From an early age, we are acquainted and interact first with our immediate family: our parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. As we grow older, we are introduced to others outside of the familial sphere: classmates, coworkers, friends of friends, and so on. The social aspect of humanity is so rooted in our nature that social exclusion—the fear and reality of being left out—has drastic harmful effects on our mental and psychical well-being, and the negative impacts can permeate into how the socially excluded individual interacts with others in the future.
In their paper Social Exclusion Decreases Prosocial Behavior, Jean M. Twenge, Roy Baumeister, Nathan DeWall, Natalie Ciarocco, and J. Michael Bartels, identified that correlational research has found that the “inner state resulting from social exclusion may gear one to cope with threats rather than to be nice to others,” (Twenge et al., 2007). Their findings seem to indicate that not only is someone negatively impacted in the moment by being excluded, but the feeling of being excluded can cause the individual to respond negatively to other social interactions in the future.
The group conducted an experiment in which participants were randomly assigned to groups that offered different influences of social inclusion and exclusion. Participants were asked to fill out a personality questionnaire. After completing the questionnaire, some of the participants were told that they were likely to be alone later in life, others were told they would enjoy a future right in personal relationships, and others were told nothing related to their social future lives. At the end of the experiment, to test their willingness to be prosocial afterwards, they were asked to donate to a “Student Emergency Fund,” which would help undergraduates with unanticipated expenses. Only 37% of the students who were told that they would end up alone in their future donated to the fund, whereas every single participant in the other groups at least gave $0.25.
These studies go to show the long-lasting impacts of social exclusion on young adults. When someone feels left out, they are less likely to socialize or help others in the future. Already, the past decade has seen a drastic increase in social anxiety in teens and young adults. The results of these studies highlight the importance of making others feel included, because if social exclusion is not addressed, the trends of social anxiety may only continue to increase in the foreseeable future.