Ah, that brings back memories.
I remember my own first response from a journal as though it were yesterday. The suspense, the anticipation, the yearning for it to happen! And then- then- the day arrived. I hurriedly opened the letter and discovered in that moment that, in fact, I was destined for a long string of disappointing failures. It also became apparent that some people hate my work so much that they would kill me just to watch me die. So, you know, more than anything it reminded me of dating in high school.
My colleague is, of course, responding to the news pretty much the way we all do. He's even debating his possible future- be it a continuation in sociology, a change to a related field, or even conquest and feudal domination of his own principality. In response to all this I can only say:
Huzzah, my friend, huzzah! Welcome to that ancient and honorable club of scholars who have been politely informed by their peers that they do, in fact, suck shit through a tube. This may be your first rejection, and it won't be your last, but it is all the same a beginning. This is how many of us start and it is the membership fee into a club that includes your entire discipline. Welcome to that sacred siblinghood of scholars who have been dissed by journals.
Look up, my comrade, because now the worst is behind you.*
* Not counting the dissertation itself which, as far as I can tell, is universal in its inspiration of self-loathing and despair, or the tenure process, which is sufficiently stress-inducing as to be lethal to the average human being. Only academics whose egos have been sufficiently toughened by piles of journal rejections are prepared to withstand is depredations.