“Friend” Re-defined

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8 February 2009

So I’m late to the Facebook party, and, as a words person, the first order of business is mastering the lingo…

One of the most palpable and, for me, unnerving, effects of online social networking is the redefinition of the word “friend.”

In Facebook parlance, “friend” is both verb and noun.  To friend someone is to propose connection of your Facebook worlds (profile, photos, Friend lists, updates, etc), granting full access to one another.  The friending action must be confirmed by a click on the other side, must be mutual.

So far so good.  But most people will tell you that a Facebook-friend is a specific phenomenon, not to be confused with a friend-friend; that Facebook is in fact an effective way to non-communicate — to communicate in a flat, by-passing sort of way, in a hey, in case you were wondering, but, you know, it’s cool if you weren’t wondering kind of way — with people who are by and large not your friend-friends…  

Which is strangely alluring, of course, especially if you are a busy person.  To communicate without having to individuate.  To communicate while also circumventing communication. To simulate communication.  Not unlike, oh, I dunno…writing fiction?

But it’s the flattening that throws me. What to say — and how to say it — to “everyone”? I tell my writing students that particulars and specifics make up the stuff of good fiction — because life is specific, not generic. Not abstract. In that spirit, here’s a particular from L.’s post to my Facebook “wall”– a tip for a new FB-user — that made my day:

The “become a fan” feature can be cool. Every morning your headlines tell you that someone has become a fan of Angela Davis, or Aretha Franklin’s Inaugural Hat, or Kafka or Rilke. Sadly, it also informs you if someone has become a fan of “Bacon.”

FB - Fans of Bacon

 

   Bacon?!   Mmm… bacon.  

   Now, one wonders: what does it mean exactly to be a “fan”…?

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2 Responses to ““Friend” Re-defined”

  1. Mimi Says:

    My favorite aspect of FB “friend” is the Frenemy, heh heh. I have a few of those, just so you know.

  2. sonyachung Says:

    Do tell — what is a Frenemy? I get the gist, but details, details…


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