Sunday, September 16, 2012

cognitive responses to being unfriended on Facebook

cognitive responses to being unfriended on Facebook

This is a study concerning how people respond to being unfriended on Facebook, based on factors like frequency of Facebook use, what their relationship with the unfriender was, etc. The most intriguing claim of this study is that when someone unfriends someone else on Facebook, it can often be seen as a termination of the relationship as a whole. This is not a revolutionary idea, which is why this is so interesting to me -- we live in a world in which it is naturalized to dissolve a relationship by clicking a link that says "Unfriend." I have only unfriended a few people over the course of my having a Facebook (I've had one since I was sixteen or seventeen, and I'm now twenty-three), and I only know of being unfriended by two people. In both of these situations, I wasn't heartbroken or anything when I found out (which took probably a few months, because I'm not one of these people who communicates only through Facebook), but I did mention it to a mutual friend of myself and the unfriender in one of the situations (as a joke, but the fact that I mentioned it says something). I took the virtual friendship termination into the real world by sharing it with other people face to face. Neither of the people who unfriended me were ever especially close friends, so it's informative to think about why the loss of a friendship that was never actually strong or even realized was impactful to me at all.


  1. First off, I just want to say that I think it is super great that you are so quickly including social networking in the realm of social psychology, since there is so much new room for discussion in there.

    The action of "unfriending" (fun fact: it was Oxford Dictionary's Word of the Year in 2009) is one that I find to be unusual. The article cited in the original post touches upon the unease attached to unfriending because of the complete lack of etiquette in performing such a definitive action that does not have a clear counterpart in offline social interaction.

    I feel guilty in some senses to admit that I have unfriended dozens of people from Facebook since opening my account in 2006. I think my willingness to cut people off from this digital connection to me reflects qualities in my character, like holding higher expectations in loyalty and interaction for me to consider another person a friend.

    At the moment, I have 489 Facebook friends. Perhaps 20 of them I truly consider to be a friend, rather than maybe an acquaintance or family member. I do not doubt that many of those Facebook friends are people that I went to high school with, never spoke to, and would probably avoid conversation with if I encountered them at CVS/pharmacy. I think ultimately, "friend" holds very different definitions when applied to online versus offline relationships.

  2. I think that "friend" is a strong term for how facebook uses it. Because when it does recommends me friends to add it says, "people you might know." That doesn't mean anything. It's not even close to the definition of friend. Arguably I "know" famous artists, that doesn't mean I'm friends with them or know them as a person in real life. Which is why there are fan pages and there are personal pages.

    And I know a lot of people who do have 300+ friends on facebook. Who just add people who attend the same school or take the same class. These could be people they barely talk to and they call those shallow relationship "friends" and they call that drama a life.

    I don't feel guilty when I unfriend someone because I know who I consider friends. And those who are just being nosy or friending me to stroke their egos. I had this one "friend" who I unfriended after some time because I didn't consider her a friend. In all honestly I barely knew her though we hung out in the same group. Barely interacted at all. And she kept repeatedly tried to friend me again. I never did, and she thought that she did something wrong. So when she asked me I replied that "we were never friends, just acquaintances." Which gave her an excuse to have a drama. I know that she was really hurt, since that drama supposedly lasted 2 years. Still didn't friend her, I don't see a reason to, it makes a lot of sense in my mind what our relationship is. So I still don't feel guilty.

    And I think the facebook in that way skews the definition and meaning. And then also shows how well people understand the meaning of words. I got into an argument with a "friend" who insulted an actual friend of mine because she thought the phrase "you're not photogenic" was a compliment. That says a lot.

  3. I find it interesting that the survey was done on adult Facebook users. I would believe that this type of response and negative feelings to a person would have resulted from immaturity or an attachment to their online persona, which is typically found in younger generations that have grown up with online social media such as Facebook. I find it to be slightly over dramatic that adults would respond in such way. The article states that "participants also responded with greater rumination and negative emotion when they knew who unfriended them, when they thought they were unfriended for Facebook-related reasons." So participants/adults responded in a more negative way when knowing why they were unfriended. This response coud indicate that people do not react well to knowing when they have done something wrong and knowing that that particular action is publicized. It could also be the nature of Facebook. The fact that everything that happens to you on the site is public, no matter how private your site is, your friends can still see what is happening to you, if your friend count lessens people can see that. With this being said do you think people really remember how many friends you had from one day to the next? I have had Facebook for since 2006 and I couldn't even tell you the amount of friends I have without looking first. So is Facebook allowing people to be more couscous of what people think of them while allowing them to become more self absorbed?

    Also, is unfriending someone on Facebook that horrible? I am sure I have been unfriended by people but I've never noticed. This is probably because we were never friends beforehand. "63% of Facebook users unfriended someone in 2011, an increase from 56% in 2009" is this because so many people are beginning to lose the beginning appeal of Facebook and the gratifying feeling of having 500+ friends? I can remember back to middle school when having a lot of friends on Facebook was visual and public proof of being "popular" but are people becoming more private. I find that recently I haven't wanted to have a lot of friends on Facebook, wanting my life to be more private, only allowing people I know more about than just their name and the school they went to to be my "friend." Yet I understand why people would feel so hurt by an unfriending but only by true friends otherwise it is unreasonable to believe that someone who have never talked to wants you to know what they did last Friday night.

  4. As was said before, I think that that the meaning behind the term "friend" has become a little bit distorted since Facebook, Myspace, and other social networking sites began using it as the classification of the people whom you've chosen to associate your own individual page with. I think the AOL Instant Messenger of old had a more appropriate vocabulary for the people on your "Friend's list." When I was in middle school and elementary school, when AIM was still very much the most popular way to communicate with other kids online, it was very possible for two people to be friends with each other without being on each other's Buddy Lists. I know that there are still many people out there who aren't connected to Facebook, and I am good friends with a number of them, but I feel as though many people cannot actually confirm a friendship these days without first being friends on Facebook.

    That being said, it's never been easier to make "friends." I can't say that I'm not guilty of wanting more Facebook friends just for the sake of image, but I'm always aware that the majority of the people on my Friend's list maintain a more or less nonexistent relationship with me beyond the source code of the website. I've personally never unfriended anyone, mostly because I've never felt the need to. While I may care about my public image more than is necessary, I still see this list of people I know as just that - a list of people. A handful of them are people that I truly consider to be friends, but those tend to be the people that I associate with beyond the realm of Facebook.

    Perhaps the magnetism of Facebook has become something of a social norm. Rather, it's become almost abnormal for someone not to be on Facebook. Even beyond friendships, Facebook, for many people, has become the be all-end all of many relationship sects, from relationship statuses to party invitations, and I feel as though many things associated with Facebook have become detached from their original meanings - like the word "Friend."

  5. Being unfriended can be related to someone's physical attractiveness? I've never thought that being unfriended was something that had to do with someone's physical appearance. That sounds more like something kids in High School would do. I thought adults were... adults. Considering it's the internet and we are talking about Facebook, how can you judge someone's appearance based on the pictures they choose to make public? I guess Facebook defines this generation's self esteem level. I'm not sure if that makes any sense, but I just found that whole "physical attraction scale" in the article to be interesting.

    Of course, like everyone else, I would probably take being unfriended a little negatively and wonder if I did anything wrong, but it's not something I would waste time thinking about. You won't always know the person outside of Facebook so for that to be a factor in the decision making process of unfriending someone, I'd have to say this is a sad social networking world we live in.

  6. The thing is, people tend to never grow out of that “High School" stage, I could see how someone’s physical appearance could play a role involving Facebook friends. The setup of a Facebook profile enforces the idea of attractiveness by allowing you to create an online persona. Unfortunately, this sort of petty behavior is even evident in everyday life and also applies to social psychology.

    I first got Facebook in 2006 and managed to build up to over 1,000 friends by 2010. I have been off the site for 4 months now but I remember I didn’t even remember how I became friends with the majority of them. I was also one of those people who got pissed off when someone I knew wouldn’t accept my friend request or defriended me for what I thought was for no reason. Like it said in the article, I questioned why these people who I saw everyday at school would defriend me when we had no altercations. Though it says that most unfriending correlated to things offline, it has more of a public and emotional effect on the web, (i.e. relationship status, unfriending, etc). This happened a few years ago and this still aggravates me when I think about them today. At this point, I have accepted that “unfriending” does not necessarily have to do with anything I did and no longer have a Facebook. It enhances behavior based off of the wrong things; if someone really wants to know about me, they can come talk to me.

  7. It's funny how so many people can have such different reactions to a changed series of code on the web, huh? I honestly don't care too much about who I friend on Facebook, and if I don't have you as a friend, it's really not a big deal. I don't usually unfriend often, and when I do, the people who I do unfriend usually know exactly why. It's usually after a fight, or other conflict. Other times however, I'd go through a "sweep," and clean out all of the friends who I don't talk to, or truly consider a friend. They usually don't notice though, but it's definitely interesting to see how other people react to just a removal of a list... This reminds me back of the MySpace days, where the Top 8 (You guys remember that?) was just so valuable. For people who didn't have a MySpace, on your profile, you had a section that was dedicated to friends, and you had a Top 8 friends section where their picture would be bigger then the others.

    Man, we live in some funny times, huh?