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Science Explains Why You Keep Getting Unfriended On Facebook

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Most people get flushed for the vitriol in their post, but there’s an equally serious crime as vitriol that will also get you unfriended on Facebook in a hurry.

It’s not your oversharing of baby pictures, or the hundreds of photos of you being loved up, or even the incessant “inspirational” quotes you post that will get you unfriended on Facebook in a hurry.

It’s your political views (or at least, publicly voicing your political opinions) that will make you unpopular on the social networking site pretty quickly.

It seems voicing your opinions on politics isn’t just bad etiquette at the Christmas dinner table, it’s also very much frowned upon on Facebook. This could be the reason why you keep getting unfriended.

A New Yorker who asked to remain anonymous, for example, revealed that he purged his Facebook account after the last presidential election.

“It was a big deal to me,” he said. “I found it hard to be friends with people who didn’t vote for Obama.”

After which his friend posted, “I voted for McKinney.”

Airing your political views publicly will get you unfriended

According to researchers Nicholas John from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Shira Dvir-Gvirsman from Tel Aviv University, being unfriended for airing your political views publicly is not uncommon, especially when that happens in times of strife or conflict.

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The researchers conducted an online survey among Jewish Israeli Facebook users between 3rd and 7th September 2014 (just 10 days after the Israel-Gaza conflict’s open-ended ceasefire of 26 August) to investigate the affects of political commenting. They found that while people are willing to be open-minded, those with starkly different views to our own are most likely to be blocked or deleted until at least after the conflict ends.

Social media users representing the Israeli population on Facebook were specifically asked about their political activity, ideological extremity and Facebook activity during the conflict. More than 1,100 Facebook users’ responded. The researchers found that 50% of the respondents reported being more active on Facebook during this time period and 16% of users unfriended or unfollowed a Facebook friend for political reasons during this time frame.

Interestingly, users who unfriended others were the ones more likely to be ideologically extreme and less supportive of free speech. The researchers also found that those with more Facebook friends were more likely to unfriend, indicating that having many weak ties allows for more unfriending.

“People unfriend people who have different political views to theirs,” John said in a statement explaining the findings. “More than that,” he continued, “these findings suggest that the people most likely to unfriend are younger, more politically active, more active on Facebook, have lots of Facebook friends, and have more extreme political views — these are important people in online discussions.”

Other reasons you’ll be unfriended

Two other studies led by Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student from the University of Colorado Denver corroborate the Israeli study that was published in the Journal of Communication.

The University of Colorado studies, which drew on a Twitter survey of 1,077 adults, investigated the psychology behind unfriending, as well as the emotional response of the unfriended. Study one found that acquaintances from high school are most likely to get the chop followed by friends of friends, work friends, and common interest friends.

Speaking about his study findings in a press release, Sibona said that we often wish to sever online contact with people who disagree with us about religion or politics. Since we’re most likely to diverge radically in perspective from those we knew in childhood, they get purged first, he said.

Moreover, real life shenanigans put work friends uniquely at risk and may cause you to be unfriended. “We found that people often unfriend co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook,” said Sibona.

Study two examined the emotional fallout from being unfriended and came up with four resultant feelings: Surprised, bothered, amused and sad. A number of factors determine how unhappy or sad an Unfriended friend is likely to become in the aftermath of her demotion.

If you two once shared a close bond, she’ll probably be upset. If she monitors her Facebook friend list closely, that also enhances the likelihood she’ll suffer. A mitigating factor, however, is that if the unfriended seeks comfort from her remaining friends afterward, the study suggests she’ll feel better.

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