Forty percent of people in a recent study said they would steer clear of someone who unfriended them on the popular social networking site. The top reason for unfriending? ‘Frequent, unimportant posts.’
“Unfriend” someone on Facebook whose posts you find annoying? A new study finds that that person may avoid you, forever.
Study author Christopher Sibona, a computer science doctoral student at the University of Colorado in Denver, says that while a lot of people use social networks as a source of entertainment, your Facebook actions “can have real world consequences.”
RELATED: USERS ‘UNFRIENDING’ FACEBOOK IN DROVES
He found that 40 percent of people surveyed said they would steer clear of anyone in real life who had unfriended them on Facebook. Another 10 percent were unsure. Women said they would avoid contact more than men.
The study, published this month by the Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences, was based on 582 survey responses gathered via Twitter.
Sibona outlines the top four reasons people are unfriended on Facebook:
1. Frequent, unimportant posts
2. Polarizing posts usually about politics or religion
3. Inappropriate posts involving sexist, racist remarks
4. Being boring: drab posts about kids, food, etc.
However, being unfriended can trigger feelings of ostracism, which can have “important psychological consequences for those to whom it occurs.”
Girls send more than 220 texts a week, and 12- to 15-year-olds spend 17 hours a week on internet, research shows
The average 12- to 15-year-old has never met one in four of their “friends” on social networking websites such as Facebook, according to new research.
Telecoms and media regulator Ofcom’s annual Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report also found that teenage girls are the UK’s texting champions, sending more than 220 a week – a third more than boys.
The regulator’s latest research revealed that 12- to 15-year-olds on average spend 17 hours a week on the internet, matching TV viewing for the first time, and that potentially well over a third of three- and four-year-olds use the internet for TV and games.
More than 40% of five- to 15-year-olds who have internet access have a social networking profile, rising to 80% among 12- to 15-year-olds.
The latter age group has an average of 286 online friends and 93% of them claim they are confident they know about online safety.
Yet Ofcom’s report found that 12- to 15-year-old’s have not met an average of 25% of the friends they have made on sites such as Facebook, an average of 72 strangers per child.
“Children are not just using more media, they are also adopting some forms [of it] at a very young age,” said Claudio Pollack, consumer group director at Ofcom.
The report found that texting is most popular among 12- to 15-year-olds, who send an average of almost 200 texts a week, more than double the 91 that Ofcom’s report found last year.
Girls aged 12 to 15 are the most prolific texters, sending an average of 221 messages a week, 35% more than their male counterparts. This is more than four times the UK average of 50 texts per week.
There has been a 50% rise in smartphone ownership among this group year on year, with almost two thirds of 12- to 15-year-olds now owning one, according to Ofcom.
“Areas such as texting and smartphone ownership [among teenagers] are fast outstripping the general population,” said Pollack. “This highlights the challenge that some parents face in keeping up with their children when it comes to technology, and in understanding what they can do to protect children.”
Almost 80% of parents claim that they have rules about their children’s internet usage, although less than half have parental controls installed on their home computers.
Are people getting compulsive about their smartphones? The results of a survey released yesterday by mobile app developer Lookout suggests so.
Analyzing trends in emotions and behavior related to smartphones in its “Mobile Mindset Study,”
Lookout found that as people increasingly come to rely on their smartphones, they are increasingly checking them while in bed, in the bathroom, at the dinner table and while driving.
According to the results of the survey:
- 58% of smartphone owners said they don’t go an hour without checking their phone
- 54% of smartphone owners said they check their phones while lying in bed: before they go to sleep, after they wake up
- Nearly 4 out of 10 people (39%) check their phones while using the bathroom
Growing usage is also challenging existing etiquette, according to Lookout:
- 30% check their phones during a meal
- 24% check their phones while driving
- Nearly 1 in 10 (9%) check their phones during religious services at a house of worship
There’s even a psychological term that’s been engendered as people’s attachment to mobile phones grows to the point where extreme fear sets in if they’re without one: nomophobia.
- Lookout’s survey found that 94% of people are concerned about losing their phone
- When asked to select which feeling they best identified with when they lost their phone, 73% reported feeling “panicked” and 14% reported feeling “desperate”
“Our phones are our lifeline, from sharing photos with social networks to shopping and managing bank accounts,” said Alicia diVittorio, Lookout’s mobile safety advocate. “The findings establish that our attachment to smartphones is driving a new mobile mindset. Our behaviors, emotions and social interactions are impacted by smartphones, to the extent that they now play an important role in our value systems.”
When it comes to protecting mobile phones, Lookout has the following recommendations:
- Don’t lose it: Keep your smartphone in a zipped pocket or bag when you’re on the move and scan your area when leaving public places to make sure you don’t leave it behind
- Keep your power: Make sure you charge your battery before you leave the house or keep a charger in the car – not only will it keep your phone alive, but it will help to track it down if you misplace it
- Keep it safe: Download an app like Lookout so you can find your phone if you lose it, lock & wipe your data if it cannot be recovered and backup your personal information
Social scientists are increasingly looking at online friendships and trying to figure out if they carry the same emotional baggage that real-world friendships do. A preliminary study suggests that breaking up, even if it’s on Facebook, is hard to do.
The more you use Facebook, the more likely you are to experience “rumination and negative emotion” when someone unfriends you, according to a study published in the July 2012 edition of the scholarly journal Computers in Human Behavior. The study by Chapman University researchers Jennifer L. Bevan, Jeanette Pfyl and Brett Barclay is one of the first to look at the psychological consequences of so-called relationship termination on social networks.
Other factors that increased the pain of being unfriended included:
How close the person was to the person that had removed them from their friend list.
Whether they were able to figure out who unfriended them, as opposed to just seeing a drop in the number of active friends they had.
Who initiated the initial friend request.
The researchers also measured people’s perceptions on why they had been unfriended, asking if they felt it was because they posted too frequently on Facebook; posted polarizing views; made crude comments; if they had been unfriended for an upsetting, offline event; or because the person did not know them well.
“Intense Facebook usage may mean that users are particularly invested in their relationships with their Facebook friends and thus may respond with greater rumination and negative emotion when they lose one of these friends, which compromises how they are presenting themselves and being perceived by others online,” the researchers concluded.
When Being Unfriended Hurts Most
While the most common reason given for being unfriended was an offline event, people experienced the most negative emotion when they believed they were unfriended for Facebook-related reasons, such as posting too frequently, posting about polarizing topics or making crude comments.
People also seemed to be hurt more when they had made the initial friend request and were later unfriended by the recipient. “To some extent, being the individual who initiates the Facebook friendship – a clear, direct online act that is signified with a marker – places an individual in a less powerful position, as they must wait and see if their friend request is accepted, rejected or simply ignored. Individuals who are unfriended by someone they initially ‘friended’ may wonder why the unfriender even accepted the friend request, and such thoughts could give rise to rumination and negative emotion,” the researchers wrote.
The researchers found that people who spent more time on Facebook were most likely to be hurt when a Facebook friendship went south. That seemed to stem from the notion that those people, by spending more time on Facebook, had more invested in the online friendships.
The Parent Trap
Generally, people were most hurt when unfriended by someone they considered to be close to: family members, and current or former friends or romantic partners. To a certain extent, former romantic partners expected to be unfriended in certain circumstances.
The one differentiation from the above patterns was a user’s parents. The researchers noted “some close relational partners, such as parents, can be unwelcome Facebook friends for undergraduates… how relationships that are close offline are uniquely negotiated on [social networks] seems to be evolving.”
It may also suggest people view relationships with people they see regularly offline as different in an online context.
Amanda Borland, a sophomore at the University of Southern California, sits at her computer scrolling through a list of names. Suddenly she stops and clicks on a picture. “That is a random person I have never talked to,” she says. In an instant, Borland “unfriends” another Facebook contact. Borland originally added these people while running for student government in high school; now she sees no reason to keep them as friends.
“For me, it is weird to reach out to someone who is technically linked to me personally, when I literally have no idea who they are,” Borland says.
The idea of “cleaning out” Facebook friends is getting more popular: The percentage of people unfriending other Facebook members rose from 56 percent in 2009 to 63 percent in 2011. In gross terms, 158 million people were unfriended in 2009, and more than a half a billion in 2011. Experts predict the trend will only increase in coming years, and they see it as a potential problem for Facebook’s business model, which relies on leveraging information gained from a user’s profile and personal networks.
Morley Winograd, director of the Institute of Communication Technology Management at the University of Southern California, says the unfriending trend is only natural as the Facebook demographic shifts from largely college users to a majority older than 35. Older users are more concerned with privacy and want to limit access to their profiles to people they trust.
Millennials, on the other hand, are starting to use Facebook as a way to promote, manage and store their lives, deleting friends once a contact ceases to serve a function. As users delete friends, their networks shrink, and Facebook loses an edge in interconnectedness. This presents a problem for advertising: Facebook charges based on how well an advertisement is targeted to a user, and the more information Facebook can gather, the better they can target advertisements.
“If they have targeted all your friends, then they can serve up advertisements to you and your network,” says Karen North, director of the Annenberg Program on Online Communities at USC. “As you decrease your reach, you decrease the ability of Facebook to advertise.”
Experts say that the fewer friends a person has, the harder it is for Facebook to interpret the world the subscriber comes from. In turn, the less information Facebook has, the less they can charge for advertisements on the subscriber’s page. Facebook declined to comment on how changes in user behavior could affect their business.
North suggests this trend points to a more significant issue. The unfriending phenomenon suggests many users view Facebook as a utility, a place to network or post a photo gallery, instead of a hangout spot. She says many social media experts have noticed the level of engagement is declining. People are not only unfriending, they are spending less time on Facebook overall.
“The phenomenon where people were living a big chunk of their lives hanging and interacting on Facebook is decreasing,” said North. “All of that does have an impact on the value of Facebook, whether it is the amount of engagement, going on fewer times, or using it more efficiently.”
Unfriending may also affect certain kinds of advertisements, like sponsored posts or page posts. These particular advertisements “rely on the size of the friend base of someone that ‘likes’ one of those types of ads,” says Kate Sylanski, an advertising specialist at Modcloth, the online retailer that advertises with Facebook. Modcloth has previously invested in sponsored posts, but the ads have not generated increases in revenue.
It’s also possible that the trend could enhance the accuracy of Facebook’s efforts to target users, because the company can assume that those defriended had little to no influence on the user’s life. “The ‘unfriending’ trend could make these types of ads more appealing to companies because ‘friends’ may hold more water and truly be people you feel connected to in your Facebook community, therefore making them a more like-minded audience,” Sylanski says.
But if ‘unfriending’ is a problem for advertisers, that means trouble for investors. Facebook’s “pending IPO depends on increasing the amount of revenue per subscriber that the site generates,” says Winograd, who researches the Millennial generation along with political scientist Mike Hais. The two theorize that fewer friends per person mean fewer referrals or less sharing. That means less revenue from each Facebook visit. The narrower a person’s network of friends, the less likely something on her page will go viral. In any case, “a reduction in people, in connection, or in time and energy spent on the site would make advertisers and potential investors nervous,” North says.
There is little hard data on the question so far, but North is seeking funding to conduct research on the trend and gather more concrete facts on the true effects of Facebook ‘unfriending.’
“[Unfriending] is a fact that a smart company such as Facebook will adjust to,” says Ira Kalb, president of consulting Kalb & Associates and an expert in marketing and business. “As long as Facebook has a large, engaged audience, it and [everything] off it will do well.”
If you’re a digital native, you should be aware that the internet may have partially rewired your brain in such a way that when you meet people face to face, you’re less capable of figuring out what they’re thinking.
No, I’m not joking. There’s a significant amount of scientific literature on this. Compared with people who didn’t grow up using computers and the internet, you may be slower to pick up on nonverbal cues such as facial expressions, tones of voice, and body language.
That could be a liability if you want to work in a field such as consulting, financial advising, and diplomacy that requires face-to-face interactions. The trick, if you’re looking for a job in areas such as these, is to be aware of your possible shortcomings and try to compensate for them.
Research on the brain’s response to electronic media is fascinating, and not a little disturbing. On the plus side, it suggests that digital natives have higher baseline activity in the part of the brain governing short-term memory, the sorting of complex information, and the integration of sensations and thoughts — so, in certain respects, computers make you smarter. As if to underline that point, IQ scores are on the increase in the United States as the number of digital natives rises, and people’s ability to multitask without errors is improving.
But other research suggests that excessive, long-term exposure to electronic environments is reconfiguring young people’s neural networks and possibly diminishing their ability to develop empathy, interpersonal relations, and nonverbal communication skills. One study indicates that because there’s only so much time in the day, face-to-face interaction time drops by nearly 30 minutes for every hour a person spends on a computer. With more time devoted to computers and less to in-person interactions, young people may be understimulating and underdeveloping the neural pathways necessary for honing social skills. Another study shows that after long periods of time on the internet, digital natives display poor eye contact and a reluctance to interact socially.
Are digital natives really lacking the interpersonal skills necessary for certain types of jobs? An executive of a U.S. wealth-management firm told me that after the financial collapse in 2008, some of the bright young advisers were communicating with wiped-out clients via emails that said, essentially, “Sorry, we can’t help you.” Those who did meet with clients had little time for them and gave the impression that they weren’t interested in hearing clients’ stories. They seemed unable to empathize. So the firm let these employees go, replacing them with older advisers who were willing to sit down, look clients in the eye, and discuss matters face to face. That’s just one anecdote, but it resonates with HR executives I’ve spoken to in a variety of businesses that rely on building trust with customers.
So if you’re a digital native and you’re looking for a position in a field that requires human interaction, you’ve got your work cut out for you, and the first hurdle is landing the job. A few points to consider:
- Your interviewer may be specifically looking for evidence that you’re willing to make eye contact. Engage the interviewer — show a lively interest. This may not come easily.
- The interviewer also may be looking for evidence of your ability to pick up on nonverbal cues. Watch for and react to shifts in tone of voice or body language. One study suggests that 55% of person-to-person communication is nonverbal.
- Make clear that you understand the importance of face-to-face meetings and that you’re willing to sit down with people. If an interviewer or a questionnaire asks how you’d contact someone in a potentially fraught situation, don’t assume that email is the correct answer.
And once you get the job? That’s a whole other subject. Some researchers say the neurological changes wrought by computer use are reversible; others disagree. Even if they’re not, digital natives can train themselves to recognize the limitations of email and Facebook and choose face-to-face meetings if appropriate. They can also continually remind themselves that they may be a bit lacking in the ability to pick up on nonverbal cues — and that they need to make a special effort to pay attention.
You don’t have to earn the mayor’s title on Foursquare or have a personal YouTube channel to know that technology is profoundly changing family life.
When Ontario celebrated its first Family Day in 2008, parents eager to pry kids off the Internet for a hike could at least unplug the modem.
Five years later, that no longer does the trick, thanks to the proliferation of portable gadgets. They may come along for the hike, but so will the Smartphone.
During your day of togetherness, your kids may also be tweeting between rolls of the Monopoly dice, texting you from upstairs to see what’s for dinner or posting on their blog while out for brunch. Adults may be whipping out the BlackBerry to check emails or update their own Facebook status.
Some families may impose some tech-free togetherness.
In many ways, digital devices have made family life more complicated and subject to distraction. But they’ve also led to some interesting changes in how the generations communicate.
Foursquare, for example, is an app that families can use to check in and track each other’s whereabouts using GPS hardware.
When Alyson Schafer’s 15-year-old daughter needed to raise a distressing subject a few years ago, she sent her mom to the home office and headed into her own bedroom, where she began the conversation via instant messaging.
Mother and daughter were only steps apart, but using a keypad allowed the teen to talk about the scary subject of a friend’s eating disorder at her own pace and without scrutiny.
“This was not a conversation she could start face to face,” says Schafer, a psychotherapist and parenting author. Instead she needed to think, write and stop before hearing an adult’s reaction. Fifteen minutes later mother and daughter emerged and finished the emotional talk in person.
Amanda Lee’s children, ages 7 and 4, haven’t visited their grandparents and their extended family in Australia for several years. But the Oakville mother says they still have a relationship, thanks to regular visits using Skype.
Text messaging allows Andrew Campbell of Hamilton to keep in touch with his teenage sons on those days when they are at their mother’s.
“If I see something that interests them, I can let them know and send it immediately,” says Campbell, a teacher who is active on social media.
As someone who wants his kids to grow up to comfortable, responsible and fluent in technology, he thinks it’s important to model that too.
It’s easier to check in with kids at university or how your school-age child may be doing on a difficult day. Schafer says it also gives them an out — “my mom just texted me that I have to come home” — or a quiet way to arrange a ride if they are in social situations that make them uncomfortable.
While technology can enhance togetherness, the big challenge is not letting it take over, says Toronto filmmaker Kelli Kieley.
She loves going online with Aaron, 10, and Maia, 7, to look up answers to their questions and discovery new websites. “It’s like we’re learning and finding out information together.”
But the downside is that devices, including her own iPhone, are always beckoning. “I find our family time is way more disrupted.”
The changes and challenges were explored last week by a panel of tech-savvy parents and educators at a Toronto event hosted by Bunch, an online parenting community.
Schafer, a panellist, said being attuned to evolving social media is, like potty training, a modern parenting duty. So is understanding why kids are attracted to it, how they use it and setting limits.
As kids learn to navigate and behave responsibly, they need a safe place to bring their questions or talk about troubling things they may observe online without fear that parents will freak out or punish them.
Royan Lee, a father of three and Richmond Hill teacher who uses social media in his classroom, describes it as “a reciprocal learning arrangement” between kids and adults with many teachable moments.
His observations after teaching hundreds of kids: there’s a correlation between families who fear technology and kids who don’t behave appropriately online. When parents use technology with their kids and view it positively, kids follow, he says.
Some studies have found that technology tends to amplify the existing dynamic in a household rather than change it, by exacerbating isolation in families that don’t interact or enhancing communication between those who already have healthy and frequent conversations.
Nonetheless many parents worry that the encroachment of digital devices will undermine family life.
That’s one reason you won’t catch Jodi Lastman or her daughters with hand-held devices if they head out for a Family Day stroll. One reason is Lastman doesn’t own a cellphone. She uses social media in her marketing job and will flip open her laptop as needed when she’s at home. But she doesn’t want face time with her kids, ages 7 and 4, interrupted by the
“false urgency” of text messages and phone calls.
Technology will encroach soon enough, she says. At the moment, she prefers spending family time playing a board game, watching a movie or walking their puppy.