Bree Sharp--"We're Going To Be Friends" (mp3)
From Reuters: "Unfriend" has been named the word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary, chosen from a list of finalists with a tech-savvy bent.
Unfriend was defined as a verb that means to remove someone as a "friend" on a social networking site such as Facebook.
"It has both currency and potential longevity," said Christine Lindberg, senior lexicographer for Oxford's U.S. dictionary program, in a statement.
"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."
Upon reflection, I don't think I have unfriended anyone this year. That isn't really how adults work, is it? I mean, when is the last time you told someone that he or she was not your friend?
That doesn't mean, however, that the word "unfriend" does not have its usefulness. On the contrary, I fully celebrate the choice, even though I have read several criticisms about its selection today, ranging from those who think that "defriend" is a more exact term to those who think that their parents will have no idea what the word means if they have no understanding of Facebook.
I beg to differ. Those critics are missing out on the broader meanings of the term, which I'm guessing is what the dictionary had in mind when they chose this word. We all know what it means to unfriend someone. We've all done it. If you're like me, you've done it in some pretty graceless ways over the years.
But, like I said, it isn't something that happens in adulthood too often. Something fairly egregious would have to happen. After all, we may spend a fair portion of every day with people who we don't necessarily like, who we tolerate, who annoy us, who interrupt us and take our time, who don't have anything to say that we particularly want to hear, who get our scorn when they aren't around, and at the end of the day, we don't really mind all that much, we don't always mind seeing those people again the next day, depending on the circumstances.
And so, I would like to suggest that instead of the "unfriending" that is happening on these Internet sites, we are more likely take one of the following adult approaches (fully acknowledging that none of these terms will ever be named the word of the year):
underfriend--to "underfriend" someone is to give them less of a role in your life than they used to have because you've gotten tired of them. But you would never unfriend them. You might want something from them, but you only invite them to one of your social occasions when you used to invite them to everything.
tempfriend--also known as a contextual friend (see also, drinkfriend), the person who can be your best bud in the right situation, but in no other. Sporting events are great for "tempfriending," when the safe, neutral topic of two people rooting for the same team (possibly with alcohol--see drinkfriend) makes for bosom buddies with plenty of like-minded high fives.
farfriend--let's face it, the close friend who moves away gets treated differently. There is so much nearfriending going on most days that it can be tough to work in farfriending. To be farfriended means to be put on hold, phone not answered, phone tag, phone call responded to with text message, return call delayed several days, then finally, the "oops I forgot." It's a sad fact of life. Luckily, part of farfriending involves telling plenty of (derisive) stories and naming things after the person, maybe turning the person into his or her own (derisive) verb or metaphor to keep his or her memory alive.
pseudofriend--this is much of adulthood in a nutshell, when you pretend that you are friends with someone whom you don't like. Good news, though: real friendships can develop from this. Proof that God is love.
drunkfriend--nothing like a few beers to make someone you don't especially care for seem a bit more palatable. Not a situation to be dissed or dismissed, I'd say. If a drink or two makes the world a friendlier place, who am I to complain? Problems can ensue, however, if you drunkfriend across gender lines.
trifriend--in a group with a good friend, the person who is being "trifriended" will often discover himself talked about by one person to the other person as a way of somewhat including him. For example, your good friend walks in while you're talking to someone else and you trifriend that person: "Man, I'm tryin' to get some work done here, but Barry keeps talking about his sex life. Har, har, har." Great for insulting someone who is slow to figure out they're being insulted.
workfriend--tough one to figure out, because when you "workfriend" someone, you hang out with this person all the time while on the job, but you never do anything together on the weekend. Maybe your wives (or husbands) don't like each other.
shitfriend--which you can only apply to yourself, and not as a noun. It's when you come to the realization that you're a real manipulative SOB who is putting everyone you know into levels and categories that best fit your purposes. Could get you unfriended.
Bree Sharp's cover of the White Stripes comes from the blog Cover Lay Down; the Band of Skulls song is on the Twilight: New Moon soundtrack available at Itunes.