As 'Who Deleted Me' gains popularity, we asked a therapist about the psychological effects of checking to see who's clicked "unfriend"
There is no denying that your time on social media can affect your psyche. (How Bad Are Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for Mental Health?) Whether it's the satisfaction of getting enough likes on your Instagram to turn from names to a number (10-plus, not that we're counting...) or the jealousy over a friend's perfect pull-up, what you're scrolling through matters. That's why a new app that allows you to see who unfriended you on Facebook is so popular—and so dangerous for your mental health.
Who Deleted Me saves your Facebook friend list the moment you download it, and then updates when you log back in on which of your friends have deleted you or deactivated their accounts. It's hardly the first of its kind; similiar apps like Who Unfollowed Me and Friend or Follow exist to track followers on Twitter and Instagram, and there have been other versions of a tracker for Facebook too. Through a mystery of virality, though, Who Deleted Me gained 330,000 of its 500,000 users in the last month. The rapid curiosity actually caused outages and crashes over the July Fourth weekend.
We get it—the reasons why someone would unfriend you on Facebook are as enticing and mysterious as why that random girl threw you shade on the street. But more importantly, why do you care? "People respond to unfriending in many different ways," says Julie Gurner, a New York-based clinical therapist who studies culture and technology. "Some are amused and dismissive, some are hurt and saddened. But the type of people who would closely monitor their friends list are the type to most likely to feel hurt."
It's like a self-fulfilling prophecy of unpopularity, in a way. Those who monitor might be hyper vigilant to rejection, Gurner adds. "And this app puts the rejection front and center."
That may suggest that anyone who downloads the app to start is crazy insecure, but Gurner isn't surprised the tracker is so wildly popular. "The trend now is to monitor as many things as we can about our lives," she explains. "We can track our fitness, our sleep, our steps in a day. From a psychological perspective, we might be curious about who is unfriending us and when."
As for why that girl in your ninth grade art class has now unfriended you, well, there are countless reasons you might not want to see someone's status or photos or shared articles on Facebook. "One of the most common groups to be unfriended are people we knew from high school, who tend to make statements politically that we don't agree with," says Gurner. That sounds about right. But because there are so many ways to ignore a friend on Facebook, like unfollowing or hiding or just not liking their stuff, an actual unfriending is a solid statement of rejection, she adds. "It can feel abrupt."
Maybe you can't help but check out the app—it's interesting! But consider all the reasons you might unfriend someone—their political rants, their baby photos, the way they broke your heart and now have a new girlfriend—and understand that others might feel the same way about you. And you shouldn't be offended by that. "There is a natural ebb and flow in social networks," Gurner says, just as there is IRL.
Make sure you're not focusing on the rejection in an unhealthy way, and you're good to download.