Yes, I have unfriended someone. One person in my entire Facebook existence. And I have quite possibly been unfriended on Facebook too!
Although I’ll never know. I’m a bit hopeless on Facebook. I use it mainly to share stories I’ve written and that’s about it. But for many, Facebook is the eyes and ears of their immediate and extended social circle. It’s the main news source keeping them up to date with their friends, family, associates, work colleagues and yep, even politics and world issues. It’s their connection to the world.
Some people know how exactly many Friends they have, who is following them and unfollowed them, when Friends were last on Messenger and the intimate timelines of many peoples’ lives. So when someone unfriends them, it can hurt. Deeply.
The girl I unfriended, who I’ll call ‘Narelle’ for anonymity, was hurt. Deeply. So why did I do it? Well, I was tagged in group photo taken at a party when I was about 15 years old. There were a heap of old faces in it – people I haven’t seen for over 20 years. Narelle’s comments about one person in the photo were highly offensive and downright vicious. She was totally happy to name call and be verbally abusive and for everyone to read her nasty vitriol. She was the same in primary school and high school – a bully.
Initially I defended the person in the photo, then I realised that a leopard doesn’t change its spots. She thought her nastiness was totally acceptable, and I didn’t. So I unfriended her. A short time after I received a Facebook message from her asking why I’d unfriended her. I told her straight. I wasn’t interested in being a part of a conversation that was shamelessly derogatory and abusive to people. She then threatened me, saying that if I didn’t accept her new Facebook friend request she’d come to Sydney and “make me”. So I blocked her.
I‘m not unique, of course. Judging by the chatter at the barbeques I’ve recently hung out at, there’s a lot of unfriending going on – and a whole lot of people left hurt and wondering what they did wrong. Some of the reasons are a lot less involved than mine! So, being the nosy parker that I am, I posted a Facebook call out asking people to share their stories and reasons – and the messages came rolling in fast.
But more importantly, clinical psychologist, relationships expert and author of ‘Online and Personal: The reality of Internet relationships’, Jo Lamble shares some pertinent words of wisdom about the subject for everyone involved, including the etiquette around unfriending and dealing with the hurt of being unfriended.
Check out Jo’s very interesting take, and the extensive list of common reasons people have been unfriended below…
Q. Unfriending someone in real-life is often regarded as a big decision, but unfriending on Facebook is now almost the norm. Can you explain why?
A. “Most people have difficulty walking away from a toxic friendship in real life, but unfriending someone online is much easier to do – you just click a button! And yes, most people have unfriended someone else or have been unfriended themselves, so it’s not a foreign concept. However, because there is a certain amount of kudos in having many Facebook friends, many people have friends on Facebook who they never see in real life and may never want to see! Sometimes that simple fact is suddenly remembered and a stocktake happens. I also hear people unfriending people after relationships end or when they get sick of seeing that person’s posts for whatever reason.”
Q. It’s a simple click for the unfriender, but how does it feel in real life for the unfriended?
A. “It totally depends on the degree of Fear of Negative Evaluation (FNE) that the person who has been unfriended has. If they worry excessively about how others view them and hate being criticised in any way, then they will take being unfriended very much to heart. If they don’t have a high level of FNE, they may not even notice or they will just shrug it off. If it’s a good friend, then nearly all of us would feel hurt and confused and want to know why.”
Q. You’re a psychologist. What are your thoughts around unfriending? Do you think it’s perfectly legitimate for people to unfriend others who are racist, gossips or negative?
A. “I’m not a huge fan of Facebook for so many reasons. Mainly because every day I hear people being adversely affected by it. They often feel bad because everyone else seems happier than they are. They are constantly feeling rejected when they see people having fun when they weren’t invited. They even question their own seemingly strong relationships, great holidays and good friendships because they compare themselves to everyone else. So I believe that everyone should put Facebook in perspective and see it as a very small part of life that is not a realistic depiction of life. Now, after that bit of ranting, my answer is yes, I think it’s perfectly legitimate to unfriend others who are racist, say negative things, are gossips, or post anything that goes against your values. But I also think people shouldn’t invest so much of their time and energy getting worked up about what people say on Facebook.”
Q. If an unfriender has been asked why they did it, should they be honest about their reason?
A. “Yes, tactfully say why you made that decision but be prepared for some backlash because as I mentioned, people take Facebook very seriously and if their self-worth is tied too closely to others’ opinions of them, they are not going to like your explanation.”
Q. You have any other important messages for people about Facebook friends?
A. “In real life, I think we should surround ourselves with good friends. They are those that we feel blessed to have in our lives. Friends can hurt us from time to time and we can hurt them. Friendships can feel one-sided at times, but overall, friends are there for each other. In real life or online, if an interaction with a certain person continues to make us feel just a little bit worse about ourselves and our life, then it might be time to do a friendship audit and pull back – and that includes unfriending on Facebook.”
17 Reasons People Were Unfriended
Some of the varied reasons why people are unfriended or unfriend others.
“I unfriend at least once a week. I don’t like constant negativity and people who moan repeatedly. If it’s a close friend who I can’t unfriend, I will just ‘unfollow’ them so I don’t see their posts on my newsfeed. When you friend someone on Facebook you automatically ‘follow’ them, but you can easily click on their name and then ‘unfollow them’. That way I have to physically go to their wall to see what they are saying, and I rarely do that!”
“I was unfriended for putting back a performance of a kids’ play that wasn’t ready. The parent was so outraged she unfriended me, then rang to abuse me for having ‘too high standards’. It was truly bizarre.”
“I was unfriended by a ‘friend’ who was being extremely nasty to a good friend of mine on a thread. After I vehemently defended my friend, the nasty girl unfriended me. No great loss!”
“As a single guy in my twenties, the last thing I want to see is baby photos constantly clogging up my Facebook feed. People who constantly post pics of their kids just shit me. Maybe I’ll feel different in 10 years’ time when I’m a dad, but at this life stage, I’m happy to unfriend ‘baby photo offenders’!”
“I’ve unfriended ‘friends’ who enjoyed sharing snippets of my life with my ex-husband, who would drop hints aimed at disarming me. I flushed out a few potential culprits in one big cull!”
“I unfriend people who are way too narcissistic on Facebook. It seems odd to sustain their ego trips by remaining ‘friends’. I also find it bit disturbing.”
“Oversharers are a red flag warning! I delete people who overshare, particularly a personal crisis. Some things shouldn’t be announced to the general population.”
“I had an ex-boyfriend not only unfriend me, but block me! And he was the one who did the breaking up! It was one of those situations where he said he loved me, but that I was too much for him to handle (i.e I forced him to look at aspects of himself he wasn’t ready to look at). He said he unfriended me because he couldn’t then cope with seeing me get on with my life… We are actually friends again now on Facebook and he also follows me on Instagram. So while it was an odd thing to do at the time, he’s clearly able to cope now!”
“I make a point t of unfriending Trump supporters or anyone else pushing their political views onto others. Facebook is not the place to do it, people!”
“I was recently unfriended by a colleague due to conflict at work. The person lodged a bullying complaint about myself and another co-worker, but then they got caught out for lying, so it backfired on her! It was quite surprising and disappointing – this woman is in her late 50s and acts like a child.”
“I was unfriended by my two sister-in-laws when I left their brother recently. It really hurt me. I’ve known them for over twenty years – they are the aunts to my four children! It’s probably for the best in the long run (as in un-entwining our lives together), but it was very upsetting and surprising at the time that they just unfriended me without any word or reason.”
“I’ve unfriended people because they were subtly racist, consistently. Or because they openly defend countries that kill their own civilians or innocent people in the name of ‘land ownership’, or because they defend wars in general. They are usually my deal breakers!”
Passive Aggressive Friends
“I unfriended someone because they lurked around, never commenting or liking anything I posted ever, and then had a go at me for not inviting them to a party!”
“I unfriend people when they are racist, homophobic or post too much animal cruelty and tag me in it. Everyone knows I’m a huge animal lover and sometime activist, so for some reason people tag me in posts of animal cruelty. I can’t stand it. It’s as though they want to upset me on purpose, or they think I can miraculously do something about it. I actually block people who do it.”
Cry For Help
“I had an old acquaintance that I blocked because she kept messaging me about terrorism and how her dad used in-counter terrorism, which meant terrorists from all over the world were trying to radicalise her. I ignored her at first, but she became relentless.”
Heavy Hearted Cause
“I have been unfriended for posting too many dog pictures and sharing too many photos of rescue animals that need new homes. I was gutted because the ‘unfriender’ was awesome and we get along so well in real life. When I asked him why, he said that seeing the pictures of dogs needing homes seared his soul. I told him he could just unfollow me, and then we ‘refriended’.”
Close Friends Only
“If I walk past someone in the street and we don’t talk, then I unfriend them on my Facebook. I see no need to be connected to a mass group of people who I don’t speak to. And if I don’t speak to them, I don’t particularly want them knowing about my life, where I’m holidaying or who I’m dating.”
About Jo: Jo Lamble is a Clinical Psychologist who has been practicing for over 25 years. She sees individuals, couples, and groups and specialises in relationship issues.
Jo is the resident psychologist on Channel 7’s Sunrise program. Jo also gives corporate seminars and speeches on relationship, family and parenting issues. She is regularly heard being interviewed on radio across the country each week.
Together with Sue Morris, Jo has published four books: ‘Motherhood: Making it work for you’; ‘Side by Side: How to think differently about your relationship’; ‘Online and Personal: The reality of Internet relationships’; and ‘The Partner test: How well are the two of you suited?’
Jo’s new book is titled: Answers to Everyday Questions about Relationships. It is published by Penguin Australia and can be found in most book stores.