The Oxford word of the year for 2009 is out. If you have not already guessed it has something to do with technology, more specifically that most wonderful of additions to our collective social consciousness: Facebook. The word is “unfriend” and even if you have yet to allow yourself to get sucked into that black hole known as Facebook, you have probably heard its usage in everyday conversation.
According to the Oxford dictionary the definition is as follows:
unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook
Fascinating how life works. I had been contemplating blogging about this new addition to our lexicon but had yet to come up with a personal twist. That is until the other day a friend of mine was telling me about how she had been unfriended and was more than a little distressed. Serendipity at its best, I now was forced to ruminate over the meaning and the effect of its active use.
You see, I have no problem unfriending people on Facebook. I am sure if I frequented other social networking sites I would have no issues there either. I went through my friend list a few weeks ago and removed a number of people. This was no premeditated act. No real amount of thought went into it. I was just getting tired of seeing updates from people that I either truly had no relationship with any longer or who I had never met.
Yes, like many of you, I am guilty of accepting friend requests from people who I do not know and have no intention of ever meeting. It is so easy. Someone requests to be your friend and you accept. Or, you “friend” someone you have a passing business relationship with, meet at a party or through a mutual acquaintance and then realize several months later you have no connection with this person and no interest in him or her knowing about your life.
Which brings me to how we define a friend. With the advent of social networking and the surplus of personal information, we have pushed the boundaries to the point of near non existence with respect to our relationships with others. Anyone can know our most deepest and banal thoughts at any moment. Just hop on Twitter and read the ramblings of both celebrities and the rest of us everyday slobs. Sometimes insightful but mostly tragically uninteresting, we share our thoughts and feelings with every Tom, Dick and Harry regardless of who they are.
Why not? It is fun and easy. That is until you have been dropped from someone’s friend list without warning. And, you realize that you actually were not really a friend of this person or that if you were he or she has no interest in allowing you access to the trivialities of his or her life any longer. With one click of a button you can easily offend anyone whose definition of friendship differs from your own.
That would never happen here. We are all friends. Right?
Well, maybe not.