February 28, 2010

Should It Be Harder to Unfollow Than to Follow?

The more we use social services, the more updates we provide, and typically, the more friend connections we make. For the most part, for most people, the number of connections we have on our active networks are steadily increasing.

With time, the sheer volume can be considered noise, and there comes a time to make a trim. But it can be surprisingly difficult to break a connection, or to break multiple connections, on most of these networks.

I thought I would take a look at some of the major networks I use to show who makes it easy, and wonder as to whether they can make it simpler to sever ties.


On Facebook, you are increasingly seeing "Add as friend" buttons from suggestions, or running into friends of friends making comments on your connections' news feed.

To add a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Click the "Add as a friend" at the top.
3. Click "Send Request".

The request will then be approved or declined.

To unfriend a connection:

1. Click their highlighted name and get redirected to their profile.
2. Scroll to the bottom of the page, and in the bottom left, click the small text: "Remove from Friends"
3. Click the "Remove from Friends" button that pops up.

The number of steps is the same, but unfriending is much less prominent, and "tucked away". As with friending an individual, with the exception of the friends suggestions page, you have to go one by one, profile by profile, and cannot unfriend in bulk.


On FriendFeed, you can see if another user is a connection or not in a few ways. Comments from friends on items have a blue discussion bubble, and those who are not have a gray one. Also, if you mouse over someone who is not a friend, you have a "Subscribe" option. Friends' boxes just show what lists they may be placed on.

To add a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click subscribe.
3. Choose what friend list to put them in and hit "Subscribe".

To unfollow a connection:

1. Mouse over their ID.
2. Click on their ID name and get redirected to their profile.
3. Click unsubscribe.

It is the same number of steps, but you have to be redirected to their profile, meaning you can't unfollow them directly from your feeds, but only on their own page. You also cannot unfollow people in bulk, but you can follow people in bulk by synchronizing with Twitter or other services, such as GMail.

Following In Google Buzz

Google Buzz

To add a connection:

1. Click the user's ID to get redirected to their profile.
2. Click Follow.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click the user's ID to redirect to their profile.
2. Where it says "You are following", click Stop.

Google Buzz doesn't directly show you how to unfollow a group at a time, but if you do find you are following many people...

1. Go to your own profile, such as: http://www.google.com/profiles/me.
2. Click "Your name" is following "The number".
3. This page will have "Unfollow" next to all your connections. Click unfollow for any you need, and you can reduce your connections quickly. It's one of the fastest ways I have ever seen to reduce your total count.

I can unfollow Rick with one click.

Google Reader

To add a connection:

1. Find a person in Google Reader.
2. Click "Follow" that person.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Click their name under "People You Follow".
2. Click "Unfollow" that person.


If somebody invites you to connect on LinkedIn, adding is easy. Just click "Accept" to get connected. Otherwise...

To add a connection:

1. Find the person's profile.
2. Click "Add this person to your network".
3. Explain the connection. (Colleague/Classmate/etc)
4. Send invitation.

Surprisingly, there is NO way to unfollow or disconnect from somebody via their profile.

To unfollow a connection:

1. Go to "My Connections" under "Contacts".
2. Click "Remove Connections"
3. Select Who You Want to Unfollow
4. Click Remove Connections
5. Confirm "Yes, Remove them"

The benefit to this process is that it is relatively simple to disconnect from many at once, but you can't preview a connection if you don't recall the relationship. It is surprising that you can't unfollow via profile.


To add a connection:

1. Go to the individual's profile
2. Click "Follow".

To unfollow a connection, there are a few ways.

1. Go to the individual's profile.
2. Select "Unfollow" from the options pull-down.


1. Click the "Following" button on your own profile.
2. Unfollow one or more people listed by clicking the "Actions" button and choosing "Unfollow" for each you want to disconnect.

In most social networks, the ability to follow anyone is relatively easy. Every profile has a button that asks you to connect. Some, like Facebook, are pushing new people to you all the time. But to reduce the connections and unfollow in bulk can be more difficult, leading to links that have since faded in importance, or can be cluttered. Twitter has done a good job to let you unfollow from multiple places, and Google Buzz makes contact management very simple, from your own profile, but there are clearly ways that most sites can improve the connection experience.