What Hurts Your Facebook Friends?With Facebook and other social networking websites such an integral part of many people’s lives, you have to wonder — what kinds of things do people do that hurt their social networking “friends?”

It’s a brave new world online, where a misstep on a social networking website like Facebook can result in hurt feelings between real friends.

A researcher was interested in figuring out (Tokunaga, 2011) which of our online behaviors on social networking websites were more likely to lead to the greatest hurt feelings amongst our online “friends.” He found three specific things a person can do that can lead to hurt feelings on sites such as Facebook and Myspace.

Here’s what he found out.

25 Comments to
What Hurts Your Facebook Friends?

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  1. I had to come off FB because clients wanted to be friends (I’m a therapist) and I was having to explain the ethical reasons why I couldn’t accept – for the reasons stated above I had to write to each one individually. It became too complicated. Unfortunately you can’t ever really ‘leave’ FB and after hearing the stories of clients who are obsessed with ‘scratching the sore bit’ by constantly checking and being further hurt and confused I’m inclined to think it perpetuates childhood hurts, fears and rivalries into the 20′s and beyond.

    • Easy solution: in an early session w/a client, let them know your policy is to not friend clients on facebook. With established clients, explain that you respect their right to privacy outside of the office, and that ethical considerations make a facebook relationship inappropriate (which I believe they do/dual relationships).

      • And make sure your security settings are as tight as humanly possible. You may even want to set up a private account under a pseudonym for family and friends. You’d be amazed at the amount of info a client can obtain just by going through someone’s pictures, other friends, etc. (I know, I’ve done it)
        It’s a scary social world out there, my friend!

  2. With regard to ignored/rejected friend requests, I don’t accept friend requests from strangers unless they include a message with the request, such as “Hey, I see we’re both friends w/Bob and seem to like the same kind of music.” Without that, or having seen them in a lot of the same comment threads in which I participate, I do not accept the request. And yes, I always sent an “intro note” with any friend request I make.
    Re: removing tags/posts, done both. The pics for the reasons mentioned by the authors. Comments only if they get rude or thoroughly inappropriate to other thread participants (I encourage a lot of debates on my facebook wall).
    Friend “hierarchy” is just plain silly and juvenile. I wouldn’t have that person in RL (real life); why would I want to have someone so petty and self-involved as a facebook friend, either?
    Great topic, btw!

  3. Great topic!

    My therapist asked me if I would like to be his friend on facebook. I said no. I believe our relationship ends when the therapy session ends. We are separate individuals outside his office. I reject people on facebook for the reason that I don’t want to be close to anyone I do not know. I don’t understand where a person gets 200 “friends”. I limit my friends to family, a few classmates, and friends I see in public.

  4. I work as an aide in a special education facility, and we have strict rules about making fb ‘friends’ with current students. I changed my name some time ago so it is not my real name, although this confuses people sometimes, it means nobody else can add me easily. I also have security turned to the highest setting and double check it regularly.

  5. I had a “friend” read me the riot act on MY facebook wall. I decided it was bad enough to suffer verbal abuse when we can’t control it by others, but to CONDONE IT ON MY OWN WALL was rediculous. It was empowering to say “um, no, you don’t get to be mean to me on my own wall.” delete. BTW, I have two facebook accounts. On my “real name” account, I had family, clients and friends. My family is so dysfunctional they started posting stuff on there that was totally inappropriate for my clients to read and then started messaging my clients and friends about me. I deleted everyone who was not family. THEN opened a new one, under a pseudonym, for everyone who is NOT family. friends. People I can be real and political and a woman-loving woman with. Our families are not always our friends and it’s ok to keep the two separate. We have a right to private lives away from family and to set firm boundaries. We are adults now. We can just say no. BTW, I left the family account because of my niece. I wanted to be able to see my great nieces pix that she uploads. It’s ok to make it about “us” sometimes. setting limits on facebook can be good practice for real life. I am never offended if someone uses facebook to practice setting limits for their life. I don’t have to make it all about MY feelings! We don’t have to personalize things all the time. and WE can’t use facebook to say things to friends – in public – that is hurtful. We would then deserve to lose them as “real life” friends. We are not here to hurt other people. anonymity and the internet does not always bring out the best in people. Many times, brings out the worst sadly. Just read youtube comments. terrible.

  6. oh, btw, I am NOT a T – I have a “friendly” career where there does not have to be a line between clients and friends. I think it’s totally inappropriate to be friends with your Therapist on facebook. OR even to have a FB account under your real name if you are a Therapist. (esp if you have loose privacy settings!) It’s too easy to use FB to stalk someone. It’s what my family did to me. and clients are always curious about their T’s life… it’s too tempting for the client. We have all googled our therapists right? I even found pix of the inside of her house online once. It’s just too tempting to want to know more about this person who knows so much about us. It’s up to the Therapist to put up the boundaries and teach by example. Just my thoughts… and wanted to clarify my above “client” remarks.

  7. It is even simpler than that. Facebook personal profiles as such are destined for private use. If you want something professional, use the appropriate kind of page (destined to personalities and companies) instead. The private page should then have the appropriate settings (meaning you can set a profile as invisible to anyone else than friends, besides using a nickname if needed).
    Let’s not turn facebook into a professional link – for that you have different options.
    Being popular also takes choosing the right means of communication in the right way.
    I understand yours is a risky job. I also understand you may need pubicity.If you decide to get out in such a crowded place like facebook, you can protect yourself somehow by using it’s facilities to the extent you need.

  8. Much appreciation for this article, and for research of this kind. I am curious about how the results of this study might have been different if conducted with different age groups.
    I included this article in my blog. It deserves to be shared widely. I vote for more exploration and conversation of this kind. Greater awareness and wisdom are needed in the face of Facebook!

  9. Just say NO! Facebook is great for gaining access to long lost friends, but the harm it can do to existing relationships is monumental! One misunderstood comment (which research shows can tend to be interpreted negatively if the person has that pre-existing schema) and your relationships are destroyed!

    It is a lot like attending a party but forgetting you were at the party. A person has the illusion of engaging in a one-on-one conversation with the “friend” who posts a message on their wall, but everyone sees it. I have posted something, thinking only the friend (who knows me well) would read it, only to be chastised by another individual acquaintance who took offense to my comment. This seems to cause a volatile situation for all, since it is a lot like eavesdropping. For this reason, I stopped using it altogether, except to connect with friends from high school. In that situation, I only send private messages.

    One story: My daughter (who was living with her boyfriend for several years) finally got engaged. We had been waiting for a very long time to hear these words, yet her instinct was to take a picture and post it on her Facebook page. She could not comprehend why her family was hurt! It had not occurred to her that we felt slighted to be told at the same time a nominal acquaintance was told!

    Another story: When she posted the picture of the ring, she wrote that it was a man-made diamond. I mistook this for being a cubic zirconium and asked why her fiance went that route. Thinking it was a cheap ring and she was making a joke of it herself, I joked about it not quite being April Fool’s Day. She was hurt. (I did not know man-made diamonds were made of carbon, not zirconium silicate.) The hurt feelings went around like wildfire. After analyzing what occurred, we realized:
    1. She was acting on an impulse by posting a picture of the ring (and seeing it in person provides a very different perspective.)
    2. My reaction was based on my limited understanding of the difference of CZ from “man-made” diamonds.
    3. Had she shown me in person, I would have been able to ask what the difference between the two were, after seeing her reaction to the statement.

    The whole facial expression component is eliminated on SNS resulting in mixed messages, wrong interpretations and hurt feelings. Even micro-expressions are caught by the human eye, and people read these and adjust their in-person statements accordingly. The Facebook Phenomenon prevents all that, resulting in damaged feelings.

    This is why I suggest avoiding it. The limitations of the existing programming do not accommodate these deficiencies.

  10. It’s so great to see an article on how our actions on facebook can hurt just as bad as a face-to-face or telephone rant! No medium is immune from the potential of hurting us as we humans have the innate propensity to hurt and be hurted, in turn.
    This research goes to show that we can be hurt and proclaim it without being shunted off as ‘weak’.

  11. Pushed/”forced” into it by people who simply started to refuse to communicate in any other way. Relented, only to find my posts and comments(few and nice)nearly always ignored, despite very selective friend list–people one might assume would actually care. People making plans, publicly excluding me (and this from the very ones who insisted I join!) FB. Connect? Ha! It was like the cruelties of jr. high all over again. Way too old for that nonsense.

    I agree with the reasons given in the article for the potential for hurt on FB (and understanding the practical reasons they aren’t necessarily meant to be mean). Even having personally experienced none of those particular ones there are so many forms actual rejection can take on SNS, it’s (to me) not worth it, especially having MI (bipolar, with more time on the depressive end). The edge is too close already.

    Quit FB. Haven’t regretted it for one second. Improved mental stability to boot. :-)

  12. What I find upsetting and very rude now days is the huge lack of simple civility not only on sites such as facebook and just in general now days is not being respectful of the replying to a note, post, message sent to someone. Here is my personal viewpoint and I think that is is very respectful and proper and correct.
    If I or a person takes the time to send a proper message to a group, single person then a reply is warranted just because the sending took their person time and energy to so do. If only something as simple and all so very easy to do and not requiring a lot of time or much thought – “I did receive your comment.” So many folks now days feel that they do need nor are required to acknowledge that true fact that another live living person did personally take of their own just as valuable time and energy to contact that person. It is like when do I send a hand written Thank you note, and just in my own most humble of opinion Vera Wang produces some of the best quality note cards,is if another person exerted their own physical to do something just for me. If they took of their time then I for sure can give them the very same amount of personal respect.

  13. Perhaps I’m approaching this from a “business” perspective or “professional networking” viewpoint as I would very much like to start a blog/website and see it grow, and have been informed that social media sites offer an added boost to build readership and “followers.”

    That said, how does one even begin to USE Facebook if one has 0 “real life” friends and no contacts even online? :-(

    No one in my family even knows how to use the computer (which may be a good thing). I was bullied all my life throughout high school and college. I do not have a job and thus no co-workers. Basically I am extremely shy and very much a shut-in. :-(

    But perhaps I’m a bit misinformed about the idea (or current implementation) of “social networking” websites. Can someone clarify if one needs real-world “friends” to form the basic groundwork of a social media presence, or if it’s possible (albeit more difficult) to form a steady if not exponential growth in contact quantity (versus, obviously, quantity) with purely superficial contacts?

    I’m not a bad person or anything; just very shy and have dealt with a miserable past and scars of abuse that I’m trying very hard to overcome. :-)

  14. The negatives presented in the prior dialogues are real and expand beyond facebook interactions. As part of society, we already adapt to these behaviors in our daily settings. Having many friends on fb including several therapists, former bosses, current bosses, Church leaders, clubs members, classmates of the past, and current friends, this media has become an excellent source of communicating and growing my social interaction skills. I find it odd that a profession that has evolved to help in these areas is protesting its use. Primarily leveraging ethics / barriers as a reason. Embracing change within a profession that promotes and helps clients adapt to change would be insightful. It is my hope this profession remains engaged and embraces the evolution of societies emerging communication models.

  15. Deleting the comments after a long discussion in a wall. its the worst thing which hurt to other people.

  16. The thing that has hurt me most on Facebook is the realization that my extended family and old friends don’t care about me. Last year, I was in severe pain for most of the summer, which ended in major surgery. I almost died. None of my extended family wished me well or ever checked up on me after the surgery to see how I was doing. I’ve tried rationalizing it by telling myself that they didn’t see my posts, but I know they did.

    I, on the other hand, go out of my way to be considerate and to let people know they’re in my thoughts during rough times.

    I’ve also found that people are not very supportive in other ways. I’m a professional writer and artist, and I’ve received very little positive input about my work from old writer friends and family on Facebook. That’s hurtful too as I suffered a huge career setback a few years ago and am struggling to make a comeback. I’d thought they were rooting for me, that they believed in me–instead I realize that they could care less. I received two likes on a sample of my latest published artwork.

    Maybe it sounds extreme, but I’ve been terribly hurt and depressed over these issues for the past year. It has made me feel alientated and somewhat bitter. It has certainly made me feel much less affectionate for some of my family and old friends. I’ve come to believe that Facebook is destructive.

    • Hello Desiree,
      The problems you’ve experienced because of facebook are familiar to many people. I have to admit, i’m not always a fan of the site & sometimes prefer the days before it. The whole concept of the online “document of your life & contacts” rather strange, its basically a blog, but we get one it without realizing it. I decided to delete my account as i wasn’t using it & found people were different online than in real life which was confusing “e.g someone messaging you online but not speaking to you in real life etc) Facebook is full of strange behavior. My boyfriend rarely uses his & somewhat unfortunately I have one again now because i moved to a new area & my friend asked me to get it.

      I’m sorry that the site has made you feel like this. Remember that people use the site in many different ways. Some use it just to keep in contact with people they don’t get to see much, others use it as their main way of socializing, some don’t use it at all, others use it because they feel they have to, as many of their friends use it.

      Some people you know may find it hard to reach out online – they maybe very shy & find the idea that their exchanges online are basically public – which is not how it works in real life. When you talk with a friend in real life, you don’t document everything it show it to everyone you know – this is a bit like what facebook does.

      I don’t believe the site was made with the best intentions either. It really does seem like a popularity thing at times (this is not to say it doesn’t have its positives, people have used the site for good, to raise awareness for just causes and reconnected with long lost friends). From experience, I cant only say, concentrate on the people you know in real life (who you connect with face to face) & your relationships with them.

      I think its great that you show support to those who need it, this is a beautiful thing. Unfortunately some people have so much going on in their lives that even if you ask for support, they may not see your message & its gets lost in the ether. Other people are just so wrapped up in their own goings on that they don’t stop to think “Maybe so & so could use a little support here”.

      It is painful when family & old friends don’t give us the support we’d like. I find the best way to be is just accept how they are, I can’t change that, but I do have power over how i feel. Never take it personally when your family don’t support you, this is harder than it sounds, but we have no choice in who were relate to in blood (my family have never been close) but we can make our own families from the good people in our lives. If we do get on with family members than this is a great plus. If you died (touch wood) your friends and family would care, but people are too stupid sometimes to realize what they’ve have before its too late.

      People you know who are not writers/artists will probably not appreciate how much time & effort you put into you work, therefore they may not give you the support you need there. This isn’t personal. For this i would suggest websites/forums/other themed social websites, where you can meet other writers/artists who will take more interest in your work. Just off the top of my head, Tumblr is much better than facebook for nurturing your creative side (I’m an artist myself). On Tumblr there are again many people using it for many reasons but its much more media based (photos/art/videos/text) & after a while you will find people who’s work you like & can follow & people will follow you & you you can bounce ideas off each other. I’ve had a Tumblr for a little while & the community on there are very friendly & supportive. I can see how i could make a friend in real life on Tumblr, an its definitely not a popularity contest, its about sharing ideas, looking at artwork & having a laugh. You can search for other people according to interest, or just explore & see what cool people you find.

      This is just one of the other websites out there of course that could be great for your interests & career in writing/art. Facebook isn’t the is all & end all, one day it will fade into the background just like so many other things. Please don’t let it make you feel bad anymore. Try something different that may be a wonderful addition to your life, you don’t have to get rid of your facebook if you don’t want but, remember, its just a website in the end.

      Concentrate on friends who support you in real life & forgive those who don’t support you, one day they may realize what a true friend you are. Sometimes they won’t, this doesn’t matter. Don’t let bitterness eat up your life, it does it to us all sometimes, but we have the choice to decide “I’m not going to feel like this today, life’s too short.” Love yourself & be the support that you need, nurture your art and yourself.
      Peace and love to you. (sorry for extremely long reply!)

      • Martha,

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. I appreciate it. You’ve given me a lot to think about. I do think I need some new friends, and will try to hook up with more writers. I used to run a writer’s forum; maybe I’ll start one up again.

        I do think people in general are becoming more selfish and into themselves. They don’t seem to care much about anyone else. I don’t know if it’s a product of the social networking sites or merely a revelation of something that existed beforehand.

        I only know that I’m on the verge of closing my account. I just posted the news yesterday about the publication of a novel I’ve worked on 12-14 hours a day for the past year. The news received three likes and one comment from nearly 300 family and friends. I was terribly upset about that. I thought, at the very least, that friends and family would congratulate me.

        Meanwhile, one of my friends, a middle-aged married man, posted a “babe” photo of three skimpily-dressed women showing their backsides–nearly pornographic. It received numerous likes and comments.

    • Ditto! The same happened to me actually this i would rank number 1! My old high school friends when a swarm was found i friend requested them i was as happy as a puppy dog, gullible. Now almost a year later, not one single off-facebook approach. Sucks! Now its like as if nothing happened i just get extra status updates on my news page. But nothing ever special :(

    • Hi Desiree,

      Just wanted to add my sympathies. I understand fully how you feel. In Dec 09 I lost my son to Leukemia and am approaching the anniversary of his passing which also happens to coincide with the holidays, unfortunately.

      This is an extremely hard time for me and I have poured my heart out on my wall as I like to use it as a therapeutic journal of sorts.

      It DOES hurt a great deal when only a couple people out of many offer a few kind words when other peoples superficial status updates I E things like “Giftmas music is playing in all the malls, I luvs it!!!” And “wassup girlfriends, just bought some new bling” get tons of comments.

      I always try to be supportive as well when a friends post calls for it even though as I’ve stated, the favor is returned far less often.

      I feel your pain, Desiree. But just remember that most people are shallow and can’t handle heavy duty emotion. We are the better people because we FEEL.

      • Marcy, I’m sorry about your loss. I wish there was something I could say to ease your pain.

        I understand how you feel about those superficial status updates. I too have been upset when I’ve posted something of significance only to be ignored in favor of a cute kitten photo or something of the like.

        If you don’t have one, you might want to try a blog for a grief journal. And I don’t know if you’re familiar with the site, but findagrave is a great place to connect with others who are grieving. A few years ago, when I lost someone I loved, it helped me a lot.

        I think you’re right. A lot of people are shallow. I’m glad to know that there are some caring people out there like you.

  17. I feel the pain of those in this discussion forum. In the past year and a half, I have been using Facebook and other networks for variuos causes; many of the people I have added to my page are those with very definite agendas. I’m frustrated because I feel have been going out of my way to repost a lot of their material, sign and share their petitions, join and share their pages, and basically to try my best to be, as much as one can be online, a real friend to as many as possible. During this time, I have applied to volunteer with two organizations that offer online volunteer positions. I tried applying to one organization last year and to another this year. In both cases, I had been an avid supporter of the nonprofits and had “friended” people with the nonprofits. In both cases, I was rejected for what I see as unsound reasons. Now, I’m turned off to nonprofits and vounteering. Now I realize that I should not take things personally and I try not to, but with my background of being bullied for differences and my problems growing up, I’m quite sensitive. I have begun a fairly new blogspot and a Facebook page to go with it, using this as a forum to use my experiences to help others. I feel like many people on my pagem, no matter what they post, whether shallow or profound, tend to get more “likes” and comments than I do. I don’t know if it’s because many of them know each other outside of social networks but I suspect this may be one big reason. I hate it when people don’t return my messages, too. It tells me that I’m not worth the time it takes to return a message. I try to return messages (unless they are mass messages or form messages). I’m not posting as I usually do, though I’m still maintaining my blogspot and page that goes with it. YOu are more than welcome to check out my page and blogspot and connect with me there.

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  19. I had posted a comment in December of last year and still stand by everything I said in it. I had read many of the comments in this thread. I see that one person got a response to his comment. I know that the article that thse comments are based on says that when someone deletes your comments, posts or unfriends you, there is often a good reason. I agree, but only to a point. People always, no doubt, believe that when they delete posts, comments, or unfriend another user, that they have good and legitimate reasons. This isn’t always the case. Lot of it is petty and even mean-spirited. In my case, I regret having allowed many users into my network. I have two accounts and people have been giving me a hard time, whether through griping about my posts, telling me not to post on their walls about my causes, and I have felt ignored or snubbed because of unreturned messages or posts without “likes” or comments. I know that I’m sensitive and many would say, oversensitive. On this past Friday, when I vented about this very matter, another user said I should “relax a little.” With my past of lots of bullying (not only by peers but by some adults) and what I believe to be an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, I find “lightening up” difficult to do. Recently, I was unfriended by a user whom I was formerly on very good terms with and I know it probably stems from pain in her own past. But it was a terrible misunderstanding and her close ties with a popular movement and the Founder of it, who is being exposed as unethical and even criminal. Even if I get no comment on this comment, I would love it if I can share the links to my blogspot and Facebook page here so people can follow the blog and “like” the page.

    https://www.facebook.com/#!/ldesherl
    This is my Facebook page on which my blogspot is based.

    http://ldesherl.blogspot.com/
    This is my blogspot, which deals with a variety of topics.

    Blessed Easter, Happy Passover or whatever people seeing this observe!

  20. I have had one friend who has hurt my feelings repeatedly by deleting pictures and or posts we were tagged in together. It doesn’t happen often (it’s only happened about 4 or 5 times over 5 years) and you would think that the Spanish Armada was invading their profile or that the posts were completely inappropriate. Finally, the last time I couldn’t take it anymore and just removed them as a friend. I want to send them an email to tell them why but it just seems awkward since it is “just Facebook,” and for that reason it seems so juvenile. But clearly, the power to hurt feelings is still there so it shouldn’t be viewed as such.

    • Julie, I understand your friend’s feelings. I wouldn’t want someone posting photos of me online without permission either. For one thing, I’d feel that it violates my privacy. For another, I may hate the photo and not want my others to see it.

      And perhaps she didn’t want certain other people on her friend list to see the photos or posts for countless other reasons–maybe she has something to hide. But I doubt the reason she deleted the posts or photos was a reflection of her feelings about you.

      I certainly don’t like people putting photos, etc. on my wall. Not only do I feel that it’s my space, but it also clutters it up and may obscure something important that I wish my other friends and family to know.

      I know you posted this back in April, but I don’t think it’s too late to save your friendship. I think you should talk to this friend, hear her side of the story…and, if you’re truly a friend, listen to what she has to say and respect her wishes.

      • Desiree, I do not know why he untags himself from photos, chooses to delete posts or comments. All I know is that he does, it hurts my feelings and it has happened enough for it to be a pattern. I feel more hurt than happiness by this so I’m honoring myself first. He can still control his public image and I can choose to protect my feelings.

  21. Julie, keep in mind that sometimes comments don’t post on FB. I’ve had that happen to me many times–even on my own wall. At any rate, if you feel that this friend purposely hurt you, then removing him was the best decision. Who needs hurt like that? Life is hard enough.

    I too have removed some hurtful friends recently, and I don’t regret it.

    I’d closed my account for a while and felt a lot better, but then I started worrying about staying in touch with out-of-state friends and family. I returned, only to find myself hurt and resentful again.

    I stand by what I said in an earlier post: FB is not a good place. It’s destructive to relationships. The only good thing about it is that it’s an eye-opener. You quickly find out who your true friends are. I learned that many of my close relationships were much more superficial than I’d thought. I also learned that those in my close circle didn’t have as much respect for or interest in me as I’d thought. That has been painful to come to terms with and has caused me a great deal of depression, but it has resulted in growth. I no longer need their validation.

  22. I know this thread is a year old and possibly closed now, but the issue is not. Facebook continues to be a tool to hurt people. I am an adult with a business so have a personal and business page. I’m selective about my friends but have managed to amass 125 people, all who are family or are real friends in life and would not hesitate to call them up for dinner if I lived in the same state. My daughter just asked her boyfriend of a year for a “break”. Within three days she realized she missed him and was getting ready to call him the next day when he sent her a text and a facebook message telling her he couldn’t do break, they were done, he wouldn’t talk about it and goodbye. Within an hour he had deleted my daughter (understandable) and me! He got his mother, sister, roommate and cousin to delete my daughter. I think this hurt more than the breakup. Yes, he was immature and if he loved her he would have fought for her, or at least given her 4 days! I gave him excuses, he as hurt, whatever, for a couple of days but I saw the hurt that came when everyone else deleted my girl. She closed her account to not see the drama any more. But she’s hurt. A silly facebook account “unfriend” button has brought her to her knees, forget about losing the boyfriend! Yes, facebook can hurt…big time.

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