Word abuse is a disturbing consequence of instant universal communication (them Interwebs) – icky in that it takes what should be genuine and makes it, well, weird.
“Like” has now become a grade applied to other words. “Unlike” is now a word (what happened to dislike?). “Message” and “Text” are now verbs…
But the worst case of word abuse is all due to that Zuckerberg guy – he, or one of his drones co-opted the word “friend” to mean anyone you happen to open a link to on his software. That’s like calling someone “Doctor” who watches ER reruns.
Does word abuse matter? Like any thoughtless self-serving manipulation of any truth, word abuse cheapens the meaning of the word it abuses. I am, in fact, a great manipulator of words by their invention. Spell Check calls me out so much I hear it sigh every time I click “ignore”, and before Spell Check dozens of magazine and book editors (any pretty much anyone reading anything I write) were either bemused or vaguely offended that I felt the existing dictionary was inadequate to express my thoughts (“ceilingscape” always has that redline under when I type it…)
But “friend” is the generous act of being vulnerable to another person by caring for them. It is a gift. Zuckerberg has taken that gift and made into a videogame, where the number of “friends” is a score.
One of my best friends in college managed to completely separate love from sex. It was the ‘70’s. He kept score of his scoring with a impish egomania that assumed those he scored upon were, at least, enjoying themselves. If everyone lived in the moment with no expectations then saying “yes” had no consequences. Truth is, in matters of trust, there is no free emotional lunch.
My friend first encountered this when he met his wife-to-be. Games over. He scabbered his sword (see I just invented another word – but I digress).
But his dissociation of love and sex that was completely undone by his relationship with his wife, where the two were infinitely intertwined, had the ultimate irony issue from that double bond – two exquisite girls, now in their late teens, early 20’s.
For my friend all the males his scary-hot daughters encounter are automatically convicted of his crimes against commitment. He is fairly freaked out by the potential for heartbreak in those he loves most – simply by someone who he assumes feels they way he felt lo these decades ago…
You cannot invent meaning, and you can’t deny it. You can name anything you want any word you like (I am living proof of that, given my parents named me “Duo”). But “friend” is too simple a trust, too basic a human risk, too important to our humanity to suffer the petty perversion of its meaning by the click of a computer stroke that changes an unknown name into a “friend”.
Zuckerberg and his minions are attempting a make-up call by amping up the adjectives that qualify “friends” – (“close”, etc)…but I would ask for another keystroke: “Connected”. I have perhaps 200 friends on FB, but I am connected to about 1,000 others…Jeff how hard could that be? (I know you’re listening).
Duo Dickinson has written seven books on architecture. His latest, “Staying Put: Remodel Your House to Get the Home You Want”, was published by The Taunton Press in November 2011.
He has been the contributing writer for home design for Money Magazine, is the architecture critic for the New Haven Register, and a contributing writer in home design for New Haven magazine. He has written articles for more than a dozen national publications including House Beautiful, Home, Fine Homebuilding and was the “At Home” editor for This Old House.