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Grow Your Business Social Media

Facebook Unfriending Has Real-Life Consequences

image for Zephyr18 / Getty Images Zephyr18 / Getty Images
  • Before you unfriend someone on Facebook, consider the potential consequences.
  • You can choose to take a break from someone instead of unfriending them.
  • If you unfriend someone on Facebook, they may avoid you in real life.

You may want to think twice before unfriending someone on Facebook: Research has found that serious real-world consequences come from 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.    

"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: 

  • If the person discussed the event after it happened.
  • If the emotional response to the unfriending was extremely negative.
  • If the unfriended person believed the action was due to offline behavior.
  • The geographical distance between the two.
  • If the troubled relationship was discussed prior to the unfriending.
  • How strong the person valued the relationship before the unfriending.

"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."

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 their friend list.

If you want to unblock that person, you can unblock that person, but you will still need to send them another friend request.

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 the word 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 blue down arrow in the top right-hand corner of the Facebook application. Choose Settings from the drop-down 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.

If you do not want to be so extreme as to block or unfriend someone, you can snooze that person for 30 days. You also limit that person's ability to see the items you post. You can choose which people can see your posts. You will be removed as a contributor from the shared albums you posted with that person.

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 taking a break from 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.

Business News Daily Editor

Business News Daily was founded in 2010 as a resource for small business owners at all stages of their entrepreneurial journey. Our site is focused exclusively on giving small business advice, tutorials and insider insights. Business News Daily is owned by Business.com.