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‘Reject’ film focuses on social rejection

‘Reject’ film focuses on social rejection
‘Reject’ film focuses on social rejection
Purdue Extension Educator Annette Lawler, right, speaks to a group of youth workers last Wednesday afternoon following a showing of the documentary "Reject." Photo by Ross Schulz

Pain associated with rejection is one human emotion that can be found across the globe, in all different cultures and languages. If there’s one thing humans don’t enjoy anywhere, it’s rejection from their peers. And the pain is a constant in people up and down age ranges and social settings.
Last Wednesday, Purdue Cooperative Extension hosted a group of youth workers and community leaders to watch a documentary film called ‘Reject.’
The film took an in-depth look at the science of social rejection, with a solution-oriented focus on the roots of bullying behavior and violent behavior against self or others.
‘In light of the things that are going on, I think this is a timely topic,’ Annette Lawler, Purdue Extension Community Development educator, said, speaking of the recent Marshall County, Ky., school shooting.
The documentary looked at school shootings, youth suicides and a person’s motivation behind it.
Officials in the documentary said students who lash out do so to regain a sense of control or meaning in life.
‘When extreme forms of rejection meet vulnerable people, you get disaster,’ it stated.
The documentary focused on a couple and their son, Eric, who committed suicide because of bullying and rejection by peers.
‘I can’t watch it without crying,’ Rebecca Wilkins, Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Development, said afterward.
‘It was more intense than I expected, the first time I saw it,’ Lawler said.
The experts on the documentary concluded that acceptance and inclusion taught at a very young age ‘ preschool and even before ‘ is the best way to combat the issue.
Just a few minutes of experiencing ostracism or rejection cause people to report a reduced sense of self-esteem, self-control, belonging and meaningful existence.
The documentary delves into the idea of rejection and details a method of examining and studying rejection called Cyberball, created by Kip Williams, a former professor of psychology at Drake University.
‘One afternoon in the mid-1980s, I was sitting in a park on a blanket beside my dog when a Frisbee rolled up and hit me in the back,’ Williams explained. ‘I turned around and spotted two guys standing a short distance away with hopeful looks. After standing to return their Frisbee, I moved to sit back down, when, to my surprise, the two strangers threw the disk back to me, an invitation. We formed a triangle on the grass, beginning a spontaneous game of three-way toss. But minutes later, for no discernible reason, they stopped throwing the Frisbee to me. At first, it was sort of funny, but when it became clear that they were not going to include me again, I felt foolish, awkward and hurt. I felt ostracized. I slunk back to my blanket and dog and got an idea.’
From that brief interaction, Williams came up with a virtual program to simulate what occurred to him.
Even though he didn’t know the two strangers or have any expectation of being included, the event was emotionally powerful, he said, and it’s easy to see how youngsters could get down on themselves in worse situations with friends and classmates.
In 2015, 28 percent of 12- to 18-year-old students reported being bullied at school, and one in 10 students in the U.S. drop out of school because of repeated bullying. Rejection can create surges of anger and aggression, and correlations exist between peer rejection and higher rates of delinquency, arrest, violent behavior and substance abuse.
The Indiana Youth Institute, Boys & Girls Clubs of Harrison-Crawford Counties and Purdue Extension of Harrison County sponsored the youth worker caf’ workshop.
After the documentary, Wilkins and Lawler answered questions and led a discussion about rejection, bullying and society’s reaction to it.
The Youth Worker Caf’ program is designed to bring together local youth workers to build relationships and inspire collaborations that will benefit children.
Later that evening, the documentary was shown free of charge at the Corydon Cinemas.
Extension officials hope to take the documentary to local schools.