, the importance of popularity is very real on social networks. So remember: While sites like Facebook give us one more place to socialize, they also provide one more platform to feel ostracized too.