Among Americans 13 and older, 61% of social media users have unfollowed, unfriended, or blocked a connection on social media because of that person’s political views or posts.
As you can see in the chart below, the incidence rate of purging one’s feed of certain political opinions grows as political leanings move from conservative to liberal. Conservatives are the least likely to unfriend someone based on their political content, but half of them still say they’ve done it.
It might not shock you to hear that people who don’t enjoy interacting with someone of a different opinion, also don’t tolerate like-dissonance from political content on social media. Or that people who generally struggle to see all sides of an argument show a greater likelihood to delete friends and unfollow because of excessive political posts.
The psychographic data gets interesting when looking specifically at how people handle touchy topics. People who say they are more sensitive and diplomatic with touchy issues are actually more likely than people who are straightforward to unfriend someone based on the political views he or she shares on social media. It’s possible that unfriending or unfollowing is a subtle way to disagree without major confrontation.
Over the past several years, there has been an increase in the number of people who have gone to the trouble of unfriending someone on Facebook because of that person’s political opinion or posts. CivicScience last looked at this data in the beginning of 2018 when 36% of Americans had unfriended someone because of politics. That number is now at 39%.
It also appears Facebook lost followers between 2018, when 30% of people reported not having a profile, and 2020, when 33% reported not having a profile. A quarterly look at where Americans think Facebook’s popularity is headed shows a general negative outlook until Q2 of 2020. This past April saw a sharp change in outlook — more Americans started saying Facebook would get more popular over the next year.
Whether or not people believe Facebook’s popularity will improve because more people want to connect virtually will require further analysis. But given the fact that 2020 is an election year that’s already seen a barrage of political dissonance, we are curious to see if social platforms experience any change.
People look to social media not only for connection but also for information and ideas. The ability to customize one’s feed by unfriending or blocking accounts means many people will see and read only what they want to see and read. Practicing social distancing on social media means protecting your bubble from discordant points of view.