Friday, November 20, 2009

The Act of Friending as a Means to Be-Friending

The word “unfriend” has recently been named word of the year by the New Oxford American Dictionary. “Unfriend” has made its way to the dictionary by way of Facebook and other social networking sites, in which you are asked to “friend” someone, making them a part of your Friends list. One unfriends someone one wants removed from one’s Friends list.

I admit to being a Facebook fan. As someone who is 3000 miles from her place of birth, Facebook has reconnected me to my past. I may no longer reside in the village of my youth, but Facebook, through cyberspace, has created a virtual village where my childhood friends, college classmates, colleagues, family, and current friends “live”. I feel known and whole in a way I didn’t even realize I was missing. The many pieces of my life have been brought together in a way that would be if I had stayed in my hometown.

Secondly, Facebook has demonstrated that we as a species can return civility to cyberspace. The internet had become a place where rude, catty, snarky comments could be posted to blogs, articles, and other sites anonymously. This anonymity brought out a meanness in messages that bordered on violent bullying. On social networking sites, however, you determine who will be on your Friend list and, therefore, who you will interact with. And most friends, even when we get on each other’s last nerve, communicate in ways that do not run the risk of ruining the relationship. As our Friends list grows to include our friends’ friends, civil conversation in cyberspace rises exponentially.

While the verb “unfriend” might be the word of 2009, I find the verb “friend” to offer greater hope and possibilities. As we learn to friend beyond our circle of acquaintances, as we develop bonds with friends of friends, as we add more and more people to our Friends list, we discover the power of be-friending. Be-friending enlarges our circle of care and compassion and helps us learn from those with whom we may disagree. In a mobile world where many have migrated to towns far from their birth, be-friending helps make the world our home and cyberspace our village.

1 comment:

  1. I agree with you. I am an introvert, but Facebook keeps me in touch with people I care about without leaving me drained. :)