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Facebook Study Reveals Top Types of "Unfriended" Friends

Update Date: Apr 22, 2014 04:19 PM EDT

You are most likely to 'unfriend' a close high school friend, according to a new Facebook study.

Researchers from the University of Colorado Denver wanted to determine the most common type of 'friend' to be unfriended on Facebook and people's emotional responses to being unfriended.

"The most common reason for unfriending someone from high school is that the person posted polarizing comments often about religion or politics," Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student in the Computer Science and Information Systems program at the CU Denver Business School, said in a news release. "The other big reason for unfriending was frequent, uninteresting posts."

The latest study involved 1,077 people who were asked to complete a survey on Twitter.

Researchers found that the top five Facebook 'friends' who were most likely to be unfriended include:

  1. High School friends
  2. Other
  3. Friend of a friend
  4. Work friends
  5. Common interest friend

"We found that people often unfriend co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook," Sibona said.

A main reason why high school friends are most likely to be unfriended is that their political and religious beliefs might not have been as strong when they were younger.  If those beliefs grew stronger over time, they might become easier to upset others.

"Your high school friends may not know your current political or religious beliefs and you may be quite vocal about them," Sibona said. "And one thing about social media is that online disagreements escalate much more quickly."

Researchers also found that unfriending triggered a range of emotions in people who were unfriended.

The study revealed that the most common responses to being unfriended were:

  1. I was surprised
  2. It bothered me
  3. I was amused
  4. I felt sad

"The strongest predictor is how close you were at the peak of your friendship when the unfriending happened," said Sibona. "You may be more bothered and saddened if your best friend unfriends you."

Surprisingly, researchers found that unfriending happens more often to friends who were once close than to those who are acquaintances.

"Despite the preponderance of weak ties throughout online social networks, these findings help to place unfriending within the greater context of relationship dissolution," researchers wrote in the study.

"If you have a lot of friends on Facebook, the cost of maintaining those friendships is pretty low," he concluded. "So if you make a conscious effort to push a button to get rid of someone, that can hurt."

Researchers said the two studies were published in the 2014 47th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

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