It had to happen, of course…after just a few years of massive popularity of Facebook the “National Unfriend Day” was invented. It happens each November and was accompanied by a TV programme where celebrities were on a studio phone-in where you could chat with them about the people you wanted to unfriend.
Until recently there was no such word as “unfriend”; it did not exist as a concept. Unfriending is the process whereby you sever your connection with someone on Facebook.
There has been a long-running debate about whether or not you should unfriend someone, but research published in 2012 from Brunel University, near London, showed that if you remained friends with an ex-partner, for instance, you could suffer psychological issues as a result of seeing their new found friendships and love interests that now excluded you. The study suggested that if a relationship has ended, then the online friendship status should also come to an end. What you need is a clean break.
Now, new research shows that unfriending people has real world consquences. If you unfriend someone it seems that they can take this so personally that they go out of their way to be negative about you in the real world, outside Facebook. In other words, you may find that you end up with difficulties and issues in the real world, as well as loss of offline reputation simply as a result of unfriending someone.
So, we are in a bit of a dilemma. If we remain Facebook friends with people with whom we have no active relationship any more we could be damaging ourselves psychologically. But if we unfriend them we could be damaging our reputation and finding our offline activities more difficult to cope with.
You are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.
Except, there is a way out of this situation. And that is to be really choosy about your online friends and connections. Don’t just connect with people for the sake of it. Don’t just make friends of people because you know them somehow or you share similar interests. Instead, consider what the pair of you will gain from an online friendship. If there is a purpose to the online friendship or connection then it may well be a good idea. But if you are “friending” someone for the sake of it, you may well find it difficult in the future.
The difficulties we may face as a result of unfriending can easily be avoided if we are more careful and thoughtful about the people we friend in the first place.
Image courtesy of Master isolated images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+