The devastating consequences of Facebook unfriending

Clicking the "Unfriend" tool on Facebook.  Credit: Kieron Monks/Metro World News
Clicking the “Unfriend” tool on Facebook.
Credit: Kieron Monks/Metro World News

If you want to trim your list of Facebook contacts, think twice before hitting ‘unfriend’. That person may never forgive you, according to a new academic study.

Around 40% of people would avoid seeing someone in real life that had unfriended them, with a further 10% unsure. A higher ratio of women said they would avoid contact than men. The study also found the likeliest determining factor for a decision to avoid was if the unfriending had been discussed with other people.

“People think social networks are just for fun,” said study author Christopher Sibona, a PhD student at the University of Colorado Denver Business School. “But the study makes clear that unfriending is meaningful and has important psychological consequences for those to whom it occurs.”

Social networks are especially attractive to narcissists and people with low self-esteem, but they are vulnerable. “Unfriending could damage people with anxiety and confidence issues,” Dr. Gregory Webster, psychologist and social media expert of the University of Florida, told Metro. “These networks can distort reality, particularly if you don’t have much of a social life in the real world.”

Sibona had also researched the causes of unfriending in a 2010 study. Leading factors were “frequent, unimportant posts”, such as on children or family, and controversial posts on politics or religion. But Webster believes unfriending is also for “public presentation and wanting to appear very selective about our social set.”

Given the looser ties of virtual friendships, almost every user faces being unfriended at some point. If that is too much to take, Twitter may be a better choice with the milder unfollow less likely to cause trauma.

(Kieron Monks/Metro World News)


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