What is Unfriending?
To unfriend means to block a fellow user on a social networking site, most frequently Facebook. When someone is your friend on Facebook, he or she has access to your personal updates, photos, and other information you post to your profile. Once someone is unfriended, that person can no longer see the info you post on your personal profile. While Facebook does not actually notify people that they have been unfriended, the unfriendee can easily find out what has happened. If someone who had access to a friend's page and later is denied access, he/she will be told that they are no longer friends.
Unfriending, whether intentionally malicious or not, can be distressing and even emotionally destructive to those who have been unfriended. In fact, unfriending can even be a part of cyberbullying if done unkindly or insensitively.
The Word of 2009
Every November, the New Oxford English Dictionary chooses a new "word of the year," a new-coined term with "currency," "potential longevity," and "lex-appeal." What was the pick for 2009?
How Do You Unfriend Someone on Facebook?
- Sign into Facebook and go to your Profile.
- Click on the Friends tab on the top left corner of the screen.
- You should now see a list of all your Facebook friends.
- Alongside each friend's picture, you'll see an X. Click on that X to "remove your connection" (that's a euphemised term for unfriending). When asked if you are sure you want to proceed, click Remove.
What Does Unfriending Mean?
When someone is your friend on Facebook, he or she can see your profile and all the personal information you've posted. Allowing someone to be your Facebook friend means that you're ok with that person seeing your status updates, photo albums, videos, and anything else you might choose to post. Once you have unfriended someone, he or she can no longer see this personal info. Facebook will not notify the person that you've unfriended him or her; however, the person will find out if he or she tries to look at your page and is denied access.
Unfriending someone may simply mean that you don't want the person to have play-by-play access to your personal life. You may unfriend someone simply because you never talk to him or her anymore, and you merely want to "clean out" your hundreds-long Facebook list.
However, most people won't take being unfriended so lightly. Unfriending has become the latest "cyber offense," and can hurt people's feelings. Someone who has been unfriended may be surprised at your action, feel rejected, see the move as a personal attack, and wonder if something happened to trigger the unfriending. Running into a person you've unfriended may be awkward, and they may even call you out on it and demand to know why the unfriending occurred.
Should unfriending be a big, dramatic ordeal? No. But, unfortunately, it often is. So, should you ever unfriend people, or is unfriending a Netiquette no-no? Consider the following.
Unfriending and Cyberbullying
Unfriending can be malicious. It's true: sometimes unfriending is meant to hurt. You may unfriend an ex or someone you got in a fight with just for the sake of making him or her feel bad.
While you may have good reasons to unfriend people you've come in conflict with, unfriending for the sole purpose of being mean is not ok. Kids and teens need to understand this, since unfriending can be a real and hurtful component of cyberbullying. In fact, recent research suggests that social rejection, such as that experienced when a person is unfriended, has many of the same psychological effects as physical pain. 2
On the other hand, unfriending can be a protective measure if your child is being taunted or bullied by other Facebook users. Your child should never be afraid to unfriend someone who makes him or her feel threatened or uncomfortable in any way.
The Whopper Sacrifice Challenge
Burger King ran a publicity campaign in 2009 to "sacrifice" 10 Facebook friends in exchange for a free Whopper. This application would even tell the friend you "sacrificed" that he or she had been given up for a free burger. 3 Ouch. While many saw the campaign as light-hearted rather than vindictive, some parent groups condemned the gimmick for its potential to initiate cyberbullying. 4.
Burger King responded to requests from Facebook asking them to tweak some aspects of the promotion by "sacrificing" the promotion altogether. However, in the short time that it went on, more than 230,000 Facebook users were unfriended in exchange for 2300 free Whopper coupons. 5
Unfriending and Privacy
Unfriending rarely translates to "I hate you and want to completely remove you from my life." Most of the time, people unfriend to keep their private information private. Part of the fun of Facebook is making your page personal; if you so choose, your status can whine about your bad hair day, or broadcast to the world that you inadvertently sliced open your thumb while cutting a pineapple. Anything goes. But suppose your hairdresser is one of your friends, and takes the comment about your wayward layers personally? Or what if your paranoid great-aunt Bev overreacts to your fruit mishap and calls your parents with an exaggerated account of the injury?
Unfriending and Clutter
On the other side of the coin, what if you are irritated by a friend's inane posts about her lousy hair, her heated opinions about a sport you don't care about, or her boring day-to-day posts about the trivialities of her rather ordinary life? It's not that you hate her, it's just that your news feed is cluttered by 400 other people's similar minute-by-minute self-updates.
Another function of Facebook is to help you keep tabs on the people you care about most. So, unfriending can simply be a way for someone to keep your news feed full of news you actually want to see—updates from family and a handful of close friends.
A "Nicer" Alternative to Unfriending
Supppose you don't want to offend your buddy from high school, but really don't want to see any of his posts in your news feed? Facebook gives you the option to remove that person's posts from showing up on your page without removing the person from your friends list; he or she can still view your information and talk to you, but you don't have to see any of the friend's Facebook junk. And the friend will never know.
Here's what you do:
- Go to your News Feed.
- If you see a post from someone whose updates you want to hide, hover the mouse over the top right corner of the post. A box that says Hide will appear.
- Ta-da! You won't be bothered by that person's posts anymore. You can put up to 200 friends on your hide list. Pretty nifty, huh?
Where Can I Learn More?
Read this Wall Street Journal article about the phenomenon of unfriending.
Check out this list of the Top 8 Reasons to Unfriend Someone.