Politically-active Facebook users are more likely to 'unfriend' people who do not conform to their own outlook, says a new study. Users who unfriended others were more likely to be ideologically extreme and less supportive of free speech, the researchers said.
"These findings suggest that the people most likely to unfriend are younger, more politically active, more active on Facebook, have lots of friends, and have more extreme political views," said co-lead researcher Nicholas John from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
The study found that during the Israel-Gaza conflict in 2014, 16 percent of those in the study unfriended a Facebook friend based on political comments. John and Shira Dvir-Gvirsman from Tel Aviv University conducted an online survey among Jewish Israeli Facebook users between September 3 and September 7, 2014.
That was one week and 10 days after the open-ended ceasefire of August 26, 2014. The survey included 1,103 respondents representing the Israeli population on Facebook. They were asked about their political activity, ideological extremity and Facebook activity during the conflict.
The researchers found that 50 percent of the respondents reported being more active on Facebook during this time period and 16 percent 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," John said. The study was published in the Journal of Communication.