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New age dilemmas

Facebook has entered deep into our lives and how. There seems to be no going back. The new Oxford American dictionary has also chosen ‘unfriend’ as the word of the year. E-slam Facebook is changing social norms writes Praveen Donthi.

india Updated: Nov 21, 2009 22:25 IST
Praveen Donthi

Each day is a padded door shut, in my face, the other side of which is you. How shall I make you hear the music. Of the grass growing silent as dew,’ lamented a poet after a break up.

Many doors have been slammed on many faces. Break-ups are often bitter and moving on always tough. The bitter ‘why’ and painful ‘how’ of the episode remained between two people, and their close associates if you please, in good old days. Love in the times of Facebook, however, is not for the faint of heart.

E-slamming of the door makes a noise that catches the attention of all those on the two friend-lists amounting to a couple of hundreds. The announcement on the newsfeed cruelly embellished with a cracked red heart is enough fodder for rumours that could set your town on fire. A bad break-up would also mean either of them, or both, would remove — ‘unfriend’ — the person from their list. The presence of ‘common friends’ in the list would mean prolonged hangover — an emotional equivalent of the after effects of Hiroshima nuclear explosion, perhaps? It’s the same with friendships gone sour.

Facebook has entered deep into our lives and how. There seems to be no going back. The new Oxford American dictionary has also chosen ‘unfriend’ as the word of the year, a verb that means “to remove someone as a ‘friend’ on a social networking site such as Facebook”. According to Christine Lendberg, senior lexicographer of Oxford University Press, it’s got “real-lex appeal”. Their department responsible for tracking the use and evolution of language picked it because it “has both currency and potential longevity”.

This came as a surprise to avid Facebook users too. We live in denial, at least I do, about the kind of power these websites could wield on our lives. It has revolutionised socialising. Good. But it is changing the social etiquette very fast. I did not know how to react when I met someone at a party whose ‘friend request’ I had not accepted. We did what we could do — ignore each other. We would’ve otherwise made a polite two-minute ‘hi-long time-no-see’ kind of a thing, I guess. Is it good or bad, I’m not sure.

It’s not just the users who are clueless about the situations Facebooking can throw up. Those who run it deal with them as they go on. When it had recently started suggesting people reconnect with friends, there was an uproar as profiles of dead friends started showing up. The site had then come up with ‘memorialising profiles’. The friends or family could fill up a form after which access is restricted to ‘confirmed’ friends who are allowed to write on the user’s Wall in remembrance. It will also close the account but only if they get a “proper legal request” from close kin. Now, who would have thought of legalities while signing up on Facebook?