What Really Happens When We Unfriend Someone On Facebook?

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Today’s blog is republished from my friends at TheAlternativeDaily, a leading publisher of daily alternative health tips that I personally read every day… The original article can be found here:

We sure learn a lot about our Facebook pals. Sometimes more than we ever wanted to know: what they had for dinner (boring), who they had dinner with (interesting), their rants regarding politics and religion (annoying). Unfriend! — now what?

I don’t like you anymore — goodbye!

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After feeling bullied by so-called “besties,” Sandra decided to dump those Facebook friends who didn’t seem to have her best interests at heart — a move she quickly regretted. Some of the friends she unfriended were still in her social circle, so seeing them felt awkward. And worse, when she tried to re-friend those same friends, they rejected her invitation. “It was like being in high school all over again,” Sandra said.

In real life, friendships sometimes drift apart — that’s normal. If you bump into that person again, then usually you’re happy to see them. Yet, when it comes to being unfriended, that’s a different scenario. Unfriending is like saying, “I don’t like you, don’t like what you have to say and don’t want to see your stuff — goodbye.” You’re not exactly going to be all warm and fuzzy the next time you run into each other. But, what option do you have, when a Facebook friend is just so annoying? Well, if you’re like most people, you’ll do nothing.

Social repercussions of unfriending

A study out of Nottingham Trent University in the UK found that Facebook users tend to put up with bullying in their network for basically the same reason they did in high school. Because as obnoxious as those “mean girls” and bullies are, they’re still popular. And I suppose that suggests, for some, the thought of being out of the loop is too much to bear — no matter what the cost.

“The social repercussions of unfriending someone reach far beyond the boundaries of the online network,” said Sarah Buglass, a Ph.D. student in the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, while discussing the study at a British Psychological Society conference. “People don’t want to risk causing offline tension with their friends, family members or colleagues by disconnecting them from their online lives. Remaining online friends with troublemakers appears to be a social necessity for some.”

Online troublemakers seem to be popular among their peers. Consequently, some Facebook users look the other way and remain online friends so that they don’t have to suffer the repercussions by unfriending the person.

Most likely to be unfriended

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Recent studies from the University of Colorado, Denver surveyed 1,077 people on Twitter and found that the most common type of friend to be unfriended on Facebook is a high school acquaintance.

Another study found four common online reasons for unfriending on Facebook. The four online reasons were frequent/unimportant posts, polarizing posts (politics and religion), inappropriate posts (sexist, racist remarks, etc.), and everyday life posts (child, spouse, eating habits, etc.), in that order. A different study mentioned seeking attention, bragging, or stalking; and other irritating behaviors (e.g., using bad grammar) as common motivations for unfriending.

There were also “offline” reasons cited for unfriending, which were disliked behavior and changes in the relationship. However, the research showed that “online” reasons are more common as a trigger for unfriending, with 55% of people unfriending someone for their online posting behavior, and only 28% for their offline behavior.

What Really Happens When You Unfriend Someone?

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While those you unfriend on Facebook don’t actually receive a notification telling them they’ve been unfriended, they may notice that you’re no longer listed among their friends. (Although some people may use apps or third-party software to notify them of any unfriending).

Additionally, they might notice your posts are nowhere to be found on their newsfeed. And once they visit your page, they’ll find the “add friend” button staring back at them, instead of the “friend” button. This can sometimes lead to awkwardness, so it might be worth using your privacy settings further to limit these people’s knowledge of your life before you unfriend them.

Think before you unfriend, unfollow or block

It should go without saying that unfriending someone whom you have a “real-life” relationship with is not the best way to communicate. All in all, unfriending is pretty unfriendly, and should only be used as a last resort. It’s really not something you should do flippantly. Just as in real life, online friendships can sometimes be complicated. But people tend to forget that.

A survey of Facebook users who had been unfriended found that there were negative emotional reactions to the event. Rumination was common when they had used Facebook to connect with existing contacts and was more likely when the unfriender was a close contact. Participants also responded with greater rumination and negative emotion when they knew who unfriended them, and when they had been the ones who originally initiated the Facebook friend request.

Other Options Rather Than Unfriending

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Consider a less drastic option, whenever possible. If your brother has posted one too many pics of his dog drinking from the toilet, or your friend has posted her one-millionth selfie, simply hide their posts from your newsfeed. That way, no feelings will be hurt, and you remain Facebook pals.

If you want to reduce someone’s posts in general, you can tag them as an Acquaintance. For that, go to your Profile page and click on the Friends” tab at the top. For each friend, you can click on the Friends box next to their name to bring up options, one of which is to tag them as an Acquaintance.

But what about the people who you really care about—the ones you want to see everything they’re doing on Facebook? In the same place where you can tag people as an Acquaintance or Restricted, you can also tag them as a Close Friend. Using these tools to categorize your contacts will help you have the experience you want on Facebook, without having to cut ties with anyone.

You can also use Facebook’s privacy settings and tools, to ensure your personal information is secure, and anything you post is only reaching those who you want to see it.

If you really can’t take any more of your niece’s political rants, then unfollow her — she won’t be any the wiser. To unfollow someone, head to their profile, then tap the “Following” button in the upper right. There, tap the Unfollow option at the bottom of the menu. If you change your mind at some point, you can always come back here and follow the person again. You can also click the three dots at the top right-hand corner of a post, which will show the options to hide, unfollow or snooze posts for 30 days.

Facebook has even introduced a “take a break” function, where you can change how often you see someone on Facebook, limit what you share with that person, or edit past posts with them. These controls can be found under the Privacy and Safety section in the Facebook Help Center.

You can also choose to have someone removed from your On This Day Feed so that Facebook won’t resurface a person’s posts from years past. To do this, go to the left side of your News Feed and scroll down to On This Day and click on it. At the top of the On This Day page, you’ll see a button for Preferences. Click on it for the option to prevent specific people and dates from being included.

In the case where you have real drama that needs sorting, and it’s to do with a “real-world” contact, it’s probably wise not to unfollow, unfriend, or block your friend. Hash it out in real life — over coffee. Feelings get hurt when people become unfriended. So think before you unfriend your “real” friends, and use this option sparingly.

Your Safety is Always Number One

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In this age of mental health awareness and with the unfortunate dangers of the online world, your safety and wellbeing must be put first. So if you have any fears about bullying, harassment, discriminative content, or anything else that makes you uncomfortable, you should never hesitate to take the appropriate action.

If you don’t want someone to see your profile, add you as a friend or send you a message, you can block them. Posts and people can also be reported to Facebook if you have concerns about anything they are sending or posting. When something gets reported to Facebook, they review it and remove anything that goes against the Facebook Community Standards. They don’t include any information about the person who filed the report when they reach out to the reported.

Clinical psychologist Suzana Flores knows the impact of lingering relationships on social media. “Seventy percent of people stalk their exes on social media,” says Flores, author of “Facehooked: How Facebook Affects Our Emotions, Relationships, and Our Lives.” It’s not always necessary to unfriend or unfollow, but if your social media use starts interfering with your sleep, mental health, or daily responsibilities, it could be a good solution.

Clearing Out Your Friend List

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Recent trends promote “spring cleaning” your friend list, to minimize the amount of unwanted content you consume every day, and lighten your mental load. After all, in many cases, a quick look through your list of “friends” will reveal dozens of people you hardly know at all and really don’t need to stay in touch with.

In fact, in 2010, Jimmy Kimmel declared November 17 as “National Facebook Unfriend Day,” in an attempt to inspire people to remove those “friends” on social media that they barely know, and in some cases, have never even met.

Clearing out connections can be a mindful way to make more room in your newsfeed for people you’re close with, which is a more rewarding way to use social media. Research suggests that we struggle to maintain more than 150 real-life friendships at once. It’s called “Dunbar’s Number” after the Oxford University anthropologist who discovered the phenomenon. He claims that any number beyond that starts to “strain the cognitive capacity of the human brain.” According to Dunbar, that figure translates into the online world too: “The interesting thing is that you can have 1,500 friends, but when you actually look at traffic on sites, you see people maintain the same inner circle of around 150 people that we observe in the real world.”

This is another good reason to be more mindful about who you maintain contact with online. On the flip side, if you notice that someone has unfriended you, take a moment to observe your feelings. Remember that, even though it might feel like a rejection, it’s perfectly normal for connections with others to change over time.

Ultimately, put your happiness over the potential of offending anyone you unfriend. Social media platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, can be detrimental to users’ mental health when people compare themselves to the people they follow.

Several studies have found the benefits of creating positive social media environments. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research found anxiety and depression more prevalent in social media users who had negative interactions on social media, and less common in users who had “positive interactions, social support, and social connectedness” on social media.

So use those categorizations, Hide, Snooze, and Unfollow functions to your benefit, and create your own positive social media environment which supports you to thrive.



About The Watchdog

Mike Geary has been a Certified Nutrition Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer for over 15 years now. He has been studying nutrition and exercise for almost 25 years, ever since being a young teenager. Mike is originally from Pennsylvania, but has fallen in love with mountain life and now resides in the picturesque mountains of Utah. Mike is an avid adventurist and when he’s not spending his time skiing, mountain biking, hiking, or paddleboarding on the lake, he has enjoyed skydiving, whitewater rafting, piloting an Italian fighter plane (seriously), scuba diving, heli-skiing, and traveling all around the world, enjoying learning about different cultures. At the age of 40, Mike now feels healthier, stronger, and more energetic than when he was 20... All because of a healthy lifestyle and great nutrition!

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18 comments

  1. I do not use Facebook for friends. I only use Facebook for sewing groups and gardening groups and I have no friends there either at my choice. I do not want Facebook to recommend any friends to me and I am unable to stop Facebook from sending me these options. I wish there was an option where you can opt out permanently from having Facebook recommend friends, I am tired of hiding them every time I go onto Facebook.

  2. The best way to avoid all of this is to never, ever have a Facebook account. Civilization has been around in various forms for thousands of years getting along quite well without it. Clearly the negatives out weight the positives.

  3. Unfriending, really!!!!
    Honestly it amazes me that there is research made on Unfriending. I could only get through about half of the article when the light bulb went on… what am I doing because I stopped looking at things on facebook right around the time Covid hit. Best thing ever because I got nothing done otherwise. Whether you want to believe it or not the best thing for you, yourself is to get off of all social media. You will be a lot happier and when you finally have the time to see your family/friends in person you will have a lot more to talk about instead of having your head stuck in you phone because you have nothing to say and you might miss something.

  4. Bemused Berserker

    I’ve been Unfriended more times than I can count. Mostly for Pro 2A Activism, Political Discource and for being the voice of reason against Liberal Fascism.
    I’ve also been permanently banned under my given name, because calling the Lefty Nutjobs out on their Bull Schit is “Hate Speech” apparently. So I had to set up a dummy email account and use a Nom De Plume.

    For the past several months, I’ve been largely inactive. Messenger is the only feature I still occasionally use.

    I’ e come to the point that I see no real value in Social Media.

  5. I never unfriended anyone, I just closed my Facebook account. I just couldn’t fake being woke.

  6. All this inane drama that abounds in ‘social media’ that so many are addicted to and can’t live without, is EXACTLY WHY I don’t use ‘social media’ in any of its’ forms that are out there. I only deal with my friends that are in my ‘real’ life, I don’t consider ‘virtual contacts’ that are not ‘real’ friends to be of any ‘real’ importance and only acquaintances.
    I can live quite nicely without ‘social media’, and have from the beginning. For me there is NO value in social media, but each to their own, but if you choose to live with the devil (social media), I don’t care to hear your complaints about being burned.

  7. what if the goofball that owns this fakebook removes you for talking conservative to much? maybe we can unfriend him someday soon!

  8. facebook sucks you have to have a cell phone to get codes ,and censorship they have blows ! i dont need a comunist social site telling me i cant say anything bad about biden and his fag administration and the corupt democraps destroying this nation!

  9. Facebook and Zuck suck.

    • I cannot connect with my friends on fb anymore don’t know but all of a sudden it discontinued my friends they suck

  10. I am sorry. Yes a very good post with great advice.

  11. I find that just keeping in touch is best…some friends have been lifelong…others are occasional, and at age 82 I don’t have to worry about “fads” or political interaction. Of course, being of German Heritage I am stubborn as a right-wing Conservative, and if you don’t like it…well, LEAVE. In my time I have had more friends DIE than I have as present friends (126) because some listed as friends have passed on to the Cocktail Sky Party. I have had a life that because my parents grew up in the town and were the same age as the “Civic Leaders & Philanthropists” that my circle of friends included High Society and Day laborers…all had something to saying that conversation flows freely. SO…If you are a friend, I will never abandon your friendship, and WE still have the choice to continue or go our own ways (you can call it thunder) …tribute to Fleetwood Mac…see at 82 I’m still of the new old school…so if you’re my friend, its because in your own way, you are special to ME.

  12. Facebook is a way of being connected with my large extended family & friends, many of them live quite a distance from me. Some of them live in other countries. I have unfriended some people because they are not kind in their postings. I don’t mind disagreements but I do mind the message being delivered in an unkind, compassionless manner. I am close to 80 years old so I have time to communicate this way.

  13. kalihi scorpion

    i’ve had to unfriend some people on my page and they know why. i tell everyone whom i accept the rules to be on my page. firstly, do not accept anyone to my page unless they know the person. this is to prevent more new people to my page which in turn they bring in more people whom i don’t know and they must tell me the name of the person whom i google to see if they might be harmful to the others on my page.this also prevents being hacked 6-10 times like my page has been and it’s a pain to install new passwords to gain access to apps i have been using for years. i recently have been receiving many friend request from illegal immigrants. i immediately delete them and don’t waste time checking them out. ocasionally i let some unknown people in only after i have directly chatted with them and have given them the rules to be on my page. better to be safe than sorry because if they are on your page they can find a way to hack your financial information! go with your gut feeling. it is seldom wrong. good luck!

  14. So, what if someone is using your name on FB. What are you supposed to do if FB doesn’t do anything about it???? I have had this pop problem for over a year, and I notified FB, but that person is still using my name. So until this matter is cleared up, I will no longer use FB. I have also asked FB to delete my old accounts and they are still there. I’m fed up with FB. I’d rather pay for an account that takes care of their customers.

  15. If people’s lives are tied that much into Facebook that it extends to their actual real world lives, then they don’t have much of a life. This whole article seems to be about shallow people who live and think at a high school level and obsess themselves with mundane and petty things in life.

    Apparently my friend making skills far exceeds what is portrayed here as common because I don’t have any of these shady, shallow, petty friends in my life (thank God) and wouldn’t associate with such people anyway. I have thousands upon thousands of good solid friends all over the world and none of them are like this.

    I do have a few family members that are like this, shady, shallow, and petty and I see their posts and the kind of childish behavior they enwrap themselves into with their other similar friends and I can hardly believe their lives revolve around such mundane things. I associate with them only as family and have no interactive relationship with them because I refuse to be sucked into their petty world.

    And don’t mistake it as some kind of snobbery, because I wouldn’t be a part of anyone’s life who is better than others or who virtue signal their superiority (which is actually just the opposite pole of the same petty, shallow living problem). I care about and serve and help all kinds of real people who need real help and who are genuine and interrelate maturely and civilly. It is available.

  16. Nancyanna Townsend

    I have only unfriended 2 or 3 people. The reason is that I no longer hear from them, not for any other reason. I’m always interested in other people’s opinions.

    I did unfriend my great granddaughter. She misinterpreted my comments and I feared I could make matters worse. An understanding such as this needs a face to face resolution.

  17. I didn’t know much about facebook I used to go into my sons facebook page to see how my grandchildren were going at their tennis plus others that my son coached. One night just before I was closing down my computer for the night my name came up on a Facebook page and I was so shocked because I knew that I didn’t fill it out,
    Then I thought my son must have done it not realising hackers had done it for me as there were all these people on there that were not my friends as I didn’t know them. Then of course my personal friends started popping up so I started deleting the people that I didn’t know as I felt uneasy about it all. I thought they may be hackers as well. I really felt awful about what I did but I had to do it for peace of mind sake. I still get all these young doctors and I know dam well they would not be interested in me. so that Is why I am writing this as I didn’t know whether they were hackers or not. All I know know is that as funny things were going on with my computer but didnt realise what was going on for while as not understanding it as it all happened so quickly.

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