The year 2009 is fast coming to a close and that appears to be good news to some people I've talked with lately. "Good riddance...it's been a tough year and we need a fresh start" is a comment made recently by a friend at a business lunch and heads around the table nodded in agreement.
Perhaps it's fitting, then, that in this somewhat negative view of the year the New Oxford American Dictionary chose as its word of the year 2009 "unfriend," a verb that describes the act of removing someone from one's friends on a social network like Facebook. It's a negative act ("You're OUT!") that reeks of rejection, dismissal, public indication of unpopularity.
It's certainly an acknowledgment of the ubiquity of Facebook, now over 300 million members strong, around the world. So I suppose if you're unfriended by one person, there is hope that another will find you worthy of on-line friendship.
At least one commentator--Adrian Chen at Gawker--says the selection of unfriend as word of the year is no more than a "marketing ploy" by the New Oxford American Dictionary. But Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer at Oxford and spokesperson for the Word of the Year selection says unfriend was selected because of its current popularity as well its potential for longevity. Hmmm. Does that mean that both Facebook and unfriending are here to stay? Hard to imagine--with that kind of membership--a world without Facebook, but who knows what the future will bring?
I'm hoping that 2010 will bring many things, among them a sense of authentic connection rather than superficial "pretend you know me" connection and, worse, disconnection. If unfriending is way of reducing the numbers of people one has collected, willy-nilly, without a real sense of relationship, than perhaps this kind of housecleaning is in order. If, however, it is more about personal popularity contests, dependent on the whim of the moment, count me out. Never liked that kind of "who is in and who is out" mentality in high school and don't see it as valuable now.