Don't say we didn't warn you...
Have you recently gone to stalk an old friend of yours, only to find you’ve been a victim of the unfriend button? That indignation and sinking feeling happens to the best of us when we discover we’ve been included in a cull, but if you’re getting unfriended more than you think is fair, there may be a reason: it’s your political views.
A new study published in The Journal of Communication, called ‘I Don’t Like You Anymore’, concluded that unfriending people on social media is ‘a new kind of political gesture’.
A joint study by the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University examined 1,103 Jewish Israeli Facebook users during the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014, with participants being asked about their political activity, ideological extremity and Facebook activity during the time period.
The researchers found that during the region’s politically unstable times, 16% of study participants had clicked the unfriend button on a Facebook friend based on their political comments, shares or views, while 50% reported being more active on Facebook.
They also found that those who unfriended others were more likely to be extreme ideologically, and to be less supportive of free speech. Additionally, they realised that those with more Facebook friends were more likely to hit ‘unfriend’.
‘People unfriend people who have different political views to theirs,’ said Nicholas John of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
‘We already know that Facebook and search engines provide us with a feed and search results that are tailored to us. By unfriending we are further contributing to the formation of echo chambers and filter bubbles.
‘More than that, these findings suggest that the people most likely to unfriend are younger, more politically active, more active on Facebook, have lots of Facebook friends, and have more extreme political views — these are important people in online discussions.’