Unfriend: 2009 Word of the Year

Unfriend: to remove someone as a “friend” on a social networking site such as Facebook. I’m sure most high school students have at least some familiarity with the word unfriend, as it is becoming an idea that is increasingly apparent in the online world. The reason that this word is particularly interesting is that it has been chosen as the “word of the year” for 2009.

Every year the New Oxford American Dictionary chooses a “word of the year.” This word is supposed to be the most important word of the year, or a word that summarizes the most important idea of any specific year.  Unfriend takes the award this year, replacing the 2008 word, bailout. Unfriend nabbed the top spot over other finalists such as intoxicated, funemployed, and birther.

While previous words such as bailout and plutoed wouldn’t merit coverage at the local high school level,  unfriend is a word that was created mostly through social networking sites, used primarily at the high school and college levels.

I think that the selection of the word unfriend as the word of the year is a powerful statement on the reality of today’s generation and what social networking has become. While in itself social networking was a revolutionary idea that has changed the face of communication, high school students have taken it to the next level.

In my experience, social networking has become the end-all source for everything that’s going on in the lives of high school students. Too often are students making non-binding RSVP’s to events, or posting way to much personal information for the world to see. Some profiles even go to the point of updating readers way too often about what they are currently doing. Sure, I might care about what any given individual is doing over a long weekend, but I could care less about their daily sleeping patterns.

The whole idea of unfriending someone is a peculiar one to me because it essentially means to accept someone’s friendship, and then deny it at a later date. I think this trend makes an interesting statement on friendship, and how it has become something that is so easy to deny at a later date. It saddens me that this idea has become so prevalent in today’s society, largely brought upon by the ease of tools such as social networking.

I think it’s a safe assumption that the majority of unfriending that goes on is between people that aren’t really friends in the first place. Why accept the friendship in the first place if you’re just going to deny it later?

The definition of friendship has drastically shifted over the years, and I believe if you asked different generations to define friendship that you would get dramatically different answers.

RB students should be aware of the whole idea of unfriending and its larger implications on the statement our generation is making on society as a whole. While social networking has its positive uses and has revolutionized the way we communicate, it also has some serious side effects that need to be considered.

The three major social networking sites, Facebook, Myspace, and Twitter, are all on the list of the top 20 most visited websites on the World Wide Web. Facebook comes in at second place only to the Google search engine, and twenty five percent of all internet use in the past three months has been on the website. Needless to say, these websites are among the most used in the world and have shaped social networking on the internet.

Regardless of what anyone likes to hear, unfriend is the word of the year for 2009. This year has obviously been a year of unfriending, and hopefully that isn’t a trend that continues. I urge students and users of these websites to consider whether this word is really the word that they want describing social networking in the years to come.