Facebook may be an ideal way for many people to keep in touch and keep their friends informed on their personal stories, yet it seems that its features and how they are used have been making the news themselves over recent weeks.

“Dislike” option on the cards

Many readers will have heard about the potential development for a new “Dislike” option to be introduced. The existing “Like” option available to users did not (in many people’s view) allow them to show empathy when responding to a posting concerning a serious or sad event. Founder Mark Zuckerberg listened to his users but affirmed that the introduction of a new button would not “down-vote” people’s posts, which had been an initial concern with the concept.

Tribunal ruling of bullying

Elsewhere, psychological ramifications over Facebook usage have arisen in Australia, after a decision to “unfriend” a co-worker has been incorporated into an industrial tribunal that ruled evidence of bullying against an estate agent.

The “unreasonable behaviour” decision Down Under arose after Tasmanian sales administrator, Lisa Bird “unfriended” a fellow employee from Facebook. That decision, allied to no longer greeting the co-worker in the morning at work, was deemed to be tantamount to bullying in the eyes of the tribunal. Furthermore, it was accepted that Rachael Roberts had suffered anxiety and depression as a consequence of being shunned by her colleague.

“Unfriending” can have emotional impacts

The feelings of alienation and exclusion associated with being “unfriended” on Facebook are not unusual in Society.

Behind the decision to disconnect from someone who had previously been a firm friend can lay a number of explanations, with several studies having been carried out into the potential fallout as a result.

Research confirms potential consequences

In 2013, a study by the University of Colorado Denver explored the possible repercussions of the action.

Christopher Sibona, a doctoral student at the university’s Business School at the time, concluded that what people do on social networks can have real world consequences.” His findings suggested that 40% of those people surveyed would avoid someone who unfriended them on Facebook in real life. The decision to avoid contact seemed more marked among women than men.

His findings confirmed that as society becomes ever more connected via the Internet, the manner in which relationships develop will change. As the usage of Facebook and other social networks increases, online dependence will diminish our communications made face to face. That creates its own issues for human interactions, as the online alternative has a very distinct set of rules and etiquette in place.

Some may still view Facebook as a bit of ‘fun’ but clearly its usage and impact should be carefully considered, so perhaps employ caution before making that “unfriendly” click or it may come back to haunt you.