A history of features for online tie breaking, 1997-2021

Nicholas John*, Dekel Katz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Online spaces provide opportunities for creating ties with other people, allowing us to communicate and share content with them. Sometimes, though, we wish to break some of these ties; we wish not only to friend and to follow, but to unfriend and unfollow as well. In this paper, we present a history of the many features for online interpersonal disconnectivity, showing how they have developed over time. We present five main findings: the language of tie breaking is consistently bureaucratic; over time, the features for tie breaking tend to operate on the feed rather than on social ties themselves; platforms are more reactive than proactive when it comes to tie breaking features; new ways for preventing interactions are launched over time; and the features for tie breaking sometimes create what we call “impossible social situations.” This approach shines a spotlight on a neglected aspect of social media, and opens up new ways of thinking about how the platforms conceive of–and construct–online sociability.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)237-253
Number of pages17
JournalInternet Histories
Volume7
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.

Keywords

  • Unfriend
  • Wayback Machine
  • block
  • tie breaking
  • unfollow
  • unsociality

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