Denver, Colorado–The next time you become frustrated or angry with a pal or family member on Facebook, you probably want to think twice about unfriending that person. In a recent study, researchers found that breaking-off online communication through social media has real-life consequences.
The transition from online relationships to in-person interaction is more sophisticated, and intertwined, than one would think. Out of 583 respondents in a survey conducted through Twitter, 40 percent said they would actually avoid someone in a real-world situation if that person unfriended them on Facebook. In a twist of irony, 50 percent of participants stated they would not avoid someone who unfriended them.
Gender also played a roll in the findings conducted by the University of Colorado Denver Business School. Women were more likely to avoid people who broke-off the cyber relationship than men.
“The cost of maintaining online relationships is really low, and in the real world, the costs are higher. In the real world, you have to talk to people, go see them to maintain face-to-face relationships. That’s not the case in online relationships. Since it’s done online there is an air of unreality to it but in fact there are real-life consequences. We are still trying to come to grips as a society on how to handle elements of social media. The etiquette is different and often quite stark,” said study author Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at the University of Colorado.
What the research revealed in unfriending someone on social media has psychological effects. People who’ve been unfriended by an acquaintance or family member feel a sense of social exclusion, according to the findings published in the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences.