Researchers Examine Psychological Effects of FB Unfriending

This might not come as too much of a surprise, but research suggests there can be some significant psychological trauma following social network "unfriending".

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".

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Tuan Mai
Tuan Mai is a Los Angeles based writer and marketing manager working within the PC Hardware industry. He has written for Tom's Guide since 2010, with a special interest in the weird and quirky.
  • Marco925
    In other words, people spend too much time on facebook and not enough time actually seeing the socalled friends.
  • deksman
    And THIS is what's considered 'productive' use of our (supposedly limited) resources?

  • echondo
    You've got to be kidding me.
  • A Bad Day
    Um, so what am I supposed to do if I'd like to keep track of a list of my current friends and not ones that I moved at least 400 miles away from and haven't met them for years?
  • Kami3k

    I have far more important things to worry about then some person I last saw 5 years ago unfriending me on facebook.
  • edogawa
    I'm personally no fan of Facebook or other social networks; I enjoy a good face to face social interaction. Facebook is great for keeping in touch or important communications, but it's used for total crap and people get way to involved. I highly doubt the people with 200+ friends are real friends with them.
  • nforce4max
    I am thankful to not even have facebook especially with the job market these days and nosy employers.
  • RealBeast
    Lucky thing that there is no important research to do. If I was hiring a faculty member and I got a resume with Facebook unfriending studies in the list of publications, I would shred and then burn that particular resume. LOL
  • frombehind
    In my job field I simply cannot have something like a Facebook. (lets just say you would need to pass SEVERAL polygraph tests to have my job). I cannot have my friends' drunken debauchery from lat weekend plastered all over my Facebook page... because that how these things work. Its my page, but its not really MY page... stuff from other people keeps popping up on it. Sorry bro, but...
    my job > your feelings, when ure being acting the fool.
  • I never understood as to what was beneficial to have a social network that has people peeping every point of my life.