Study: ‘Unfriending’ on Facebook has real-life consequences

Posted at 7:56 AM, Feb 05, 2013
and last updated 2013-02-05 09:56:32-05

DENVER (KDVR) — If you’re on Facebook, chances are good there is at least one “friend” you constantly think about “unfriending.”

A new University of Colorado – Denver study uncovers that there are real-life consequences of ending that online relationship.

“Now it’s like the digital version of flipping someone off I think,” says Facebook user Luciann Lajoie.

Unfriending a Facebook friend can really make people unfriendly.

“So these were people who were unfriended and knew about it and the said, ‘Oh I think that person sent me a signal and I no longer want to see that person.’ So they would be uncomfortable seeing them, and they will avoid seeing them,” says CU-Denver researcher Christopher Sibona.

The study found four main reasons that lead to unfriending on Facebook:
1) Posting unimportant material
2) Posting political or religious rants
3) Posting sexist or racist remarks
4) Posting just plain, boring stuff

“Women were more strongly likely to avoid people after being unfriended,” Sibona says.

“I usually just let them post whatever they want and I just don’t read it,” says Facebook user Alyssa Odorisio. “I think a lot of people do unfriend people or they did a couple of years ago and it was just drama. I try to avoid it.”

It’s drama that causes hurt feelings.

The study points out the power of being ostracized on social media and feelings of reduced self-esteem.

“It’s definitely something that affects people on a pretty deep level,” Luciann Lajoie says.

Researchers are just starting to understand how deep that level goes.