Facebook has ruined the word “Friend.”
First of all, it is not a verb. You do not friend people, you meet them—preferably in person—and over time, if you find enough in common between you to make connections, a friendship will grow organically.
Second, “defriend” and “unfriend” are not words. I do not defriend someone to make him my unfriend, or unfriend someone to make her my defriend. If a friendship ends, it is usually through inaction. Except for a couple of Seinfeld episodes, no one ever “breaks up” with a friend. Friendships don’t get killed, they die through neglect.
But worst of all, Facebook abuses of the meaning of the word “friend.” In real life, we have layers of friendship. Best friends, good friends, friends-of-friends, acquaintances, colleagues, people-we-know-but-don’t-think-too-much-about, people-we-nod-to-politely-as-we-pass-them, etc.
But in Facebook, everyone is a potential friend. All it takes is a friend request to “friend” them. You don’t even have to know the person.
And this isn’t meant as a slight to any of my Facebook friends, some of whom are part of the Five-Minute-Friday community. Neither is it an invite to disconnect with me (I refuse to say defriend or unfriend). It is an observation. Friend has a different, and a greatly diminished meaning on Facebook.
I experienced the consequences of this first-hand recently. I had a Facebook friend who in real life is a friend-of-a-friend. We’ve never met in person. We had a few things in common—we’re both Catholic, and we’re both husbands and fathers who love our families and put them before anything else in our lives. But we differ greatly in our political opinions, and he is one of those people who loves to debate as much as he hates to be wrong. (I can be that way too at times.) It reached a point where we couldn’t be connected on Facebook anymore. The relationship—for what little it was—brought the worst out. So I disconnected and he was as relieved about it as I was.
And my five minutes are up, but let me say this. The experience has taught me to value my friendships, and to value the word too much to fling it about carelessly anymore.