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Cyberostracism: A Paradigm Shift Essay

1820 words - 8 pages

Cyberostracism: A Paradigm Shift For Social Exclusion
Timothy Burke
Colorado State University

Almost everyone experiences ostracism at some level and at some point in their life; either as sources or targets. To be ostracized is to be socially excluded, rejected or ignored and is a distressing and often times a profoundly painful event (Williams, 2007). Ostracism threatens our sense of belonging and connection with others and at deeper levels our perception of existence. (van Beest, Williams, 2006). The increasing popularity in the use of the Internet as a form of social communication can provide gratifying opportunities for social interaction it also embodies a salient form of ...view middle of the document...

Another example of the counterintuitive nature of ostracism was found by Smith and Williams (2004) while experimenting with text messaging ostracism, found that participants reported similar negative effects on mood when not receiving replies to messages even when it was suggested that there might be technical difficulties with the cellular service.
The often-painful effects of ostracism are supported by the connection between physical pain and social pain (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams, 2003). It is no mistake that words such as hurt and pain are associated with ostracism, there is evidence that strongly links the pain experienced in social ostracism to the same neural mechanisms that process physical pain. Studies using fMRI scans found very similar activations in areas of the brain that are linked to physical pain were also activated when participants were exposed to social exclusion (Eisenberger, Lieberman & Williams, 2003).
Furthering these connections Gruter and Masters (1986) proposed that humans’ hypersensitivity to ostracism is an evolutionary trait because there was a time that our very survival depended on social inclusion; humans have adapted the ability to sense the smallest hint of ostracism (Gruter & Masters, 1986).
The importance of understanding ostracism and its effects on people is driven home by the fact that of the 15 incidents of school shootings 12 of the perpetrators reported or left evidence that they had been victims of ostracism (Weatherby, Strachila & McMahon, 2010). The age of people using online social media has increasingly become younger. The work done by Abrams, Weick, Thomas, Colbe and Franklin (2010) for the first time examined the effects of ostracism on adults, adolescents and children. The study showed a substantial negative effect on mood and a significant threat to the four fundamental needs of belonging, control, self-esteem and sense of existence between participants of all ages.
Many chat rooms have instruments in place that allow users to remove unwanted participants from a chat room; this is referred to as getting “kicked”. Another form of ostracism within chat rooms is the ability to stop unwanted input from selected participants, “gagging” allows users to see what’s being communicated but does not allow them to participate, as well as the fact that chat room users can simply be ignored by others (Williams et al., 2002).
The world of social media has created a paradigm shift within the realm of social exclusion (Smith & Williams, 2004). Social exclusion can be traced back through many early civilizations as form of exile (Bastian & Haslam, 2009). The work done by Kraut et al. (2002) showed strong social relationships can be formed online and that people that are socially anxious are even more likely to form these relationships. di Gennaro and Dutton (2007) found that half of the people in their study that made friendships online went on to meet in person. The...

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