"Good-bye forever, former Facebook friend." Facebook defriendings are on the rise. Image: Ed Yourdan/Flickr/CC BY

The social media is apparently becoming a little less social. According to a new study, Facebook users are deleting posts, removing photo tags and unfriending so-called friends at record rates.

‘Pruning’ the social tree

The study, released Friday by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, says 63 percent of Facebook users have unfriended other users. Another 44 percent admit to deleting comments made by others. Thirty-seven percent have deleted tags on pictures. Pew calls the trend “pruning.”

Mary Madden, senior research specialist at pew and author of the report, wrote:

“Social network users are becoming more active in pruning and managing their accounts.”

Pew surveyed 2,277 adult Facebook users in the United States in May of 2011. When the survey was last conducted in 2009, only 30 percent of Facebook users admitted to defriending another user.

Changing online attitudes

The study seems to suggest that Facebook users, once trusting and open in their online socializing, have become jaded enough to take action toward protecting their privacy.

Madden wrote:

“Social science researchers have long noted a major disconnect in attitudes and practices around information privacy online. When asked, people say that privacy is important to them; when observed, people’s actions seem to suggest otherwise.”

But that’s changing. The report indicated that users are becoming increasingly concerned about privacy issues on the social networks. A full 58 percent of users employ the highest privacy settings so that only their friends can see their personal details. The trend is even stronger among women. Sixty-seven percent of female users employ the highest privacy settings. Only 48 percent of men do.

All ages

And that seems toe be the case across all age groups. Twenty-two percent of users 18 to 29 employed high-level privacy settings. The figure was 23 percent for users age 65 and over.

According to the report:

“The choices that adults make regarding their privacy settings are also virtually identical to those of teenage social media users. Private settings are the norm, regardless of age.”

Younger users, however, are still quicker to defriend others than are seniors. When broken down by ages, 71 percent of young adults have done so, as opposed to 41 percent of seniors.

The wages of regret

The study indicated that 11 percent of Facebook users say they have had regrets about things they posted on the social network. In this case, men are represented in larger numbers than women. Fifteen percent of men responding mentioned having regrets, compared to 8 percent of women.

Murder over Facebook defriending

The data all point to the rising realization that friendships on the social network have less weight than do the “real” friends we interact with in person. However, some have been known to take it to the point of deadly seriousness.

Earlier this month, a couple in Tennessee, Billy Clay Payne, Jr. and Billie Jean Hayworth, were murdered after they chose to defriend a woman, Janelle Potter. They were killed by the woman’s father, Marvin Enoch “Buddy” Potter Jr. and an accomplice named Jamie Lynn Curd.

Johnson County Sheriff Mike Reece, calling the crime”senseless,” said of the defriended woman:

“Once you’ve crossed her, you’ve crossed her father, too.”



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