November 17, 2009

Hello friends! It's a sign of our times: the Word of The Year is UNFRIEND

I enjoy Facebook. Yes, I was a bit late to the Facebook party as many friends colleagues peers relatives etc were on it long before me, and now that I am there it is totally entertaining.

Why? Catching up, staying in touch, reconnecting with long lost school friends, learning a bit, getting info, feeling connected in a life that can be very busy and isolating. And wasting time. Lots and lots of wasting time. Is it wasting time? or frittering away? Either way, lots of it. Probably a good thing that social networking sites like facebook are blocked at my workplace.

And other people agree, at last count there like 90 million people using facebook regularly.

A frequent label in facebook is "friend"; a facebook friend isn't a real world friend who you share your hopes and dreams with, it's someone who you give permission to view your pictures, write on your virtual wall, and generally be a voyeur into your life. And they give you the same access to their life when you "friend" each other. My facebook friends range from the people closest to me up to and including virtual strangers -- my fiance, real-life friends, work friends and contacts, former work peers, childhood schoolmates, my brothers, my mom, a rabbi (okay, also one of my brothers), assorted cousins, and some people I haven't met outside the virtual world. They are all interesting, in different ways.

After becoming facebook friends, at some point in time, for some reason, you may no longer want that person to have access - you rethink your priorities, you forget who they are, you post some drunk dialing pictures you don't want your coworkers to see, you are no longer sleeping with them, etc - and then you need to remove their 'facebook friend' status, or "unfriend" them, by restricting their access to that of strangers. Easy to do. And people are doing it, and they are taking that 'unfriend" terminology off-line.

The Oxford American Dictionary just announced their word of the year for 2009, and it is "unfriend" (verb): to remove someone as a 'friend' on a social networking site such as facebook. Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford's US Dictionary Program, says "It has both currency and potential longevity... In the online social networking context, its meaning is understood, so its adoption as a modern verb form makes this an interesting choice for Word of the Year."

I think this is a terrific word to add to our language; it is clear and crisp and direct. No hidden meaning - you don't want to be someone's friend anymore? You know what to do!

Ending a facebook friendship is kinder and more gracious than ending a real friendship, with no drama, no ugly scenes. Facebook is subtle when someone unfriends you; they don't actually tell you at all, that person just disappears from your circle. You may notice, you may not. When you go to contact them, you will learn - you are no longer their facebook friends. You have been gracefully and graciously unfriended. You are toast. Over. Dead to them.

Don't want someone peeping into your life anymore? Unfriend them. Have a falling out with someone? Unfriend them. Don't want to ignore a facebook friend request from someone you don't care for? Confirm the request, then swiftly unfriend them.

Let's take it further, beyond facebook. Give us an Unfriend button in real life. Ugly scene with a coworker? Unfriend. Falling out with a family member? Unfriend. Give out your number to the wrong person at the bar last saturday night? Unfriend.

Even better - can I unfriend public persons from my life? Sarah Palin - unfriend. The cast of the new Melrose Place - unfriend! Anyone named Gosselin - unfriend!

That's beyond word of the year - that would be magical mystical fantastical power of the year!


Cosmic Navel Lint said...

Hey, great piece!

I did a similar one recently too:

OUP America's 2009 word of the year: 'Unfriend'.

And with you all the way regarding Palin!

"A 'Palindrome' is a stadium that looks the same both ways... completely empty."

British satirist Peter Serafinowicz, on Twitter.

marymac said...

there are actually over 300 million users on Facebook, but you are my favorite one because you asked for a Burberry manbag for Christmas which is the coolest potential gift EVER.
Thanks for stopping by to add a spoonful of sugar to Pajamas and Coffee today!

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