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Why Do You Add or Delete a Friend on Facebook?

Why do you friend someone on Facebook?  Is it because you want to keep up with their life on a daily basis and lack the time to do so via email or over the phone?  Do you friend someone because you want them to know moments from your daily life?  Do you accept every friend request, from neighbours to coworkers to that cool person you once sat next to on a cross-country flight, or are you picky about who you add to your network?  Would you ever add a friend of a friend you don’t know at all?

And more importantly, why do you unfriend someone?  Would you unfriend a close friend or relative if they said something to upset you, or would you remain connected to them online even if you couldn’t work it out offline?  Do you unfriend people who don’t comment on your status updates, who don’t update their own feed often, who comment too much on your status, making you uncomfortable?

Research has been done by social media marketers to try to understand why we add or subtract a social media connection.  In a study from this past winter, researchers found that 4% of people added someone simply because they had a lot of friends which translates into a lot of connections whereas 82% needed to know the person from the face-to-face world in order to add them.  Offensive comments were the most common way to get yourself booted out of someone’s network (55%) but only 3% said they would remove you for not updating enough.

But an area this research doesn’t touch is whether your reasons for why you friend or unfriend someone changes over time?  I often wonder if life changes also influence the way we use social media, if we become more guarded or more open based on where we are in life.  Have you noticed your social media habits — especially Facebook usage — changing over time based on other things happening in your life?  Are you currently more comfortable or less comfortable with social networking than you were in the past?

Cross-posted with BlogHer.


1 mrs spock { 07.15.12 at 2:18 pm }

I just unfriended someone this week. She was someone I was friends with in high school, who then ended up bullying me, getting knocked up sophomore year, and dropping out to get married. She sent a friend request, and I sat on it, unsure what to do. I’m not the kind of person that friends everyone and their mother, and I know I have some health issues of a sensitive nature that are leaking out a bit onto my page. I don’t keep resentments against people from high school really, and some former bullies are now frequent commenters on my Facebook, and there are no hard feelings. I ended up friending this person, but was not 100% comfortable with it. This week, she posted some vicious political rant on her feed. Now, I have some pretty political friends on both ends of the spectrum, and usually ignore and tolerate their spiel, but because I was already uncomfortable, it pushed me over the edge. Off with her head.

2 tigger62077 { 07.15.12 at 2:50 pm }

If I know them, and have an interest in what’s going on in their world, I’ll friend them. I have several friends, however, that I don’t know…but they went to school with everyone in my current circle and sent an invite. Turns out some of them are pretty cool! I rarely send out friend invites, as I have most of the people I already want.

Why do I defriend? Well, it depends. An ex found me, and I gave it a shot, but he rather quickly creeped me back out and I discovered that he hadn’t changed AT ALL…the things that angered me then are still in evidence. I had a hard time holding my thoughts, and after the creepy factor, I deleted him. Others have gone by the wayside because I have nothing in common with them any longer, although I thought I did. Some have been rude multiple times, and after being warned, continued to do so – I don’t need that, so they’re gone. Some have just…irritated me to no end. I have one like that currently and I’m debating and…I don’t know. I have a hard time removing people unless they’ve done something pretty bad, and even THEN it’s hard.

I don’t like hiding people, but there are some on my list that I can’t really unfriend without risking family drama. I have a few that post religious picture after picture after picture…and that’s IT. Never an update, just pictures. I have an uncle who posts rather vitriolic political pictures – never any updates – who I finally had to hide because I couldn’t stand it anymore.

3 Stupid Stork { 07.15.12 at 3:04 pm }

I’ll friend pretty much anyone who asks unless they are a total stranger (someone weirdly just trying to get friends) or they’re a friend of a friend.

I’ve pretty much reached the conclusion for myself not to censor anything on there, or it becomes too much of a hassle.

I’ve only unfriended one person because of something horrendous they put on their page – and it takes a lot to offend me. Otherwise (with people who talk about nothing but their pregnancies, for example) there’s the handy-dandy unsubscribe button which I enjoy – I’m not unfriending them, but I don’t have to read about stuff, either.

4 geochick { 07.15.12 at 3:59 pm }

I have a complicated relationship with FB in that it frequently makes me feel like I’m in high school all over again and I’m not a popular kid. So, I’ve added lots of friends, then unfriended the ones that I don’t keep up with only to add them back. (I added one back twice before unfriending her for good because I realized we really aren’t friends IRL). I’ve left altogether and that lasted about a month. Lately, I’m more on an uptick of adding friends mostly because I have slowed down my updating/keeping up with others considerably and it’s only about once every 2 weeks, or even once a month that I bother checking updates. As far as unfriending people, I’ve only unfriended one lately and it’s because of her behavior towards me on FB and IRL. Basically, it’s a broken friendship so I really didn’t see the point in remaining friends on FB. Mostly, I hide people these days, and probably half of my FB friends are hidden.

5 Jo { 07.15.12 at 4:35 pm }

I did a giant FB purge about eight months ago. If they werent family or IRL friends, they were gone. I had caught up with where everyone is post high school, and since we were not close then or now, I didn’t see the need to keep torturing myself with baby stories and religious BS. I now have about 50 friends on FB, and I’m related to half of them. So my feed is rather boring….but I’ll take that over infuriating and/or heartbreaking.

One GREAT thing about FB is that pre-purge, I posted a lot of IF stuff. Articles, blogs, etc. I got some great feedback, and have been consulted for advice by several HS and college friends who have also found themselves battling the IF beast. So, on one hand, it helped establish connections with people that I didn’t have previously. On the other hand, I really don’t care to see how picture perfect all of my peers family-building efforts have gone. I’ve tried “hiding” in the past, but I think that if I don’t care what you are doing, and you don’t care about what I am doing (which I can tell from the lack of comments), well then, we don’t need to be FB friends. And so I delete. A lot. 🙂

6 loribeth { 07.15.12 at 5:13 pm }

The people I have asked to friend have mostly been relatives or close friends from online or IRL that I would like to keep in touch with. I have cousins I rarely see & would never think of calling on the phone, but enjoy hearing from via Facebook as well as at Christmastime.

I have only ignored two friend requests. Both came from people I knew through an organization we had both belonged to. I just didn’t feel the need or desire to stay in contact with them. I’ve received some requests that have made me go, “Really??” — for example, from people I knew (& were somewhat friendly with, but weren’t necessarily close to) in high school, and from distant cousins’ spouses.

I haven’t deleted or hidden anyone. Yet. ; ) I have been tempted, though. Mostly it’s people whose political or religious views are not in keeping with my own. I am not looking forward to the next few months, once the U.S. elections start heating up. :p

7 sushigirl { 07.15.12 at 5:26 pm }

I’ve got a rule that I need to have spoken to someone a couple of times before they’re added, rather than just, say, know who they are from friends.

I generally delete people if they’ve somehow slipped under the net of the first rule, or they were someone I spoke to a couple of times and then our lives went different paths and we just never spoke again.

I once deleted a colleague for IF related reasons. I found her million and one posts and photos about her pregnancy hard. She knew we were struggling and had had treatments and losses, so rather than accepting I wasn’t commenting, started posting stuff like “ha ha, I can change my baby on Sushigirl’s desk at work”. I was really, really tempted to have a go at her because I was so upset, but deleted instead.

8 Kimberly { 07.15.12 at 7:20 pm }

In comparison to my twitter and blogger usage, I use facebook far less than other social media sites. That being said, I limit who I add. I rarely add people myself unless I know them well in real life. I generally let people add me first and then if I actually know them, I will accept. Facebook is my pg rated area. I generally have the posting rule of “is this something I would tell my boss or grandmother?” If I would, I share it. I use my facebook to send cute pictures back and forth with my friends and to communicate with family near and far.

As for removing people, I tend to block, unsubscribe, or delete people when they jump into the overshare or whiney behavior. When someone is posting something every 15 minutes and clogging up my news feed or they are always saying inappropriate things that I find are over the limit, I remove them or unsubscribe. And the difference between deleting vs. unsubscribing with me is in direct relation to how much drama it would cause me by removing them.

9 Mali { 07.15.12 at 7:23 pm }

Mel, great minds think alike! I just wrote a post about Facebook and infertility: http://nokiddinginnz.blogspot.co.nz/2012/07/social-networking-and-infertility.html

I have never deleted someone from Facebook, but I have refused (ignored) a couple of requests (one of them was my father-in-law), and one person was driving me mad with her posts (nothing to do with fertility – she also has no kids), so I’ve hidden her, but check out her page occasionally. I was an overseas exchange student when I was 18, and many of our group have reconnected on FB. I love that (even though one of the Friend requests I refused was from this group). I also have a group of bloggers as FB Friends. I love that too – even though I’ve never met them, they are more part of my life now than any old schoolmates. In fact, in terms of real life, living-near-me friends, I only have two on FB. (Most of the others don’t bother with it, and if we want to chat we either pick up a phone or email and arrange a coffee date). I definitely wouldn’t add anyone I don’t know, and I wouldn’t add most friends from school. I’d never add colleagues or business contacts. There are better options to network than FB.

My filter is “how do I feel about this person knowing what’s going on in my life?” Even though I rarely post about anything personal, I still don’t feel comfortable with some people having that open access to my life.

10 a { 07.15.12 at 7:49 pm }

I have refused a few friend requests. I have probably 1/3 of my high school graduating class most of whom I didn’t really hang out with in high school. They’re interesting people – and a few belong to a political discussion group that’s always interesting.

I never want to unfriend people, because I am nosy and would like to continue to spy on their lives, even if I have no wish to communicate with them. Like my inlaws…who I have blocked from seeing anything on my page except for…game updates.

11 Tara Dawes { 07.15.12 at 9:35 pm }

I have unfriended numerous people (including relatives). Typically if people have way too much drama or on a political/religious level they clash with me to the point of ridiculousness. I have many “friends” who don’t believe what I believe and what not and that’s cool, I just hate if I put something on my page (for the 90% of my friends who might find it interesting) and someone has to crawl up my butt about it. Also unfriended a girl I knew from high school who “accidentally” got pregnant with her third kid then spent three months bitching about it – not sure if she continued to bitch for the remainder of the pregnancy as I unfriended her.

The majority of the people I’m friends with are people I went to school with (my school was super small so everyone knew everyone), past co-workers, a few college friends, some bloggers and then some family. If I don’t know someone either in real-life or pretty well from online I won’t accept a friend request. I also tend to cull my list every now and then and get rid of the people I don’t talk to.

I’m pretty open about my infertility on facebook (even posted a video of my first round of injections – because I had people ask how it all worked). I’ve had quite a few people come out of the woodwork and message me about infertility issues that they had went through prior to having their children. They were people I had known for years so it had come as a surprise to me, but it was also nice to know there were people in my world who had dealt with the same crap I’m dealing with.

12 Alexicographer { 07.15.12 at 10:54 pm }

I have two FB accounts, a personal one and one for work, which since I use my maiden name professional and my married name socially isn’t even noticeably weird(-er). The personal one I login to about daily and basically scan to see updates from (mostly) extended family and a few IRL friends (generally from wayback, like high school). I’d say I myself post an update roughly monthly as I figure that’s about how often I expect those people to be interested in hearing about me, and anyone who posts updates more than about daily tends to get status updates blocked. I don’t think I’ve ever defriended anyone, but if I wouldn’t dream of sending you a card in the mail for any reason, you’re not on my personal FB.

My work FB I use to keep up with work-related events as the place I work uses it for some events and so do some linked work-related organizations, and I also keep up with the activities of grad school colleagues and some former and current work colleagues that way, but I myself never, ever post updates there and basically don’t participate except as a consumer. I have neglected some friend requests and basically try to be quiet enough that no one can take my lack of commenting, liking, etc., personally (since it’s virtually across-the-board).

I much prefer Google+ to FB and would use it in a heartbeat, but no one’s on it.

Oh, I log out of FB except the moments I’m logged into it (unlike virtually everything else I use) b/c I didn’t like my FB identity popping up places and worrying I might accidentally post using it. I’m hardly anonymous, but neither do I want my IRL id explicitly linked to my, e.g., IF blog-commenting moniker.

13 Sharon { 07.15.12 at 11:18 pm }

At this point, having been on Facebook for almost four years, I almost never send friend requests anymore: anyone I had hoped to find through the site (and there were many, given that I had lived in several different places as an adult and lost track of lots of people) I’ve either found or given up on finding.

When someone sends me a friend request, I will accept if I know them in real life, remember them from high school (except for people I remember and DISliked), or if I’ve known them online long enough to feel comfortable friending them. (For me, I guess the litmus test is if I’d be willing to meet them in real life if they were in my city or vice versa, I’ll accept their friend request.)

I do NOT accept friend requests from anyone simply because we have many mutual friends, and if the person’s name is unfamiliar to me, but I think I should know them, due to shared connections, I’ll usually send them a brief message asking that they explain how we are acquainted. If that jogs my memory, I accept; if not, I decline.

Unfriending: I’ve “purged” my list a few times, mainly removing people who I realized I was never really friends with (from grad school, mainly) and just accepted their request because their name was familiar to me. I don’t generally unfriend people who post things I dislike, unless the posting are especially egregious or I never felt much of a tie to that person in the first place. I *am* a big fan of the “hide” or “unfollow” feature. 🙂

14 St. E { 07.16.12 at 1:47 am }

Why do you friend someone on Facebook?

For connections, obviously. A lot of my bloggy peeps are also on my FB friends list. Some of them are out of blogging now, but I have been able to maintain contact through FB. Also, friends and family may be geographically scattered, but FB is one place to get all updates on them. They may be away, but are still close.

But I have been friends with strangers too…Farmville was the common interest.

Do you friend someone because you want them to know moments from your daily life?

LOL, I do not share religiously, the moments of my daily life.

Do you accept every friend request, from neighbours to coworkers to that cool person you once sat next to on a cross-country flight, or are you picky about who you add to your network?

I do not. There is still a toodly list of pending friend requests on my FB. I do not want them stalking my page. A cousin who is abusive to his family, is still on the FB doormat.

Would you ever add a friend of a friend you don’t know at all?

I would not. But I have to been added that way by someone. A friend of a blogger friend sent me a request once, which I accepted.

And more importantly, why do you unfriend someone?

After I stopped playing Farmville, I purged my list of all the people who existed only for that common interest. Also, constantly whiny, and constantly scripture-y sorts….But I am otherwise pretty tolerant of the folks I have on my FB list.

15 JustHeather { 07.16.12 at 5:08 am }

FB is a mix of it all for me. I have family, friends (from IRL, high school, extra curricular activities, blogging & from other online shared interests). I have thought about purging my list some lately (in fact, I quickly went through just now and deleted a few obvious ones), but most of the people are my ‘friend’ for one reason or another.

Many of them I don’t hear from too often, or I’ve unsubscribed from their feeds for one reason or another (annoying cousin, too much political junk, etc). When I was TTC and having a really hard time with pregnancy updates, especially from one friend in particular, I just hid her and would look when I was in a better frame of mind. I like to keep updated on some people’s lives, but at my own convenience.

Also, I do not friend everyone who asks. Especially if I can’t figure out where I know them from. Some work people are friends, as I have a relationship with them outside of work.
(bleh, that’s all over the place.)

16 Bea { 07.16.12 at 8:33 am }

I’ll have to let you know how/if the usage changes much over time. I know I used fb most when I belonged to a dance group and that was how they organised events and passed messages. Of course, whilst on fb I would end up looking around a bit more broadly than that, too.

Mostly I don’t use it much. I accept requests ecxept total strangers but don’t make them much. I don’t delete people or unsubscribe, either. I mostly use it like a phone book, so my contacts are there if and when we want to send each other direct messages. I might like or comment here or there if I happen to be on doing that direct messaging. Also very useful if you need something translated from Swedish, as it turns out. Friends are a mix of blog friends, relatives, people who teach my children swimming, and old, sometimes fleeting, acquaintances I don’t really keep up with.

I would like to request that everyone who likes to friend old colleagues from twenty years ago that they use or introduce themselves by their original names and make sure their profile pic is of themselves.

17 Gail { 07.16.12 at 9:24 am }

I use FB and check FB much more than I should. It is just addicting. I enjoy getting a sneak peak into other people’s lives and knowing what is going on. And, the jokes and photos often make me laugh. I also use FB to post updates and photos that I think others will like. I don’t get into the nitty gritty details of my life and I don’t discuss religion. However, I will discuss politics. I also use FB for product advice or to find things to do in my local area.

I rarely send out friend requests anymore (on my personal site). As for accepting other people’s friend requests, it depends on how I know him/her. I will not accept a request from someone that I don’t know IRL. However, there are many FB friends that I knew in high school and have not seen in the 16 years since.

I will delete friends for a variety of reasons, but the biggest reason is for inappropriate language or topics (TMI, for example). I’ve also done a major purge in the last few months of anyone that I wouldn’t recognize IRL and would not make plans to get together with, if the chance presented itself. This mostly applied to high school friends who barely knew me and vice versa in school, but we just happened to be in the same building for 4 years. My last reason for unfriending someone is if they are a work colleague and I don’t feel comfortable sharing my life details with. I have a work FB account and usually friend them through that instead.

Thanks for this discussion, Mel!

18 EC { 07.16.12 at 11:24 am }

I check Facebook multiple times a day, but only occasionally post. When I do, it’s usually a photo of my dog, or something related to cooking, gardening, or running. I’m careful about what I post because I have family members and colleagues who are also on Facebook. I also have “friends” on Facebook that I don’t really know well or hardly remember meeting – people who are friends of my husband, people from high school, etc. I have one friend that I’ve never met, but she was suggested (if that’s the right term) as a friend by someone we both know. This person and I live in the same town, and this mutual friend lives elsewhere. I felt sort of funny about being friends with someone I never met, but I felt bad declining the friend request.

I almost never delete anyone, but I will unsubscribe from feeds. I think I declined a friend invitation once – maybe twice. I feel like lately, most of what I see on Facebook is from businesses or non-profit groups, so it feels lately more like another way of getting information, rather than as a communication tool.

19 Pinkbriefcase { 07.16.12 at 11:46 am }

This has actually been on my mind lately — I added my FB to my wordpress blog, so it would automatically update my FB when I posted. And with that, I lost my anonymity on my blog, and it made me uncomfortable — I write personal things on my blog and use it to reason out life choices and write freely. So, I started deleting people from FB when I didn’t care to update them on the tiny bits of my life.

I was a sophomore in college when FB came to my school, and I friended every high school and college classmate. It was a FB rampage. When I started law school, that’s also how we made connections, planned events, etc. But since graduating, I am slowly lowering my number of friends and reserving LinkedIn for professional contacts.

20 Pam { 07.16.12 at 5:04 pm }

I haven’t actually unfriended anyone yet, although I discovered recently how to prevent a friend’s constant status updates from appearing in my newsfeed. It happened to be the 12-13yr old daughter of DH’s cousin and it didn’t seem appropriate to unfriend her yet her constant posts about Jesus and G-d were getting excessive. I have nothing against either (I’m Jewish, he’s Catholic) but I just didn’t need it constantly filling my newsfeed.

DH was unfriended recently because one mutual friend didn’t like what he was posting on his wall and attacked him on it, and when he responded in kind, she dropped him. Really quite childish and because of her actions, she ‘s cut herself off from any functions we host like bbqs. The only ones being hurt by it are her kids and hubby because she insists they don’t come either. LOL. When it omes to accepting friend requests, I’m quite picky. I will often send a back a “who are you” when I don’t know them, but have yet to get a reply. And if someone sends a request who I don’t want to friend (ie my ex), I ignore the request and leave it hanging so that they can’t re-request.

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