The New Oxford American Dictionary announced its Word of the Year today and like everyone else, the organization is keeping an eye on the internet. Its selection? unfriend – verb – To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.
Has Oxford Dictionary made the right selection? ReadWriteWeb’s Founder Richard MacManus thinks not. I disagree with him; I think this is a very valid Word of the Year. We make our cases below and invite you to cast your vote in a poll.
Richard MacManus, ReadWriteWeb founder:
“I think that’s an odd choice for word of the year, as all the trends indicate there has been more social networking activity this past year – not less, as ‘unfriend’ implies. Facebook and Twitter have both rocketed in popularity in 2009. I’d suggest that more people have left MySpace and migrated to Facebook, than unfriended people on Facebook.
“I also think that ‘unfriend’ is an ugly word, so for that reason it shouldn’t be Word of the Year. What’s more, I don’t think my Mum or Dad would be familiar with the term ‘unfriend.’ Perhaps my father will pop into the comments and tell us for certain. But I look forward to the results of the poll!”
Marshall Kirkpatrick, ReadWriteWeb lead writer:
I think “unfriend” is a very appropriate word for the year as it fits with the way people are becoming more sophisticated in their social networking. People are deciding to do some editing of the friends lists they rushed naively into.
7 out of the top 10 searches performed on the Facebook Help Center page are about getting rid of your own social network profiles or your friends. Admittedly “unfriend” isn’t one of those words, but you get the idea.
It’s easy in this new web to sign up for things, getting overwhelmed and ignoring streams of information is par for the course. But choosing to cancel receipt of a person’s updates? That’s a meaningful move.
People fall for those “see who’s searching for you” ads on social networks all the time. You’d better believe they appreciate the control that unfriending gives them. I’ll bet that just about anyone online, no matter their level of technical knowledge, could tell you these days what it means to “unfriend someone.”
What do you think?