One of the many side effects of the advent of Facebook is that passive-aggressive interactions are now completely normal. Your friend didn't come to your birthday party? Banish that ill-mannered ingrate from your list of Facebook buds. Broke up with a significant other? #Unfriend. Of course, part of the logic behind unfriending someone is that your unlucky ex-friend will get a nasty surprise the next time he or she tries to message you. But, especially today, when there are so many other ways to prevent annoying or offensive individuals from getting your immediate attention, why do we continue to unfriend?
Two new studies from the University of Colorado attempt to explain the psychology of unfriending — why we do it, whom we unfriend, and how it affects them. Researchers collected survey data from 1,077 individuals about their social media habits. In the first study, they found that the most common groups to get the unfriending axe are: high school friends, friends-of-friends, and work friends. Study author Christopher Sibona says this could be a result of people growing more extreme about their politics over time. "Your high school friends may not know your current political or religious beliefs and you may be quite vocal about them. And, one thing about social media is that online disagreements escalate much more quickly," he says.
The second study looked at how being unfriended made people feel. The most common reaction was "I was surprised," followed by "it bothered me," "I was amused," and "I felt sad." Perhaps obviously, the study found that subjects were more likely to be hurt by the action if they had once been close with the person who unfriended them.
The data also showed that unfriending was more likely to happen between people who had been good friends at one time, rather than just acquaintances. Which makes sense, considering the active effort it takes to actually remove someone from your friend list nowadays. It seems like you really have to loathe someone to go to the trouble of unfriending them — or, maybe you just have to be really into cultivating a carefully-curated cast of characters in your online circle. Either way, the more we think about it, the more "I was amused" seems like the most appropriate response. (Science Daily)