Debating whether to unfriend that old summer camp friend or Tea Partier cousin who keeps popping up in your Facebook news feed? Kind of worried about how they’ll react to being unfriended? Have you been unfriended yourself recently? Well, for better or for worse, we can probably tell you why you were unfriended by someone or whether you’re ultimately going to unfriend someone — as well as how people tend to feel about unfriending. Ready for this? Here we go:
The University of Colorado Denver recently conducted two studies looking at how we behave with regards to unfriending on Facebook — namely, at who we unfriend, and how we feel when we’ve been unfriended. Both studies, which were presented earlier this year at the 47th Annual Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, were based on a survey of 1,077 people conducted on (haha) Twitter. According to the first one, these are the five types of people we’re most likely to unfriend:
1. High School Friends
Y’know: Those people you haven’t seen or talked to in years, with whom you now have at best very little in common and at worst totally opposing views on politics or religion. The two biggest reasons for unfriending high school friends were that people got sick of seeing them post polarizing statuses about those hot button issues — or that their posts were just boring.
2. Nebulous “Other”
I.e, the catch-all term for those people who you met maybe once and never spoke to again.
3. Friend of a Friend
Like “other,” these are probably also people you met maybe once; the difference is that they know someone you know.
4. Work Friends
Interestingly, the unfriending of work friends seems to work the opposite way the unfriending of old high school friends does: We’re more likely to unfriend them because of something they did in real life, rather than because of the statuses they post.
5. Common Interest Friend
Maybe you met through a meetup and bonded over your shared love of obscure British television… until you realized that you didn’t really have a lot of other things to talk about. At all.
So how do people react to being unfriended? That’s what the second study looked at, and apparently, we usually feel one of four ways about it:
1. “I was surprised.”
2. “It bothered me.”
3. “I was amused.”
4. “I was sad.”
How we feel can be predicted by four different factors. The strongest, obviously, is how close you were to the peak of your friendship when the unfriending happened. Being unfriended by someone you haven’t spoken to for a few years is less likely to hurt than being unfriended by someone you told one of your deepest, darkest secrets to yesterday. Other factors include how closely the person monitored their own friend’s list, whether there were “difficulties discussed” between the friends before the unfriending, and whether the person who was unfriended talked about the unfriending with others after it happened. Weirdly, although perhaps unsurprisingly, we’re more likely to unfriend people we were once close to but no longer are than to unfriend acquaintances.
If you tend to feel bothered or sad by being unfriended, Gizmodo has a handy little guide for how to cope. It’s mostly tongue-in-cheek — I would argue against calling someone out on unfriending you, unless it’s, y’know, your best friend or something — but if you need a good chuckle, it’s worth a read. Honestly, the best tip anyone can probably give about how to get over an unfriending is to embrace number three: “I was amused.” Because really, how much weight does a Facebook “friendship” hold? Not much. It’s easy to click “like” or “unfriend,” but real relationships take time and effort.