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Why people unfollow you on Facebook
by Joseph Gatt
2014-07-23 08:08:59
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Like many, I use Facebook a lot and I did find it useful. Being a Ph.D. student, there are academic groups which discuss topics relevant to my fields of research, conferences are announced, there are calls for papers, journals are promoted. I can friend famous researchers in my field, follow famous people and catch up with the news.

A few months ago I discovered to my horror that Facebook, just like Twitter, had an “unfollow” option where people’s posts would no longer appear on the person’s newsfeed. No wonder I was getting fewer and fewer likes. I conducted an informal survey interviewing people on why people unfollow other people.

It turns out patterns started appearing. Here’s why (by order of frequency of responses) it is likely you are being massively unfollowed:

1. They haven’t met you in a long time, or have never met you

The most frequent response I got for people unfollowing other people is that they met on facebook, or met at a random event just once and never intend to meet the person again. Many told me that they don’t unfollow their close friends regardless of how annoying their posts may be.

Unfollowing is the polite version of unfriending, you stop getting news in the newsfeed, but you still don’t want to hear about the person.

2. They post too frequently

One surprising response I got a lot is that people tend to unfollow their friends because their friends simply post too frequently. When I asked how frequently is too frequently, I was told that anything more than one post “every now and then” is too much.

I asked why posting too frequently was so annoying. I was told that often people post things that they have no interest in, that are repetitive or that they are too tempted to read.

3. They try to promote themselves too much

Some people told me that some of their friends had the tendency to use Facebook for self-promotion purposes, but that they really had no interest in seeing their friends progress in their work. Some also told me that some posted too many pictures of themselves.

Often the people they unfollowed “documented every step of their life” or “posted stuff why is too personal”.

4. They use Facebook for propaganda purposes

Many of those who I talked to said they didn’t want to get the kind of religious or political propaganda some like to put on Facebook, such as praising one religion or political party, or dismissing another religion or political party.

More surprisingly, some people also viewed human rights, animal rights or vegetarianism as propaganda.

5. They whine too much

Some people just seem to be having a bad day all the time. For people who post about their problems all the time, it seems to affect their private relationships with others as well. I have been told several times that when people tended to complain or be too negative on Facebook, that they tend to avoid them outside Facebook as well.

Now here’s a list of people who DON’T get unfollowed on Facebook

1. Close friends or best friends

I was told that it was very hard to unfollow a close friend, for obvious reasons I suppose. Though close friends can be a double edged sword: many told me they had been offended by what their close friends, or that their close friends had been rude to them on Facebook.

2. People who post pictures of interesting things

I was told that people who posted pictures were rather pleasant. Whether it be pictures of food or architecture or nature. However, people who posted pictures of their private lives or too many personal pictures tended to be unfollowed.

3. People who don’t post frequently, but when they post, it’s always surprising

I was told about a category of people who seldom use Facebook, who ended up being so mysterious that the occasional post unravels some of the mystery. Such people were seldom unfollowed.

What I learned from my informal survey is that I should have many friends outside Facebook and that I shouldn’t post too frequently. Apparently being mysterious on Facebook has its rewards, when you post that rare picture or post you get all the attention, before you disappear again.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-07-23 10:13:37
I do not subscribe to Facebook and so do not have the dilemma of being followed or unfollowed, of catching up or not catching up. Perhaps the question "catching up to what" is relevant here.

I do write for Ovi magazine though and I keep on trusting that it is the issues that get the interest and not the announcer who places them on the table; which is another way of saying that to confuse the messenger and the message is to run the risk of following banalities.

Murray Hunter2014-07-23 13:18:19
Thanks for the little piece of research and reporting you have done in this article. I enjoyed reading your straightforward approach. Best of luck with your PhD.

Mirella Ionta2014-07-23 22:16:25
Hi Akli, I think the reason listed as your number one is the most common. People usually have a high tolerance with complainers, show-offs, etc. ( we are used to Hollywood images after all) but it feels really impersonal when you barely know a person, and you end up adding this person for whatever reason, and then you don't even speak with them nor see them for a few months.

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