How does technology affect society? Ask … the unfriended …

Dont make me unfriend you cup Read this whole series on our new Attention Age: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5. 



Do you know our world’s newest official word?
    More importantly: Do you know the experience?
    “Unfriend” is the 2009 Word of the Year, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary. It’s already on T-shirts and coffee cups like the thermal mug shown at right.

The venerable lexicon classifies “unfriend” as a verb: “To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.” Most “un-“ words are adjectives, notes Christine Lindberg, Senior Lexicographer for Oxford’s US dictionary program, making unfriend an unusual modern verb form. It has, she says, “real lex-appeal.”

Unfriend is an excellent example of the ways in which technology affects society. The ability to friend and unfriend someone on Facebook (or the equivalent act on other social media) challenges the normal etiquette of social interaction. Netiquette is the online form of etiquette—but I don’t think it’s quite up on unfriending, especially in some instances like this one:

How would you like to know that you were unfriended for a free hamburger?

Earlier this year, Burger King offered a Facebook app—Whopper Sacrifice—that got you a free Whopper if you dumped 10 friends. In just a week, 233,096 friends were unfriended, according to some sources. That’s about 23,000 free Whoppers.

The twist was this—the app sent a notice about who had been nixed for a burger. Facebook quickly shut the app down, saying it violated users’ expectations of privacy.

Have you been unfriended? How did it feel? Did it damage the relationship—or were you relieved?

Have you unfriended anyone? Were there hurt feelings?

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