You may want to think twice before unfriending someone on Facebook: Research has found serious real-world consequences of unfriending someone on social media.
In particular, the researchers found that 40% of people said they would avoid someone who unfriended them on Facebook, while 50% said they would not avoid a person who unfriended them, and 10% were unsure. Women were more likely than men to avoid someone who unfriended them, the researchers found. This could also have implications for entrepreneurs marketing their small business on Facebook.
“People think social networks are just for fun,” said study author Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver Business School at the time of the study. “But, in fact, what you do on those sites can have real-world consequences.”
Some of those consequences highlighted the way social media relationships affected people in the real world. Sibona said the survey results showed the effects of being ostracized on social media, citing respondents who reported reduced self-esteem, feelings of not belonging and a loss of control after being unfriended. Respondents also said they had a worse mood after a social media breakup.
“The cost of maintaining online relationships is really low, and in the real world, the costs are higher,” Sibona said. “In the real world, you have to talk to people, go see them to maintain face-to-face relationships. That’s not the case in online relationships. Since it’s done online, there is an air of unreality to it, but in fact, there are real-life consequences. We are still trying to come to grips as a society on how to handle elements of social media. The etiquette is different and often quite stark.”
Sibona found six factors that predicted whether a person would avoid someone who unfriended them:
“People who are unfriended may face similar psychological effects … because unfriending may be viewed as a form of social exclusion,” Sibona said. “The study makes clear that unfriending is meaningful and has important psychological consequences for those to whom it occurs.”
Unfriending can happen for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, people choose to “weed out” their friends list by removing people they don’t know well or no longer keep in touch with. Other times, they may unfriend someone over the content they share, such as differing political views, excessive negativity or spam posts. In extreme cases, people may unfriend users due to harassment or stalking.
A person does not receive any type of notification if you unfriend them on Facebook; you will just be removed from that person’s friend list. If that person looks at their list of friends, they may notice that you are not in it anymore. You can be Facebook friends with that person again if you want, but you will need to send them another friend request.
Facebook users are not notified if they are unfriended.
If you want to do some Facebook unfriending, type that person’s name into the search bar at the top of the screen. Then, go to that person’s profile, and hover over “Friends” at the top of their profile. Then, click “Unfriend.” When you unfriend someone, they can still see your profile and send you messages.
If you do not want someone to be able to see your profile, items you post on your timeline, tag you, or send you messages, then you should block this person. When you block someone, you automatically unfriend that person.
To block someone, click the down arrow in the top right-hand corner of the Facebook application. Choose “Settings” from the dropdown menu. A menu pops up on the left side. Click “Blocking.” A section called Blocks User pops up. In that section, enter the name of the person you want to block. Then, click “Block.” From there, select the name of the person you want to block from the list, and then click “Block” and the person’s name.
Unfriending and blocking are not the same thing. Depending on your privacy settings, someone you unfriend may still be able to see your account activity.
If you do not want to be so extreme as to block or unfriend someone, you can snooze that person for 30 days. To do this, go to the post of the friend or page you want to snooze, then click the three dots in the top right corner of the post. Click “Snooze [name] for 30 days” to put the snooze into effect. (If you’ve made a mistake or changed your mind, you can click “Undo” immediately after the action.) After 30 days, the person or page will appear in your timeline again.
Alternatively, if you just want to limit who can see which types of posts, you can manually select which people can see and interact with your posts. To do this, go to Settings as you would to block someone, then select “Profile and Tagging.” You can then establish permissions for various types of posts, including who can post on your profile, who can see what others post on your profile, and who can see your tagged posts. If you’d like to block a specific user from seeing a certain type of post, click the dropdown menu and select “Custom,” then type the names of people you want to include or exclude.
You also can block messages from someone. When you do this, the person will not be able to send you any messages in Facebook Messenger or in a Facebook chat. With all of these features, except with snoozing someone, you will have to send a new friend request to anyone you have unfriended or blocked if you want to regain access to them on Facebook.
You can “snooze” users so they won’t appear on your timeline for 30 days, or you can manually limit a specific friend’s ability to see or interact with your posts.
It’s normal to feel hurt or offended after being unfriended on Facebook. This is especially if you’ve shared a close relationship with that person, but even the removal of a casual acquaintance can plant self-doubt in your mind. Take the time you need to acknowledge and process your emotions before taking any further action.
Your next steps will depend on your relationship with the person who unfriended you. If you didn’t know the person well or lost touch with them, it’s best to simply move on – there is probably little to be gained from reaching out. On the other hand, if a close friend or family member unfriended you and you are unsure of the reason, consider contacting them offline (via phone call or in-person meetup, preferably) to discuss the situation.
It is not recommended to send the person another Facebook friend request. If the user changes their mind and wants to become your friend in the future, they will do so themselves. So rather than dwell on the lost connection, you can devote that energy to cultivating other relationships with people who do want to be your friend.