Overemphasizing Facebook and Unfriending?

Unfriend New Oxford American Dictionary’s word of the year for 2009. It’s a verb meaning “To remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook.”

Ah, Facebook. It’s the entire Internet for some. A stalker’s paradise for others. In general, it is a good way to maintain online contacts, or “friends” in the Facebook vernacular. Often, Facebook friends are really friends, and almost as often they aren’t. But either way, is a Facebook friend just as important as a friend in real life?

The latest meme on Facebook is fan pages named “Can this ___ get more fans than ___?” Things like “Can this pickle get more fans than Nickleback?” While I am both an actual (in real life) fan of pickles and sure that pickles do indeed have more actual fans than Nickleback, I don’t care about a specific pickle. I ignored it. And then I kept getting more and more invites. Soon, similarly themed pages popped up, and I got those too. Even after one status where I complained about it, I kept getting more.

So I published the following Facebook status stating my annoyance of constant page suggestions:

“As much as I like pickles, I DO NOT CARE if they can get more fans than Twilight or Nickleback. Please stop suggesting I becoming fans of them, or I’ll start unfriending.”

A little harsh? Maybe. I admit I was particularly annoyed at the time. However, it was generally getting agreement or benign comments. At least until one friend (IRL, so actually knowing him gives his opinions more consideration) criticized my rudeness and extreme measures. He thought I was acting too hastily in ending a friendship for something so trivial.

Really? Wow. That hit me. Not in a way that made me rethink my position, mind you. I was just shocked that there may actually be people who compared Facebook friendships equally to real friendships.

I admit, I’ve been unfriended on Facebook by people who I consider friends and have been disappointed by it, but I also realized it was silly at the time. I’m easily paranoid and have low self esteem, so I constantly worry people won’t like me for whatever reason. But I also try and separate opinions of online personalities from the actual person.

Besides, there are plenty of reasons to unfriend an actual friend from Facebook. From not staying in contact that way to limiting your account for professional acquaintances to just being tired of the constant status updates to whatever else.

However, doing so does not constitute an end of that real friendship. Just because an actual friend doesn’t want to be a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower doesn’t necessarily reflect upon me as a person.

Not in my opinion anyway.

I joke with friends in a relationship, saying it’s not official until it’s on Facebook, but that’s not actually true. Or is it?

How much emphasis are we starting to put on Facebook? How much are we letting it define the status of our lives?

As we become more of an Internet culture, is the divide between real and virtual relationships blurring and online contacts becoming synonymous with real friendships? Will the “on a social networking site such as Facebook” part have to be removed from Unfriend’s definition?

I really hope not.

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