Text Analytics Poll: Why We Unfriend on Facebook

Tom H. C. Anderson
February 27th, 2017

You Can’t Handle the Truth (and Other Top Reasons for Being Unfriended on Facebook) 

When’s the last time you unfriended someone on Facebook?

In spite of the fact that both the platform and its users have reached what in product lifecycle-speak would be called maturity, unfriending remains a somewhat surprisingly common phenomenon.

In fact, about 76% of Facebook users we contacted in a recent Text Analytics Poll™ told us they had unfriended someone .

The drivers behind “unfriending” have been researched and written about extensively, but given its enduring prevalence, we wanted to explore why it persists. So we asked a random gen pop sample of people (n=1500) the following:

“Have you unfriended someone on Facebook, and if so why?”

A brief note about this Text Analytics Poll™…

Before we share the results, I must emphasize that this is a quick, surface-level read. The goal of these Text Analytics Polls™ is not to conduct a perfect study, but to very quickly design and field a survey with only one open-ended question, analyze the results with OdinText, and report the findings here on this blog.

Yes, I know that not everyone is a Facebook user, and the response data reflected this. More importantly, there is without a doubt overlap among the categories that came out of OdinText’s analysis in the chart below.  For example, a number of people reported they had unfriended someone because they had stopped speaking to him/her. The reason they stopped speaking to this person could be due to a break-up, political differences or one of the other reasons cited by other respondents.

The point here is that people are responding off the top of their heads and in their own words, providing a much more accurate understanding of the “what” being explored, which we can then analyze and quantify using OdinText software.

Now for the results…

Top Reasons for Unfriending Someone on Facebook

Note: All Verbatims are [sic]

  1. Inappropriate/Offensive Content

You’d think most people would’ve learned appropriate Facebook etiquette by now, but clearly there are a significant number of bad actors out there, with the primary reason for unfriending being related to inappropriate or offensive content. This category spanned everything from profanity to racism to graphic sexual content, but also lifestyle choices or social views that people found personally objectionable.

Examples:

they posted things that are illegal and go against my morals

vulgarities

R-rated content

Posts about lifestyle choice that I am against and profanity

constant postings of very controversial subjects such as abortion

racism or derogatory remarks about ladies

For posting an extremely offensive video featuring meth being smoked by young girls

  1. No Longer Friends/Grew Apart/Tired of Them

Too much drama or TMI, the airing of dirty laundry, posts that made people uncomfortable because they were too personal or too often about deeply sensitive subjects…these were common reasons cited for severing ties on Facebook. But people also said the relationship had grown stale or they’d lost touch. Sure people change. Relationships grow stale. Sometimes we outgrow one another. These are common occurrences in real life, but I was surprised to see such a high incidence of them on Facebook, where one’s “friends” are frequently not people with whom we share close personal relationships.

Examples:

people who I fell out of contact with and felt it wouldn’t be worth reconnecting with; people who I wasn’t very fond of to begin with; people who were friended as a means to an end i.e. for an old job; people who I started out having a good friendship with and ended up being jerks.

because the friendship ended.

they were two-faced

No longer keep in touch

They changed as a person

I haven’t seen them in years, and they tried to add me to a group about them selling Tupperware.

I had not seen or talked to them in months or years

They were posting too much personal drama

No longer friends with that person and couldn’t stand their drama anymore

They enjoyed high drama, public arguments with their families.

  1. Politics

Everyone knew this one was coming. We were surprised it wasn’t number one, especially given the particularly divisive presidential election that just took place. I expect the incidence of politics being a driver for unfriending is actually higher than people’s comments reflected. This is also an area where the comments were highly emotionally charged.

Interestingly, most people who cited politics as a reason for unfriending did not elaborate. The comment data suggest that a lot of people simply don’t care for political ranting, in general. It’s probably safe to assume that the rules that govern polite conversation in person also apply on Facebook.

That said, significant numbers of people did specify whether the politics of the unfriended were liberal or conservative. But interestingly, mentions of Donald Trump specifically were more than sufficient to merit their own category.

  1. Annoying Statuses

This one’s pretty self-explanatory: status updates—especially the inane and/or frequent variety—tend to irk people!

Examples:

posted too many annoying statuses

Annoying posts that clutter the newsfeed

Because their posts were too frequent and annoying.

To stop the annoying posts

Annoying statuses

they either post way too much or their posts are stupid and I do not want to look at them

Tired of the persons constant posts about their hair or personal injuries from others

  1. Don’t Know Well or In Real Life

Early on in our Facebook lives, most of us were probably a bit promiscuous when it came to “friending” and, consequently, we had to cull the herd. What’s surprising is how many people still accept friends they don’t know and then “unfriend” them because…well…they don’t know them.

Did not feel comfortable with them knowing personal details about me

Didn’t remember who they were.

I never knew them very well and they were cluttering my feed.

To purge people that I have no connection to

Because i didnt actually know them in real life.

Inactive, wasn’t a close friend to begin with.

Because I did not speak to them ever

Because they were a mere acquaintance

cuz dont know the person

Bonus: Why We Think They Unfriended Us

It seems that while many of the norms and conditions for friendship (or at least friendly acquaintanceship) in real life also apply on Facebook, a lot of people either do not understand them or insist on breaking them when they’re on the other side of a screen.

But how do we account for those rare instances when someone unfriends us? Well, we asked another gen pop sample if they had been unfriended and, if so, for what reason.

Not surprisingly, it turns out we are almost 10 times more likely to say we unfriended someone because they were annoying or inappropriate as we are to admit that was the reason we ourselves were unfriended.

Most of the people who were unfriended by someone else told us they’re not quite sure why, but they often hazarded what appear to be pretty good “guesses”:

Yes, but I was not told why. Person has had a lot of stress in the community, can only guess it was just too much to continue.

I would guess that it would be because we don’t keep in contact.

They did not like my ‘opinion’ which is fine because it was my ‘opinion’ not theirs. Guess they should not have asked.

Because of a joke that I made too soon after the Orlando shootings. I made a picture of Lando Calrissian holding a pride flag and the caption said ‘we are Lando?’ too soon I guess

People also tend to be rather defensive about being unfriended and are significantly more likely to just chalk it up to “a difference of opinion,” noting that they “don’t really care anyway” and that it’s probably because “we aren’t really close enough anymore.”

Finally, many of us say we were unfriended for “speaking the truth.”

Thanks for reading. Now what do you think?

@TomHCAnderson

PS. Do you have an idea for our next Text Analytics Poll™? We’d love to hear from you! Please contact us here for more info or to request an OdinText demo with your data.

About Tom H. C. Anderson

Tom H. C. Anderson is the founder and managing partner of OdinText, a venture-backed firm based in Stamford, CT whose eponymous, patented SAS platform is used by Fortune 500 companies like Disney, Coca-Cola and Shell Oil to mine insights from complex, unstructured and mixed data. A recognized authority and pioneer in the field of text analytics with more than two decades of experience in market research, Anderson is the recipient of numerous awards for innovation from industry associations such as CASRO, ESOMAR and the ARF. He was named one of the “Four under 40” market research leaders by the American Marketing Association in 2010. He tweets under the handle @tomhcanderson.

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