Imagine it’s a Friday night. All your friends told you they were busy, so you’re sitting at home, alone, mindlessly scrolling through Instagram. But then you see a post that stops you in your tracks. It’s a picture of all of your friends hanging out together — without you.
Has this ever happened to you? If so, how did it make you feel? How did you react? If it has not happened, how do you think it might feel to be left out by your friends? What would you do?
In “They Left Me Out, and I Saw It All,” Hallie Reed, a college student, writes about a time when this very thing happened to her:
It was my first semester of college, and I was still finding my footing. I rushed and pledged a sorority. I also joined an academic program, all in the hopes of being socially engaged and establishing genuine friendships I could rely on during college.
There were still lonely days, but things were looking up. A group of us were having semiregular game nights and restaurant outings, which to me was the very definition of college besties. One Friday, I joyfully announced to my mom over the phone, “I think I finally found my friend group!”
Later that afternoon, my three new friends told me individually that they would be out of town that weekend. I assumed they each had plans. No big deal. Then I checked Instagram the next day.
They were spending the weekend in Chattanooga together. How did I know? Every facet of the trip was documented on Instagram. There they were, eating ice cream and having a photo shoot in front of a pink polka-dot wall. There they were laughing on a bridge and there they were playing in the leaves. There they were, having fun without me.
We tend to talk a lot about having FOMO when we scroll through our social media feeds, but fearing you’re missing out and knowing you’ve been left out are different. We can let our imaginations fill in the gaps about other people’s lives, but sometimes it doesn’t take much imagination at all to see that people are doing awesome things without you. That’s the cost of living with social media.
It seems like everyone has a story like mine. Savannah Elliott, another student at my school, Samford University, remembers asking a friend if she wanted to hang out one weekend. “She said she was sick with the flu,” Ms. Elliott said. “I saw later on Instagram stories that she gave a party and didn’t invite me.”
Laura Asher, a junior sociology major from Kentucky, recalled a time her freshman year when she asked her friends what they were doing that night. “Nobody texted me back. I assumed that they were just staying home for the night,” Ms. Asher said. “Later I checked Instagram and saw they had all posted pictures and Stories of them at a country concert.”
Research shows these negative reactions to our social media feeds aren’t limited to us few. One study by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine showed that young adults with higher social media use seem to feel more socially isolated than young adults with lower social media use. Even worse, the journal Computers in Human Behavior found that for young adults, the use of more social media platforms is linked to higher risks of symptoms of anxiety and depression.
You’ll never be invited to everything. But it can be hard to not feel hurt and betrayed when you see exactly what you’re missing plastered all over social media. So what can you do?
Students, read the entire article, then tell us:
— Have you ever been left out, as Ms. Reed was? How did it feel? What did you do when you found out?
— Have you ever excluded someone else from something? Did they find out? How did being on the other side of this situation make you feel?
— Do you ever have FOMO, the fear of missing out, when scrolling through social media? How do you handle it?
— After reading Philip Galanes’s advice, how might you look at the reasons you were left out — or felt as if you were missing out — differently?
— What other tips can you use from this article for the next time you are (or feel) excluded? What suggestions would you add to Mr. Galanes’s list and why?
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