Filtering strategies enable social media users to remove undesired content from their feeds, potentially creating homophilic environments. Although previous studies have addressed the individual-level factors and content features that influence these decisions, few have solely focused on users perceptions. Accordingly, this study applies social exchange theory to understand how users socially construct the process of unfriending. Based on 30 in-depth interviews with young Spaniards, we identify a widespread pattern of rejection over repetitive, opinion-challenging, and offensive posts, which we conceptualize as out-of-place content, a type of social media stimulus that hinders substantive online exchanges and challenges users' understanding of social reality and individual values. This study contributes to current literature on unfriending by suggesting that filtering strategies are implemented gradually when posts overwhelm users tolerance threshold. Our findings also suggest that their deployment hinges on the closeness of the relationship between peers and social commitments formed in specific platforms. Future research is needed to assess to what extent the patterns identified in our interviews are present in the overall population.
public value; social exchange theory; social media; tolerance; unfriending