Fear of social repercussions may prevent Facebook users from unfriending online troublemakers, according to a small study presented at the British Psychological Society’s annual conference. The study suggests high-conflict Facebook users may also be among the most popular Facebook users, which may produce anxiety about the consequences of unfriending.
Social media is increasingly a source of tension in relationships. Online bullying from friends or strangers can be a source of stress long after a user has logged off. A 2013 report found Facebook was the leading social media site for prevalence of bullying, with 87% of users who experienced online harassment experiencing it on Facebook.
Online Conflicts May Have Offline Effects
Led by Sarah Buglass, a PhD student at Nottingham Trent University’s School of Social Sciences, researchers analyzed the Facebook relationships of 52 Facebook users ages 13-45. The analysis produced data on 5,113 contacts.
Users ranked as having a higher level of conflict also tended to be close to the study participants, regularly communicating with them offline. Their communication with participants was more limited online, suggesting study participants avoided online contact with these high-conflict Facebook users.
Buglass suggests people might not unfriend controversial friends, even when they are bothered by a high level of online conflict. Relationship problems caused by unfriending someone online can translate into issues offline, so people may remain friends even with problematic Facebook users to protect their own reputations and relationships offline.
Social Media and Relationship Conflict
A 2012 Pew Research Center survey explored online and offline relationships, as well as conflict on social media sites such as Facebook. Fifteen percent of adult social media users and 22% of teen users reported ending an offline friendship because of something that happened online. Twelve percent of adults and 25% of teens said that social media led to in-person arguments. Eleven percent of adults and 13% of teens said social media had caused problems with family members. Three percent of adult users and 8% of teens said they got into a physical fight because of something that happened on social media.
- Gayle, D. (2013, March 18). Facebook is the worst social network for bullying with 19-year-old boys the most common victims. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2294023/Facebook-worst-social-network-bullying-New-survey-showsthangsters-targeted-online-else.html
- Rainie, L., Lenhart, A., & Smith, A. (2012, February 9). Part 2: The social climate of social networking sites. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/02/09/part-2-the-social-climate-of-social-networking-sites/
- The social dilemma of dealing with Facebook troublemakers. (2016, April 27). Retrieved from http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=163453&CultureCode=en
© Copyright 2016 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved.
The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.