It’s Research Wednesday! Where I share the latest, or most fascinating, in the science of friendship.
“[Researchers] found the number-one reason for unfriending is frequent, unimportant posts. … The second reason was posting about polarizing topics like religion and politics. … Inappropriate posts, such as crude or racist comments, were the third reason for being unfriended.” (“Top Reasons for Facebook Unfriending,” Science Daily 10/5/2010)
Breaking up with a real-life friend can be harder on women than breaking up with a romantic partner. Breaking up with an online friend is not nearly as tough. But I’d imagine it’s plenty more common.
We’ve already discussed the etiquette of unfriending. But a recent study gets at the root of why we do it in the first place.
What’s interesting here is that we seem to “punish” people online for their behavior in that same space. None of the top three reasons for unfriending had anything to do with real world antics. We’re less likely to unfriend someone because we’re mad at them or because they broke up with our best friend than we are for, say, sharing too much about their Farmville exploits. In fact, according to this study, 57 percent of those surveyed unfriended for online reasons, while only 26.9 percent did so for offline behavior.
Apparently, we like to keep our universes—the real and the virtual—separate.
Real-life friend breakups can be so complicated that it’s refreshing to have the major unfriending culprits so neatly identified. There are lessons to be learned here, assuming you hope to hold onto your Facebook friends.
1. People who want to know everything about you don’t want to know everything about you. It’s awesome that you took a nap today. And that you woke up. And that you peed. And then went back to napping. Way to go. But unless your only Facebook friend is your mom (and even she might not be interested in your toilet habits), keep it to yourself. A random thought every now and then is acceptable. Links and videos are preferred. But constant trivial streams of consciousness? Not so much.
2. Politics and religion belong on Facebook like they belong at the dinner table. Personally, I don’t mind when people post about politics. Religious posts might turn me off, though, as it strikes me as a bit of a church and state scenario. The long-established separation of church and Facebook.
3. The crude and racist post thing should go without saying. Thankfully, I’ve never encountered a racist status update from a Facebook friend, but recently there was a TMI post that made me want to crawl into a hole. Any status update that starts with “So I was getting it on with this girl…” should get an automatic unsubscribe.
I’ve never unfriended anyone on Facebook. I’m too nervous that they’ll see. But if I did, it would likely be for public fighting. Back in the day I discussed a New York Times article about a couple who fought publicly (and viciously) on Facebook. How awkward?!? Please keep your marital problems between you. I don’t need to be privy to that.
Have you ever unfriended someone? What was the reason you gave her the boot?