Facebook Unfriend Study


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Christopher Sibona Ph.D. is the Principal Software Engineer at Oracle Corp. Christopher obtained his Ph.D. at the University of Colorado Business School in 2011. His study on why people unfriend on Facebook has helped hundreds of corporations and individuals understand what encourages engagement and what turns people off when marketing on Facebook. This is Christopher’s talk at the January 2011 Emerging Media Conference in San Francisco, CA.

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Facebook Unfriend Study

  1. 1. Unfriending on Facebook: Friend Request andOnline/Offline Behavior Analysis Christopher Sibona Advisor: Steven Walczak Information Systems The Business School University of Colorado Denver
  2. 2. Presentation• Overview• Background• Initial Model• Instrument Design• Data Collection• Methodology• Results• Limitations• Implications• Future Research
  3. 3. Research Questions1. What is the role of the friend request in unfriending decisions.2. Can factors in unfriending decisions be found and do differences in the perception of online and offline behaviors vary depending on the unfriending decision.
  4. 4. OverviewThe research results show that the initiator of the friend request has more than their expected share of unfriends compared to those who receive the friend request.Survey respondents who said they unfriended for online reasons were more likely to agree that the person posted: 1. Too frequently about unimportant topics 2. Polarizing topics 3. Inappropriate topics 4. Everyday life topics compared to those who unfriended for offline reasons
  5. 5. Background• Unfriend was named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary for 2009 (Goldsmith, 2009).• unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.
  6. 6. Online Social NetworksThe systems allow individuals to1. Construct a public or semi-public profile within a bounded system,2. Articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, and3. View and traverse their list of connections and those made by others within the system boyd and Ellison, 2007
  7. 7. Friendship Formation and Dissolution• Friendships created with those who share similar values (Lea and Duck, 1982; McPherson et al., 2001)• People tend to create friendships with those who share a similar race and ethnicity followed by age, religion, education, occupation and gender and roughly in that order (McPherson et al., 2001).
  8. 8. Friendship Model Paul Wright, 1969• Voluntary Interdependence• Difficult-to-maintain• Values of Friendship – Stimulation – Utility – Ego
  9. 9. Friendship ProcessFour elements:1. P must desire to have O as a friend (attraction)2. P must initiate a move to establish a friendship with O.3. O must recognize P’s overture of friendship.4. O must reciprocate P’s offer of friendship Hallinan, 1979
  10. 10. Facebook• One person initiates a friend request and one person receives the request• If the friend request is accepted the two becomes friends on Facebook• It takes agreement to become friends on Facebook• Visible links are generated• The friend request is very clear in the online environment compared to real life
  11. 11. Friendship Dissolution• Not simply friendship formation in reverse• Some friendships end in conflict but most friendships fade away• No permission needed to end a friendship in either the online or offline world• In the online world it is clear that someone made a conscious decision to unfriend the other.• Online unfriending does not necessarily mean offline unfriending Duck, 1982; Sprecher and Fehr, 1998; Baxter, 1979.
  12. 12. Netiquette• Formal and social rules can govern what is posted online• 15% of all messages in Usenet forums are considered conduct correcting (Smith et al., 1997)• Facebook has formal rules• Facebook users can act as moderators to their wall – delete posts, limited profiles• Ultimately, Facebook users can unfriend those whose posts are troubling
  13. 13. What Americans do online Rank Category 2010 Share of 2009 Share of % Change time time 1 Social Networks 22.7% 15.8% 43% 2 Online Games 10.2% 9.3% 10% 3 E-mail 8.3% 11.5% -28% 4 Portals 4.4% 5.5% -19% 5 Instant Messaging 4.0% 4.7% -15% 6 Videos/Movies 3.9% 3.5% 12% 7 Search 3.5% 3.4% 1% 8 Software Manufacturers 3.3% 3.3% 0% 9 Multi-category 2.8% 3.-% -7% Entertainment 10 Classifieds/Auctions 2.7% 2.7% -2% Other 34.3% 37.3% -8%Nielsen, August 2010: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/what-americans-do-online-social-media-and-games-dominate-activity/
  14. 14. Media Roundup• People like lists: – 10 signs you should unfriend someone on Facebook – 12 great tales of de-friending – 8 types of people to unfollow on Twitter or Defriend on Facebook – 8 signs you should unfriend someone on Facebook – 7 reasons to unfriend someone on Facebook• Articles give people permission to others to unfriend
  15. 15. Data CollectionStats:• 4,961 recruitment tweets sent• 1,137 survey completed – 2,084 surveys started – 54.6% of those who started the survey finished• Overall response rate is 42.0%• Response rate for those who completed 22.9%• Total number of tweets sent 6,935
  16. 16. Recruitment TweetsSample tweet screened for recruitment from @X:@Y You can always defriend on FB, no? You should always have the option of correcting your mistakes. :PRecruitment Tweet from @UnfriendStudy:@X I saw your tweet about unfriending.I have a survey: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/unfriend-t Your input very important.PhD stdnt
  17. 17. Friend Request – Unfriend Decision700600500400 Unfriend Decision300 Expected200100 0 I initiated Other initiated DK
  18. 18. Friend Request – Unfriended By300250200150 Unfriended By Expected10050 0 I initiated Other initiated DK
  19. 19. Construct Creation• Four online constructs and two offline• Online – Unimportant/frequent, polarizing posts, inappropriate posts and everyday life posts• Offline – Disliked Behavior – Change in Relationship• Questions moved to more appropriate constructs: – Racist: from polarizing to inappropriate. – New Information: from behavior to change
  20. 20. ReliabilityMeasure Questions Cronbach’s Num of alpha QtnsUnimportant Unimportant, Frequent .693 2/FrequentPolarizing Politics, Religion .766 2Inappropriat Inappropriate, sex, swearing, sexist, .826 6e racist, unflatteringEveryday Life Exercise, purchases, eating, money, .917 11 job, celebrities, pets, sports, promotion, child, spouseBehavior Did misdeed, dislike, behavior, .920 7 personality, trust, betray, broke ruleChange Divorce, romantic end, incompatible .677 5 friends, geography, new information
  21. 21. Implications• Those who are negatively affected by unfriending may wish to avoid certain behaviors• They may want to avoid posting too frequently about unimportant topics, posting about polarizing topics, posting about inappropriate topics, and posting about everyday life.• Narrowcast postings to those who may be interested in your posts
  22. 22. Facebook Implications• Facebook’s mission is to: “give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”• Bundle posts from users who post frequently• Promote lists, make them easier to use• Machine learning – let people code which kinds of posts they are interested in seeing and avoid those they are not interested in seeing
  23. 23. Lessons?• Friendship model• Voluntary interdependence• Difficult-to-maintain• Values – Stimulation – be entertaining – be interesting – “I don’t care what you had for breakfast – unless it was awesome.” – Utility – economic (promotion) non-economic (information, fix problems, etc.) – Ego-support – Products can support ego – smart phones, smart car, smart food, intelligent office, “choosy Moms choose Jif,” “We lost your luggage but are looking for it.”
  24. 24. Thank you -Questions?