Internet trends: marketing research & predictions

The “unfriend” Social Cycle: Social Networks Behavior Patterns

November 18th, 2009 by and


The New Oxford American Dictionary has chosen ‘unfriend’ as its word of the year. To ‘unfriend’ means to remove someone from your friend list on a social network like Facebook or MySpace (and we extend that to a similar pattern of “unfollow”  in Twitter). “Defriend” came in as a  close rival, but unfriend takes it one step further by employing a more active and abnormal “verb sense” of the word ‘friend.’

Earlier we had stated some of the facts on Social networks:

  • An average Facebook user has 120 friend. In general he/she general trades emails or responds to the postings of only 7 closets friends. The actual number of individuals that represents his social “core network” with whom individuals “can discuss important matters”, numbers only 3 for Americans (more here).
  • Unfriending is not uncool. Success of Burger Kings Whooper application brought some evidences to the fact that its not a cardinal sin to exchange your 10 Facebook friends for a free Burger-King whooper. Within a week after its launch 82,000 people bartered over 230,000 friendships on Facebook for a whopper, till Facebook banned the app on its platform.

Read Write Web debated on that choice:

Richard MacManus thinks it’s an odd choice:

“I think that’s an odd choice for word of the year, as all the trends indicate there has been more social networking activity this past year – not less, as ‘unfriend’ implies. Facebook and Twitter have both rocketed in popularity in 2009. I’d suggest that more people have left MySpace and migrated to Facebook, than unfriended people on Facebook”.

Marshall Kirkpatrick claims:

” “unfriend” is a very appropriate word for the year as it fits with the way people are becoming more sophisticated in their social networking. People are deciding to do some editing of the friends lists they rushed naively into”.

Marshall also points to the fact that seven out of the top ten searches performed on the Facebook Help Center page are about getting rid of your own social network profiles or deleting your friends.

Our take :

Unfriend (as well as Defriend) as WOTY simply shows just how deeply social networks have infiltrated our lives. As we continue to embrace living in a highly connected digital world, we also learn to how to manage and take control of it.

In the current social – digital cycle –  people still extend the number of people they are in contact with. The average number of friends users have in Facebook is still growing (120 reported  March 2009 < 130 reported today). While the tendency to accept friendship is still a social norm in social networks – people became overwhelmed by the number of interactions they are exposed to. This brought to the unfriend behavior. We believe that as social networks will be more mature – the number of friends will finally stabilize. The stabilization process involves more control and thus much less friendship acceptance to begin with.  The growing usage and cultural importance of ‘unfriend’ possibly indicates how social networks in the coming years will be more closed and meaningful.

And for the brands in Social media the time remains ever more challenging. With 40% of the users ‘friended’ a brand on Facebook and 25% on Twitter ,’unfriending’ implies a loss of equity.

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2 Responses

  1. MS Says:

    Social networks currently are in the majority tied to “friend-to-friend” connections, but as the research shows, only a very few of those are people you actively communicate with. I think one of the most interesting innovations in Social Networking has been’s redesign which connects people-to-topics. So bringing communities together out of common topics of interest, hobbies etc. which of course leads to new friendships. Great idea.

  2. bowflex 552 Says:

    Happy Birthday Coach Wayne.
    Thanks for all you do. Enjoy the holidays.

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