If you go through your circle of Facebook friends, there are undoubtedly people on there that you haven’t spoken to or seen for years. You may go through the process of clicking the mouse a couple times to cut the fat and unfriend those perimeter contacts, but according to a recent study, you may want to think before you do that.
A study from the University of Colorado recently found that those who discover they were unfriended take it very seriously. The study’s author, Christopher Sibona, found that this small action may have big consequences in the real world. He found that 40 percent of people surveyed would “avoid” anyone in real life who unfriended them in Facebook, and women are more likely to avoid contact than men are.
Based on his survey responses, Sibona found six factors that go into someone’s concerted effort to avoid someone:
- If the person discussed the event after it happened.
- If the emotional response to the unfriending was extremely negative.
- If the person unfriended believed the action was due to offline behavior.
- The geographical distance between the two.
- If the troubled relationship was discussed prior to the unfriending.
- How strong the person valued the relationship before the unfriending.
The main reason for avoiding someone after the unfriending is if the act was discussed publicly with someone else. Sibona states, “Talking to someone is a public declaration that the friendship is over.”
This follows another study that Sibona created a couple years ago that looked why someone would decide to unfriend. The top four reasons were:
- Frequent, unimportant posts.
- Polarizing posts usually about politics or religion.
- Inappropriate posts involving sexist, racist remarks
- Boring everyday life posts about children, food, spouses etc.
Sibona said, "People who are unfriended may face [similar] psychological effects…because unfriending may be viewed as a form of social exclusion. The study makes clear that unfriending is meaningful and has important psychological consequences for those to whom it occurs."
While the act of unfriending is not made public through Facebook, if someone knew they were friends with you and then saw that you weren’t, it would be pretty clear what happened. And watch out, there are even web extensions like Unfriend Finder that let people know loud and clear that you did indeed perform the dreaded unfriend act.
Have you unfriended anyone in the past?