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Revisiting reasons to ‘unfriend’ on Facebook’s 10th anniversary

On 4 February 2004, a website named Facebook was launched. Since then it has grown to become a global force affecting many aspects of our lives. Five years ago, Oxford Dictionaries selected ‘unfriend’ as Word of the Year. At the time, we also shared reasons why people unfriend someone on Facebook. On this occasion, we asked once again, why you would — or should — unfriend.


“There has never been a huge argument with a close friend or ex that has caused me to unfriend them in a huge dramatic statement of ‘I hate you now and I don’t what to see you or hear from you ever again’. I invariably unfriend people only when they are one of those distant acquaintances that continuously post comments that are banal, irrelevant, or frustrating. Here’s a few subjects that are regularly spammed onto my Facebook wall and are prime candidates to cause unfriending: babies, gym details, wildly unfounded political statements, unexplained emotional statements like ‘Feeling down’, posts with appalling grammar and spelling, long paragraph rants in all capitals, and statements about meals that have just been eaten. Am I too picky? I like to think of it as high standards.”
Simon Turley, Marketing Assistant for Oxford Journals

“I am very reluctant to unfriend. I tend to friend people in social media who I consider friends in real life. As time goes by, I’ve also learned that most friendships are worth investing some patience in. Especially in a long friendship, I’ve learned not to give up on someone just because they are in a different phase of life or may have some very different opinions on politics or religion than I do. (I also appreciate the friends who’ve sat through my endless baby pictures or weathered an election season with me online.) One of the few times I unfriended someone, the person was showing some extremely poor judgment. As I like to post photos and stories about my children, I had to weigh whether this was in the best interest of my children to give this person any access to their lives. It wasn’t.”
Patricia Hudson, Associate Director of Institutional Marketing

“Every six months or so I’ll do a general cleanup of my Facebook feed, going through all my friends to see how many of them I actually want to read their updates. The ones I unfriend are usually (a) people I added in the frenzy of excitement & meeting people that was the first week of college or (b) people from high school that I don’t think I’ll see ever again (and kind of don’t want to).”
Alyssa Bender, Marketing Associate for Bibles and Religious titles

“I unfriend people who post religious posts, prayers, and scripture quotes. I’m pretty sure your prayers are supposed to be between you and God – not you, God, and all of your Facebook friends.”
Christie Loew, Assistant Marketing Manager

“I unfriend people when they post too many pictures of their dinner.”
Elyse Turr, Assistant Marketing Manager

“Thinking about why I unfriend people, this is what I’ve come up with: (1) They’ve said/posted things I find offensive (the merely annoying I tend to “hide” rather than fully unfriend). (2) I can’t remember why I’ve friended them in the first place or they were only brief acquaintances (e.g. people from uni that I haven’t seen since graduation; a friend’s ex, etc). I definitely have fewer Facebook friends than I did before I used Twitter etc. Facebook is now a place I share info about my life, post photos of my family, etc. I keep the friend number relatively low (in Facebook terms). I think I’m quite strict about who I add/accept.”
Kirsty Doole, Publicity Manager

“When I first joined Facebook I was in the initial “collecting friends” phase – friending anyone who I randomly met who also happened to be on Facebook. Since then I realised they see all my posts and photos but also I get their news and then started my defriending mission to get it back to people I would actually want to hang out with. Now whenever a friend request comes through I think carefully about whether I really want to press that accept button. Defriending happens when people post radical religious or political views on my stream, keep it light-hearted, Facebook is a fun space please!!”
Annabel Coles, Marketing Manager

“The main reason I unfriend people on Facebook is if we don’t keep in touch in real life. If I haven’t seen you or communicated with you outside of Facebook in several years, then we don’t need to be Facebook friends. There are enough people to keep up with already, so I don’t need the status updates of people I don’t really care about cluttering up my feed. I will also unfriend if you spam me with Candy Crush invitations. I used to unfriend people if they got too aggressive with their political opinions, but I think I’ve weeded most of those out by now.”
Mackenzie Warren, Marketing Associate

“Why I unfriend on facebook:
(1) Too many baby pictures
(2) Inflammatory political statements
(3) TMI sex-related posts
(4) Consistently bad spelling or purposeful bad spelling
(5) It’s your cousins friends boyfriend who you went to Six Flags with that one time
(6) Sharing every Upworthy video they have ever seen”
Erin McAuliffe, Marketing Coordinator

“In general, I do not unfriend people on Facebook. However, I have done so on rare occasions, mainly as a result of my friending spree during my first week of college. Facebook was a new concept, and I decided that everyone, everywhere, needed to be my friend. Over the years I’ve unfriended a person or two, only because I had to admit to myself that I didn’t know what I was doing when I first signed up.”
Victoria Davis, Marketing Coordinator

Social media penetrate our lives: Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and many other platforms define daily habits of communication and creative production. The Culture of Connectivity: A Critical History of Social Media by José van Dijck studies the rise of social media, providing both a historical and a critical analysis of the emergence of major platforms in the context of a rapidly changing ecosystem of connective media.

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Image: Unfriend by Oli Dunkley, CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr.

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