Jerusalem: Facebook users who are politically active are more likely to unfriend people whose views differ from theirs, a new study has found. In the study, users who unfriended others were more likely to be ideologically extreme and less supportive of free speech, researchers said. Those with more Facebook friends were more likely to unfriend, indicating that having a greater amount of weak ties allows for more unfriending.
Researchers at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv University in Israel found that during the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014, 16 per cent of those in the study unfriended a Facebook friend based on political comments.
An online survey was conducted among Jewish Israeli Facebook users between September 3-7, 2014 – between one week and ten days after the open-ended ceasefire of August 26, 2014. As many as 1,103 respondents representing the Israeli population on Facebook were studied. They were asked about their political activity, ideological extremity and Facebook activity during the conflict.
The researchers found that 50 per cent of the respondents reported being more active on Facebook during this time period and 16 per cent of users unfriended or unfollowed a Facebook friend for political reasons during this time period.
“People unfriend people who have different political views to theirs. 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,” said Nicholas John of the Hebrew University.
“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,” he added. The study was published in the Journal of Communication.