/ Technology

What makes you ‘unfriend’ a Facebook mate?

Social networking on paper

Ah, Facebook. All the social networking joys it brings can soon turn sour with the inane updates of your so-called friends. ‘Unfriending’ is on the rise and being boring is just one of the reasons for discarding your mates.

We’ve been asking you whether Facebook was your friend or foe, with most agreeing with Al Warman. He’s a little fed up with the social networking site and so far three quarters of you also think it’s a waste of time.

But that can’t be right can it? Facebook’s a global phenomenon with over 500m users worldwide. If it were a country it would be the world’s third largest, ahead of the United States. So what’s turning some of us off?

Our friends’ mindless updates for a start, and if they haven’t led us to completely delete our Facebook account, they’ve forced us to unfriend them.

I know what you’re thinking – “he just used the non-word ‘unfriend’ in a sentence without inverted commas”. Well, let me stop you there – the word unfriend was actually chosen by the New Oxford American Dictionary as its 2009 Word of the Year. Ha!

What makes us unfriend?

Computer scientist Christopher Sibona has been looking into the phenomenon of unfriending. In a survey of over 1,500 Facebook users, he found that the top reason to ditch your online friends is due to frequent and useless status updates.

Next up is writing about religion and politics, with crude or racist updates being the third. Thankfully, posting links to articles you’ve written isn’t one of the reasons – otherwise I’d have very few Facebook friends.

The naughty things you do in the real world also make an impact, with a quarter of those asked saying they discarded friends due to offline behaviour.

And then there’s your family. In an AOL study 30% of teenagers wanted to unfriend their own parents. However, many will accept them if they can fiddle with their privacy settings and put them on a limited profile. So then your mum can send you a little message without seeing your drunken photos and reading your X-Factor updates (please, when will they end!?)

How to delete your Facebook account

But what if it’s all so inane that you want to delete your account? This used to be problematic as you’d lose all your photos, updates and messages. Facebook had effectively locked you in.

However, today the site has launched a new tool called ‘Download Your Information’ that lets users copy everything they’ve ever posted on the site to their harddrive.

And then there’s the problem of deleting your account. Facebook makes it very easy to deactivate it, but all your data will remain – deleting yourself forever is just a little bit hidden. So if you do want to do that, follow this link to delete your Facebook account and don’t try to log in for 14 days. Then – boom – it’s gone, just like that. Relieved?


I have recently had to unfriend someone due to them deciding to use threatening behaviour towards me just beacause i refused to delete somebody that deleted them. This person became abusive and threatening and i wasn’t the only person from this person’s site that he abused so i wasn’t alone. This one is the only person i have had to unfriend and i hope it’s the only person because otherwise i find Facebook a good way to keep in touch with my friends.

Chris Foxx says:
7 October 2010

I’m surprised that the top reasons for deleting Facebook friends are to do with posting too many updates, posting about religion or posting racist remarks. I’d have thought most people just delete those they don’t talk to very often – or they added somebody they fancied but never really hit it off. I don’t think I’ve ever deleted somebody for posting annoying updates – I just filter them out of my feed or block their event invites. But it wouldn’t surprise me if people had deleted me in condemnation of my offline activities! There’s an app you can add to your page that tells you when people delete you. Stalk-tastic.

Facebook has just asked me to be friends with someone who died two years ago. He would have seen the funny side. It does show how much we are locked into Facebook, though. It’s the only place where there does appear to be verifiable life after death.

Emily says:
11 October 2010

I’ve only ever unfriended people who I was never very friendly with in the first place (people from high school who I barey spoke to even back then, etc) – but it was one of these people bombarding my feed with constant, boring updates who prompted my last unfriending spree – it pushed me to have a ‘spring clean’ of Facebook friends I didn’t feel the need to share my life with anymore. I doubt any of these people would be particuarly offended that they’d been unfriended – if they noticed at all.

On the flipside, I was recently on the receiving end of an unfriending (is that a word?) by somone I had considered a close friend. I still have no idea what I’ve supposedly done to deserve that.

Also, I know some people who’ve caused offence and confusion when they delete their acount – my cousin was very offended when she thought she’d been unfriended by my brother and his wife, who had actually both just quit Facebook altogether. So if you’re going to quit, make some sort of announcement first!

Green Machine says:
16 October 2010

Unfriending, sounds such a delicate denial of friendship. In reality it is mainly the curtailing of electronic contacts, who under the definition of “friend” are in reallity just many acquaintancies,
ie cquaintance n. Knowledge of a person acquired by a relationship less intimate than friendship.

Too much influence has been made of the cyber friend, these are no more friends than they are enemies, they are in reallity no more than people you nod to in the street, likewise you don’t concern yourself with the problems of a nodded stranger, than you should do with an electronic stranger.
Much effort and marketing has gone into popularising social media as a friendship network and in the majority we have fallen for the hype.
As for friends, i would not be telling them of my intimate daily abolutions, as would be encouraged on twiter, but be interacting with them and their life. Telling people what you do is not friendship its purely passing on demographical and non-social interaction, viz a vie social media.
Wake up and smell the roses, no one really has several hundred friends, life is more complicated than that.