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8 November 2012

Being Unfriended on Facebook Hurts

Keywords: defriending, Latin & South America, computer, happiness, interactive media, internet, media, social media, survey,

The advent of social media has brought along many new terms. In 2009 the term "unfriending" (removing someone from your social media account) was added to the Oxford English Dictionary. A study in Computers in Human Behaviors reveals the impact that being unfriended has on Facebook users. The researchers show that being unfriended hurts more when users know who unfriended them and when they realize they caused the unfriending themselves by breaking Facebook codes.  

Take aways

  • Facebook users mostly feel bad after being unfriended.
  • Factors that enlarge Facebook users' bad feelings after being unfriended are:
    • knowing who unfriended them.
    • being unfriended by someone that they invited to be friends with.
    • being unfriended for Facebook-related reasons (posting too many or too offensive messages).

Study information

  • The question?

    What are the consequences of being unfriended on Facebook? 

  • Who?

    547 students (66% female), from diverse ethnic backgrounds, with a mean age of 26,7 years old. All participants had a Facebook account and most of them had at least 400 online friends

  • Where?

    Southwestern United States

  • How?

    Through an online questionnaire, researchers surveyed students who were recently unfriended on Facebook. Participants were asked to buzz the questionnaire to others that might be interested to participate in the research.

Facts and findings

  • Participants experienced a range of negative emotions after being unfriended on Facebook; they felt depressed, angry, unhappy, and anxious. 
  • Being unfriended had more negative consequences for heavy users of Facebook than for light(er) users.
  • When participants knew who unfriended them, they felt worse than when they didn’t knew who unfriended them.
  • When participants had initiated the online friendship, they felt worse about being unfriended, than when they hadn't initiated the friendship. 
  • Participants felt worst about the unfriending when they thought they were unfriended for Facebook-related reasons (such as posting too many, or posting offensive messages).