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New studies give insight into why Facebook users unfriend people

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If you have a personal Facebook account, you generally would have to do something drastic to make other users unfriend you, and sometimes it isn’t always the consequence of what happens in the digital world.

New research from the University of Colorado Denver gives insight into specific reasons why Facebook users disassociate with certain friends online.

The Globe and Mail reports high school acquaintances who develop outlandish religious and political views are the first people to lose followers on Facebook.

As users go through their friends list and clean it out, other types of people who usually get cut off, according to the university’s research, are friends of a friend, work colleagues and common interest friends.

“We found that people often unfriend co-workers for their actions in the real world rather than anything they post on Facebook,” Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at CU Denver, told

One reason he believes high school friends are top targets for unfriending is that their political and religious beliefs may not have been as strong when they were younger. And if those beliefs have grown more strident over time, it becomes easier to offend 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.”

A second study conducted by the school looked into how users reacted when they found out they had been unfriended, and the most popular responses ranged from being surprised or bothered to being amused or sad.

Surprisingly, the study found that two individuals who were once close but grew apart were most likely to unfriend each other than a pair of people who are simply acquaintances.

Sibona said that the ‘one size fits all’ method of ending digital relationships is unique but with real world consequences that warrant additional research.

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

The two studies were based on a survey conducted on Twitter involving 1,077 people. The results were published in the 2014 Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.

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