Facebook posts from your friends can make you feel left out in the virtual world and that feeling, as innocuous as it might seem, is not easily dismissed.
The interesting part is that your friends never mean to harm you with their messages but users tend to develop a feeling of "social exclusion" that may actually inhibit intelligent thought, according to a University at Buffalo study.
The short-term effects of these posts create negative emotions in the users who read them, and may affect thought processes in ways that make users more susceptible to advertising messages, the researchers added.
"These findings are compelling. We're using these technologies daily and they're pushing information to users about their networks, which is what the sites are designed to do, but in the end, there's negative effect on people's well-being," said Michael Stefanone, Associate Professor and an expert in computer-mediated communication and social networks.
The results, appeared in the journal Social Science Computer Review, raise questions about how exposure to these interactions affect one's day-to-day functioning.
Offline research suggests that social exclusion evokes various physical and psychological consequences such as reduced complex cognitive thought.
"Considering the amount of time individuals spend online, it is important to investigate the effects of online social exclusion," said lead author Jessica Covert.
Social exclusion, even something that might seem trivial, is one of the most powerful sanctions people can use on others and it can have damaging psychological effects.
"When users see these exclusion signals from friends — who haven't really excluded them, but interpret it that way - they start to feel badly," Stefanone noted.
For the study, Covert and Stefanone created scenarios designed to mirror typical interactions on Facebook, and 194 individuals participated in an experiment ensuring exposure to social exclusion.
The other group saw a feed that presented no social exclusion information.
Results indicated that individuals exposed to social exclusion information involving their close friends experienced greater negative emotions than the control group.
"The most important thing we all have to remember is to think carefully about our relationship with these corporations and these social networking platforms. They do not have our best interests in mind," Stefanone suggested.