Spending too much time updating your Facebook account could have serious "unfriending" consequences, a survey suggests.
While the social networking behemoth Facebook, currently the subject
of a well-received film highlighting the relative unfriendliness of its
founder Mark Zuckerberg, can count 500 million friends, a survey of
more than 1,500 Facebook users on Twitter finds users who spend
obsessive amounts of time on the site have a higher likelihood of being
"unfriended." University of Colorado Denver Business School student
Christopher Sibona, a PhD student in the Computer Science and
Information Systems program, found the No. 1 reason for
unfriending is frequent, unimportant posts. "The 100th post about your
favorite band is no longer interesting," he said.
The second reason was posting about polarizing topics such as religion and
politics, while inappropriate posts, such as crude or racist comments,
were the third reason for being unfriended. The study showed 57 percent
of those surveyed unfriended for online reasons, while 26.9 percent did
so for offline behavior. "They say not to talk about religion or
politics at office parties and the same thing is true online," he said.
Sibona said he found a type of online hierarchy of dominant and
subordinate relationships. For example, those making friend requests
stood a much higher chance of being abruptly unfriended. At the same
time, those doing the unfriending seemed to hold the upper hand in the
relationship. "There is a lot more nuance in the offline friendship
world. You don't have to go up to someone and ask them to be your
friend," Sibona said. "That's not the case online. It can be awkward."
Sibona urged users to exercise caution in their posting behaviors,
citing a 2010 survey showing that 54.6 percent of recruiters used the
site to find or investigate job candidates. "The same kinds of posts
that could get you unfriended might also be viewed negatively by
recruiters," he said.
Steven Walczak, associate professor of Information Systems at the
business school and Sibona's adviser, said he hopes the study will
spark further research. "With businesses embracing Facebook as a
marketing and customer-relationship tool, this will hopefully create
new research that further examines how social networks enhance business
decision making and outcomes," he said.
Facebook, founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg, is also responsible for
the creation of the term "unfriend," which was coined the word of the
year in 2009 by the New Oxford American Dictionary; to unfriend was
defined as "removing someone as a 'friend' from a social networking
site such as Facebook."
While users may not be able to keep control of the number of friends they have, Facebook is giving its members additional security features
after years of complaints that the site's confusing security settings
left users vulnerable to identity theft and other forms of
cyber-attacks. The company said the three new applications, Download
Information, a new one-stop Applications Settings dashboard and a
Facebook Groups application, would give users greater control over the
mountains of personal data they have posted over the years.
Download Your Information lets users ask Facebook to collect everything
they've ever posted and then send it to them in a Zip file, the
Applications Setting dashboard shows users all applications they have
subscribed to and granted access to their personal data, such as access
to profile information or the ability to post to their Wall and the
Groups application provides an easier way to stay up-to-date with small
groups of friends and to share things with only them in a private
Nathan Eddy is Associate Editor, Midmarket, at eWEEK.com. Before joining eWEEK.com, Nate was a writer with ChannelWeb and he served as an editor at FierceMarkets. He is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.