Hitting that "unfriend" button may cause emotional more damage than you'd imagine.
While most of us use social networks as a convenient means to stay connected with our friends and acquaintances, others may become particularly invested in their pseudo-relationships established over Facebook.
Earlier this year, researchers at Chapman university published a study in the journal, Computers in Human Behavior, examining the psychological effects of being unfriended on a social networking website.
Unsurprisingly, the researchers found, "Intense Facebook usage may mean that users are particularly invested in their relationships with their Facebook friends and thus may respond with greater rumination and negative emotion when they lose one of these friends, which compromises how they are presenting themselves and being perceived by others online."
But when exactly does being unfriended hurt the most?
“To some extent, being the individual who initiates the Facebook friendship – a clear, direct online act that is signified with a marker – places an individual in a less powerful position, as they must wait and see if their friend request is accepted, rejected or simply ignored," the researchers explained. "Individuals who are unfriended by someone they initially 'friended' may wonder why the unfriender even accepted the friend request, and such thoughts could give rise to rumination and negative emotion,”
What was surprising about the study was the fact that people experienced worse emotional pain when the reason they were unfriended was because of something that happened over Facebook, rather than something in the real world. While it may not be representative of all social network users, the study does provide some interesting insight into how invested we have become in our social network "friends".