John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
It's probably either because you're an opinionated loudmouth or just boring.
Ever wonder why an old high-school buddy "unfriended" you on Facebook? Ever think it might be because you've aged into a loud-mouthed, super-opinionated boor who doesn't know when to slap a muzzle on it?
Well, perhaps not you personally – but lots of people have been shunned on Facebook due to broadcasting strong beliefs, according to Christopher Sibona. A doctoral student at the University of Colorado Denver, Sibona has spent years investigating the psychology of Facebook. Here's a finding from one of his recently published studies: "The most common reason for unfriending someone from high school is that the person posted polarizing comments often about religion or politics. The other big reason for unfriending was frequent, uninteresting posts."
So, spout off too much and get served, be boring and you also might be spurned. To a lesser degree, there are also the sins of posting inappropriate content and making updates about everyday life, as well as real-world friction like romantic breakups. But these aren't the only findings from Sibona's research, which he conducted via surveys on (wait for it) Twitter. He's also put together a list of the types of people most likely to incur the "unfriend" hammer. In order, they are high-school friends; "other"; friends of friends; work friends; and common-interest friends.
Why do high-school acquaintances top the list of Facebook rejects? Here's Sibona:
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."
But hold up before renouncing the next person who posts about Jesus, Richard Dawkins, or their daily fitness routine. Sibona says that doing so fires an emotional bullet into that individual, causing (in order of frequency) feelings of surprise, botherment, amusement, and sadness. Explains the world's preeminent expert on "unfriending":
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."