What Really Happens When We Unfriend Someone On Facebook?

What happens when we unfriend someone on Facebook

We sure learn a lot about our Facebook pals. Sometimes more than we ever wanted to know: what they had for dinner (boring), who they had dinner with (interesting), their rants regarding politics and religion (annoying). Unfriend! — now what?

I don’t like you anymore — goodbye!

After feeling bullied by so-called “besties,” Sandra decided to dump those Facebook friends who didn’t seem to have her best interests at heart — a move she quickly regretted. Some of the friends she unfriended were still in her social circle, so seeing them felt awkward. And worse, when she tried to re-friend those same friends, they rejected her invitation. “It was like being in high school all over again,” Sandra said. 

In real life, friendships sometimes drift apart — that’s normal. If you bump into that person again, then usually you’re happy to see them. Yet, when it comes to being unfriended, that’s a different scenario. Unfriending is like saying, “I don’t like you, don’t like what you have to say and don’t want to see your stuff — goodbye.” You’re not exactly going to be all warm and fuzzy the next time you run into each other. But, what option do you have, when a Facebook friend is just so annoying? Well, if you’re like most people, you’ll do nothing. 

Social repercussions of unfriending 

One study showed that unfriending someone on Facebook had real-life consequences.

One study showed that unfriending someone on Facebook had real-life consequences.

A study out of Nottingham Trent University in the UK found that Facebook users tend to put up with bullying in their network for basically the same reason they did in high school. Because as obnoxious as those “mean girls” and bullies are, they’re still popular. And I suppose that suggests, for some, the thought of being out of the loop is too much to bear — no matter what the cost.

“The social repercussions of unfriending someone reach far beyond the boundaries of the online network,” said Sarah Buglass, a Ph.D. student in the School of Social Sciences at Nottingham Trent University, while discussing the study at a British Psychological Society conference. “People don’t want to risk causing offline tension with their friends, family members or colleagues by disconnecting them from their online lives. Remaining online friends with troublemakers appears to be a social necessity for some.”

Online troublemakers seem to be popular among their peers. Consequently, some Facebook users look the other way and remain online friends so that they don’t have to suffer the repercussions by unfriending the jerk.

Most likely to be unfriended

Recent studies from the University of Colorado, Denver surveyed 1,077 people on Twitter and found that the most common type of friend to be unfriended on Facebook is a high school acquaintance. And the most common reason for unfriending your old pal is because he or she posted offensive rants concerning religion or politics.

Frequent and uninteresting posts were also cited as reasons for unfriending. Coworkers were often unfriended because of things they did in the real world rather than what they posted on Facebook.

While those you unfriend on Facebook don’t actually receive a notification telling them they’ve been unfriended, chances are they’ll likely notice that you’re no longer listed among their friends. Additionally, they’ll probably notice your posts are nowhere to be found on their newsfeed. And once they visit your page, they’ll find the “add friend” button staring back at them, instead of the “friend” button. 

Think before you unfriend, unfollow or block 

Before you unfriend someone on Facebook, adjust your settings so you don't see their updates.

Before you unfriend someone on Facebook, adjust your settings so you don’t see their updates.

All in all, unfriending is pretty unfriendly, and should only be used as a last resort. It’s really not something you should do flippantly. Just as in real life, online friendships can sometimes be complicated. But people tend to forget that. Consider a less drastic option, whenever possible.

If your brother has posted one too many pics of his dog drinking from the toilet, or your friend has posted her one-millionth selfie, simply hide their posts from your newsfeed. That way, no feelings will be hurt and you remain Facebook pals. If you really can’t take any more of your niece’s political rants, then unfollow her — she won’t be any the wiser. To unfollow someone, just visit his or her page and uncheck the “following” option next to the “friend” button.

But if you have real drama that needs sorting, don’t unfollow, unfriend or block your friend. Hash it out in real life — over coffee. Feelings get hurt when people become unfriended. So think before you unfriend and use this option sparingly.

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— Katherine Marko

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  1. Deesker says

    What a stupid article. “Unfriend” who you want. I have and have never regretted it and the same has happened to me with people “unfriending” me. My feelings aren’t hurt. I don’t care. FB is fantasy land anyway.

  2. Deliana Noel says

    Just “unfollow”, then you are still their “friend” (for what it’s worth), but you don’t have to put up with all their posts.

  3. Joseph C Moore USN Ret says

    Just stay off of the narcissistic Facebook. The friends you wish to share anything with can be reached by selective e-mail.

  4. Stu Rauscher says

    Deesker I so agree with you on this, plus you can just UNFOLLOW and still remain “friends”

  5. Barbara E. Ward says

    I unfriended a relative (actually my niece) after a heated discussion via private messages. I didn’t want to air in public. She become very unstable and quite rude. I told her that I was going to unfriend her so I wouldn’t be tempted to make comments to her public posts which obviously she found objectionable. Now I don’t see her posts anymore which is okay with me.

  6. Barbara Limb says

    I have unfriended people who do not really have any opinions to offer on FB, only share stuff, that other people wrote, I used to find it unnerving that they followed me and commented on things I had said, without contributing to a conversation. I have also unfriended people who use bad language on my page, in commenting on things I have said, including a close relative – he has never commented on it and neither have I. However, I am thankful for the ‘unfollow’ tip – but if I use that option, will they still see what I say?

  7. RA says

    I will unfriend someone in a heartbeat and don’t care how they feel about it if or when I see them. Most of my “friends” on there are truly mere acquaintances so it’s no bit deal to me either way. If we see each other face to face, if they speak, fine, if not, I won’t lose a wink of sleep over it. I’ve unfriended family and close friends who start messiness or who are only Facebook stalkers.

  8. Iggy says

    When I’m asked to be a friend, I consider that an honor and never deny anyone Facebook friendship. I’ve only had to “unfriend” two, a half-brother who is worthless, and a former colleague of my mine who delighted in making sarcastic comments. I have over 1,000 friends, most of whom are former students of mine (I don’t accept any until they have graduated, not during their time in school), or college students whom I’ve taught, or those who have bought my book. It’s a privilege seldom abused. It’s a treat to keep up with their progress and success over the years.

  9. Amy hunovice says

    I’d like to know why I get ” friend requests ” very often from people I am already friends with. And requests from people that know some of my friends but have not asked to be my friend… Their name still comes up as a request when there is no reason for it to be that way. Makes me think twice about the validity of Facebook.

  10. Welshman says

    Facebook, never had it and never felt the need to have it. I see my real friends in real life and I visit my parents once a week. I believe Facebook actually pulls you away from true friends and family because you are less inclined to visit them.

  11. Lynda Wheeler Dabson says

    WOOOOW!! Tooooo much credit for facebook. It is NOT that important – not to anyone who actually has blood pulsing through their veins. The only one who is hanging on this articles every word is Mark Zuckerberg – and who cares about Mark. UNPLUG PEOPLE!!! and go make friends the HUMAN way.

  12. says

    did not ask your advice to friend you
    do not need to tell you you are unfriended
    be respectful or be gone
    same for me
    unfriend me at will i do not care
    i do not care
    face book is cyber so its not real
    get a clue

  13. Ken Warrick says

    99% of the people you follow are NOT friends. FB needs to choose a new term for people you stalk 🙂 (follow) on line….. Perhaps “Stalking” might be more appropriate. Words mean things and the word friend is cheapened by its blanket use in society. Lets start using english correctly..

  14. D. Wright Downs says

    I have unfriended people who have had offensive racist views. I am positive I have been unfriended, too..it is not a matter of life and death. I am an old woman and that is not the biggest of my worries. This is a rather mundane article, best for showing teen better manners. I am at the age where manners and honesty are both good fits. Don’t rub a person’s face in it when one is honest. Be honest nicely.

  15. Allyssa says

    I have never been interested in Facebook or Twitter. I make my friends in person and communicate with them via email, text, speaking on the phone, or, if they are very important to me, by (gasp!) hand written snail mail. My Mom loves to get written letters from me and since she has had a mental decline following hip surgery, my sister says she can no longer remember how to use her computer. Written pages also don’t disappear forever if you forgot to back them up and your hard drive crashes. Admittedly, if your house burns down, you might lose them, but there goes your computer as well and anything you didn’t back up to the cloud will go with it. And, unless you live out in the forests of southwestern US or Queensland or some other place prone to wildfires, how likely is it that your house will burn down? Your online stuff can be read by anyone with the hacker knowledge to get into it. And most of my life is not that interesting to anyone but me anyway, so why would I put it out there for all to see and make rude comments on?

  16. Glenda Deaton says

    Hi I have un friended one person only,it was because he became possessive of me on fb, and started cussing at me We had been friends a week or so, and i had to cut him loose.It was a little scarey,and he was in the military.

  17. KSS says

    Seriously? Don’t unfriend someone who you find rude, abusive, unethical, hurtful, annoying or you simply don’t like because you might hurt their feelings????? What about YOUR feelings???? These people are NOT your friends in the first place because real friends wouldn’t do or say those things to you. Stop being a doormat and stand up for yourself. FB is NOT real life. No-one tells the truth, photos are ‘filtered’ and I don’t care what you had for breakfast, lunch or diner. And if one more person puts up another clichéd image of a thin girl (its always a girl) standing on a rock at the beach at sunrise/sunset in the ballet pose……

  18. Joe says

    I know exactly how it feels to be unfriended. Sometimes when you text you say things that you wouldn’t normally
    say face to face. One of my relitives unfriended me under pressure from her friends because of a comment I made which they took it the wrong way but my relitive knew were I was coming from. Its not that I’m loosing sleep over it it’s made me bitter towards her.

  19. Taresk says

    I never regretted it, I got carried away early on and added everyone I knew, co-workers, school friends, etc. More recently it dawned on me that the people I actually engage with in real life were being drowned out by so many people, my feed was full of people that were little more than a familiar face IRL, so over the last 2yrs I’ve slowly wiped a little over 300 people from my friends list, leaving only family and friends that are actually involved in my life, I don’t regret it for a moment, still exchange greetings with those I removed when we cross paths, not an issue.

  20. Joanne Rae Meehan says

    when i discovered that not just one but two of my sister in laws remained fb friends with my (abusive) ex husband – i blocked them immediately!! that to me is disgusting placement of choices in regards to loyalty or family disloyalty. it still sickens me and i have no regret or problem with unfriending them.

  21. James Mullen says

    When you get a “friend request” from one who is already on your friends list. SCAM! Delete it. Do not click on it.

  22. Donnie Coburn says

    How can u call them Facebook stalkers?u put your shit out there.that is what it is for.basically to stalk,if that the word u want to us.if u don’t want people in your business. Dont be on a public web sit.likeFACE BOOK. T.Y.

  23. RA says

    First of all Donnie Coburn why are you worried about what I call them? I can post whatever shit as you called it that I choose to on MY page, I’m grown. Plenty of people only want to request your online friendship to just to start messiness on line. That’s their goal in life seemingly like you because they have no life and you don’t need to worry about what I call them or how I handle the situation. When I see they have nothing positive to contribute or always want to be argumentative about what I post on MY PAGE like you have interjected yourself into my business here, they’re history.. Now, go troll someone else’s posts. I said what I said EXACTLY HOW I WANTED TO STATE IT and it’s NOT up for debate by anyone especially folks I don’t know. Now, just like the stalkers, act like a Genie and “POOF” be gone… SMDH

  24. Dallas Kadel says

    I had tons of people unfriendly me from church just because of all my good Catholic posts but I get that their not Catholic we still say hi to each other at church

  25. ursulamargrit says

    Exactly, I have unfollowed quite a few people, who are then totally unaware of that, no awkwardness involved.

  26. DLWilson says

    Facebook says the Unfriended are not notified and may not notice that they aren’t getting shares from you.

  27. KWT says

    Seeing as Facebook was created in 2003 and launched in 2004.. I call BULL on your comment of leaving it in 1995. :/

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