06 December, 2009

Thinking About "Unfriend"

About a week ago, I learnt that New American Oxford Dictionary selected "unfriend" as the new word of the year. Probably people in America and UK heard about it before me, but, you know, it takes time for news to arrive in Greece! (I am just joking).


It is a verb meaning "removing someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook". It is in a sense an antonym of "befriend", but in a limited context, i.e. happens only in the world of Internet.

This word provoked me some thoughts. In person, we make friends, but we usually do not have to "unfriend". We just gradually lose contact. Of course, we do have fight and slit up with friends, but this happens only rarely to normal people, I think. Act of "unfriending" is something more casual.

What I am thinking are these "friends" or rather acquaintances that we don't have much contact/relationship anyway. In social networking sites (SNS), there is no such thing as "acquaintance": people are all either friends or non-existent (or friends of friends). On SNS you can make 'friends' without even exchanged any word. This happened to me recently and caused some stir in my mind, as until now, my 'friends' were either real-life friends or family members/relatives. In real world, you won't label as 'friends' those who you have never spoken with. (those who you exchange(d) views and thoughts with some frequence on Internet without actually meeting them is in a different category; they are like "pen pals" in snail mail age, they are "www pals").

With the coming of Facebook and the like, "making friends" has become ever easier (not slightly because it changed the definition of "friend"), but naturally we humans cannot keep friendship with all these casual "friends". Consequently there is sometimes a need to "unfriend", if you don't want to list as 'friends' those who you have never spoken with or even you don't remember at all (there are people who list more than 1000 people as 'friends' and I am sure that they - if they are not gifted with an exceptional memory - won't be able to identify all of them in 10, or even 3 years later).

I have Facebook only for 2 years. I cannot help but thinking what shall I do with these 'friends' I don't remember who they are in 5 years. Unfriend them? Probably.

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