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L'Espresso, Italy

You Lost? I Don’t
Like You Anymore

By Carola Frediani

... the unspeakable “unfriend” practice — the removal of friends on social media and particularly on Facebook — reached its peak during the American election.

Translated By Juliana DiBona

13 November 2012

Edited by Gillian Palmer


Italy - L'Espresso - Original Article (Italian)

After the electoral defeat, Romney saw a diminishing of his “likes” on Facebook. But it turns out that the “unfriend” phenomenon actually exploded between the political rivals during the electoral campaign.

One knows that friends see each other through bad fortunes. When you are a candidate for the White House, everyone “likes” and shares your posts. But Mitt Romney, as soon as he conceded defeat, witnessed a harrowing bleeding of “likes” from his Facebook page. Some relentless social media analyst took count: 847 “dislikes” per hour. 12 million fans of the Republican politician — obviously many, but few when compared with Obama’s 33 million fans — marched away one by one, just like audience members of a boring conference.

Of course, there are also those who immediately made us a great website: DisappearingRomney.com, which counts the gradual disappearance of supporters for the defeated candidate, showing a graphic depicting the nosedive and tracing his friend count in real time, moment by moment.

But be careful: The loss of “likes,” according to some observers, can also be psychological and have to do with the very loose concept of friendship on social networks, especially if one is a politician. And it is possible that some of these “dislikes” come from voters or people who wanted to follow the Republican campaign more closely and receive updates; after the election, they just did some cleaning of daily updates from their newsfeeds.

It must be said, however, that in Obama’s case, interest has not diminished, seeing as his fans on social networks are growing; ultimately, winner appeal — and adversely, loser syndrome — may really count.

Certainly, the unspeakable “unfriend” practice — the removal of friends on social media and particularly on Facebook — reached its peak during the American election. A few months ago a study by Pew Internet and American Life Project warned that 38 percent of social media users realized (with horror?) that the political opinions of their online friends were different from what they thought. And 18 percent were ready to block, hide or terminate friendships with accounts that posted political messages contrary to their own ideas.

Although there is no reliable global data regarding the overall unfollow and unfriend trend during the election, public records of this practice are plentiful. The problem arises particularly for Twitter, which has no filters like those on Facebook, and therefore, the option is simple: Put up with the rivers of unwelcome tweets, or unfollow a user.

But applications have been built for us even in this situation. Unpolitic.me is an extension of the browser Chrome that blocks each post by a Facebook or Twitter user containing terms such as “election,” “Obama” and “Romney.” Particularly suited for those who, in those days, did not want to be invested in the river of politically motivated comments.

This is not the only one. Socialfixer is another, older, browser extension, which, among other things, filters Facebook messages based on key words, allowing one to customize the cleanup of one’s newsfeed and to adapt it to different needs.

In the case of Twitter, one can also use the app Doghouse, which allows one to unfollow users for a defined period of time. It puts them in quarantine for a short while, just enough time for a game or an election. And friendship, at least formally, is safe.



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