Affiliations: [a] University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany | [b] University of Applied Sciences Ruhr-West, Germany
Address for correspondence: Prof. Dr. Nicole Krämer, University of Duisburg-Essen, Social Psychology – Media and Communication, Forsthausweg 2, 47057 Duisburg, Germany. Tel.: +49 203 379 2482; Fax: +49 203 379 3670; [email protected]
Abstract: Although recent research demonstrates that people deem a considerable number of their Facebook friends dispensable, they nevertheless refrain from deleting a large number of contacts. While there are first studies on the reasons why users decide to “unfriend” contacts, there is no research on the motives for keeping social contacts even though they are identified as deletable. Based on assumptions of the need to belong theory (Baumeister & Leary, 1995), we conducted two exploratory studies (an interview study, N = 18, and a subsequent online survey, N = 255) to determine reasons for refraining from deleting dispensable contacts. A think-aloud element in the interviews confirmed that participants were willing and able to identify dispensable contacts but that only a minor proportion of these were actually deleted. Reasons for not deleting were related first and foremost to the relationship and the fear of eventually losing the possibility for contact. The online survey demonstrated that the individual need to belong predicts the number of friends but not the number of friends that have already been deleted.
Keywords: Need to belong, unfriending, social networking sites, social media, mixed methods