Have you ever been unfriended by someone in social media? Do you ever stop to think about what friendship through social media means? I have had some experience being on friend list chop block. I didn’t fall to pieces but I’ll admit it made me curious. Regardless of the perceived strength of the relationship or regularity of contact, I took a moment to revaluate my connection to that person.
At first impression one may not put much stock in a friend or connection through social media. While the driving purpose behind social media is to connect people, some don’t fully grasp the gravity of what that friendship or connection might mean to the other side. Mashable published an article that speaks to the value of friends on social media. The crux of the message was that some people take a severed friendship personally. After all, one often times needs to go out of their way to rid themselves of a connection that requires virtually no effort to maintain.
Doctoral Student at the University of Colorado Denver Business School, Christopher Sibona, asserts that people often times don’t appreciate the consequences of their actions online because a lack of perceived reality. Sibona determined that a person who was unfriended would have a significant likelihood to engaging in aversive behavior with respect to the person who terminated the relationship. A variety of reasons for the termination are mentioned and Sibona concluded that severing social media ties has a genuine psychological impact on the rejected.
Reflecting upon Sibona’s argument, there are some questions that need to be raised. It is understood that the use of social media from person to person can vary incredibly. Some users make social media a hobby and invest a lot of time and energy to their outlets. Others, like me, use social media primarily for professional networking or business. Then, there are the people who mix the two. Wouldn’t the psychological impact on an individual be based more on the purpose behind its use? The socialite would most probably suffer greater emotional distress than the entrepreneur.
Regardless of use, it’s easy to build up an unmanageably large collection of friends or connections. Accordingly, there is a strong possibility that people get unfriended and never know (or find out way after the fact). What kind of psychological impact is that?
It makes more sense that a meaningful social media friendship would have to be built on a foundation beyond the confines of many social media outlets. For example, a friendship built at work or school develops the bond. Social media is just one area of connection.
One might be as bold as to consider unfriending as an act of public denouncement. However, I have yet to see any social media that overtly publishes the termination of friendships or connections for all to see.
Being unfriended is bound to be unpleasant. Nobody likes rejection. The belief that unfriending itself has such a strong psychological impact is questionable. For the psychological impact of unfriending to be valid, a relationship would have to go through significant neglect or near its end as a result of conflict. In this way, unfriending really seems to be hammering the last nail into the coffin. One may even consider an unfriending closure to an otherwise uncertain fallout.