One of the fastest growing trends on Facebook these days is not adding people to ever-widening social circles, but subtracting them.
Facebook users (and especially female users) are increasingly taking pruning shears to their “Friends” lists and culling what they see as non-meaningful relationships. According to a February, 2012 Pew Internet & American Life Project survey report, “63 percent of [social networking site users] have deleted people from their 'Friends' lists, up from 56 percent in 2009,” with 67 percent of female social network users and 58 percent of male users saying that they have deleted people from their network.
Let’s face it, there comes a time when slogging through a News Feed stuffed with updates about your friends’ passions for Caramel Macchiatos or the latest celebrity scandals becomes a chore, especially when you don’t share similar tastes.
Statista.com reports that the average number of Facebook friends a U.S. user had in 2012 was 262. Since 52% of Facebook users update daily, the potential for a lot of extraneous information crowding the typical News Feed is enormous.
Add to this the fact that many Facebook users admit to having been slightly overzealous when initially accepting Friend Requests, and it’s easy to understand where the overload comes from.
“[My Friends List is] a mixture of all. Mostly friends, but it's been a great way to keep in touch with my family as well.”
Although family members and real life friends are generally the first to be included in someone’s social network, less well known co-workers, neighbors, “Friends of Friends,” business contacts and even strangers met in online interactions may eventually get added, contributing to a burgeoning News Feed.
The unfriending trend suggests that more people than ever have begun to realize that this explosion of information may be counterproductive to a worthwhile online experience.
A quick and unscientific survey of my own SNS pals revealed that over time they have become more careful about whom they add as “Friends,” and now generally only accept those they personally know. Plus, most tend to try to avoid any potential difficulties at work by adding only those co-workers they already consider personal friends or feel they trust.
Almost all of my SNS friends have unfriended someone at one time or another, and although the reasons vary, “being personally rude/abusive to me/my family member,” or “bullying” are considered very serious offenses and resulted in deletion with absolutely no question of later reinstatement.
Less offensive actions like “spamming” and “too many games requests” or simply “not enough interaction” can also prompt unfriending, but most users seem willing to give their contacts a second chance in those cases.
“I figure, if we don’t interact, they would never notice I wasn’t their ‘friend’ anymore.”
Most Facebook users prefer the less confrontational method of simply unfriending their unwanted contacts with no notification. Since most users never suspect that they’ve been removed, this appears to be the kindest and least drama-inducing method.
Public posting of a laundry list of reasons why some contacts should get the axe prior to culling is another, albeit less popular, method. This assumes that everybody else uses Facebook for exactly the same reasons that the user does, and may result in lots of hurt feelings, even amongst those who make the user’s eventual cut.
If unfriending seems too drastic, but seeing less updates from someone in particular is desired, there are a couple of ways to accomplish that on Facebook.
Hovering your cursor over the name of the Facebook friend with whom you seldom interact will cause a pop-up box to appear. There you can choose to switch them to a separate “Acquaintances” list. Posts from “Acquaintances” will appear less often in your News Feed. Additionally, when you update you simply can choose to share the post with all of your Friends and exclude “Acquaintances,” if you like. As long as you continue to post the occasional open-to-all update, “Acquaintances” will probably never know that they’ve been slightly downgraded.
Another more all-encompassing option to avoid seeing someone’s unwanted updates is to “hide” the person making them. They will remain on your “Friends” list but you will no longer see any updates from them in your Timeline. You can always “un-hide” them later if they become less vexatious, or you simply change your mind.