Like, Friend, Share: How Social Media Changes Our Language

Last year the new Oxford American Dictionary named "unfriend" the word of the year.  Derived from the act of removing someone from your social networking site's "friend" list, the acceptance of the word into common parlance points to the pervasiveness with which social media has impacted our lives.
Of course "unfriend" is not the only word that Facebook and other social networking sites have added to our lingo.  Tweeting, blogging, facebooking -- these are all new words that describe our interactions with social media.

Not only are new words created.  In some cases, Facebook and others have altered the meaning and usage of preexisting words.

A good example of this is in fact the opposite of "defriend" -- to "friend."  The notion of "friend" has probably changed with the advent of social media sites, as we have broadened who gets to wear that label and what means to cultivate "friends" in our social networks.  We might even distinguish between "friend friends" and "Facebook friends."  The information we share with friends has likely also changed.

"To share" -- this has also taken on a slightly altered meaning.  We talk about information -- stories, status updates, photos -- that we post on our blogs, to our Facebook profiles, to Twitter, to email in terms of "sharing."  Information is distributed both quickly and widely thanks to Internet technologies.  That we call this distribution "sharing" makes it a very specific sort of act -- one of giving.  The idea of sharing is an important part of cultivating a social network, and it could be a with its reciprocity, could be a model for all sorts of sustainable relationships.

To "like" now seems poised to undergo a similar transformation.  Facebook and other social media sites have long asked users to indicate their interests by clicking "like." At its developers' conference a few weeks ago, Facebook announced a "like" button that could be installed on any website.  As Facebook users surf the web, they can "like" things, linking these interests back to their Facebook profile.  (As a sidenote, Facebook recently changed from the noun "fan" to the verb "like."  If you're a Facebook user or not, what are your thoughts on that linguistic shift?)

The language we use to describe things is very important.  As the philosophers Mark Johnson and George Lakoff wrote in The Metaphors We Live By, the language we use helps shape how we conceptualize our world.  Will "like," like "friend" and "share," become a word associated with social media (particularly with Facebook)?  What are the implications of our language -- particularly with words that have such an emotional appeal -- becoming so closely associated with these new social media technologies?