Trivia Teaser

Who or what is a LEVEE?

A raised riverbank
A Jewish policeman
A tax collector
A boring tool



By Miranda

Amid the clutter of images and acquaintances on Facebook arises the difficulty of formalising one's relationships with people, those to whom one has accorded 'friend' status at some stage (though perhaps not those people privy to the more restricted areas of one's life), but with whom one no longer has contact beyond reading the occasional comment - the inanity or irrelevance of which emphasises the loss of connection.

There is power in the click of a setting to remove such a person's access to one's page (a little like those notoriously horrible experiments testing the limits of discomfort to which people are willing to subject perfect strangers) - but what interests me here particularly is the name for this process.


With a click one is free of the link to this person, who must accept their exile from the page without recourse. And, of course, this is a perfectly normal process. One's circle of friends, acquaintances, colleagues and contemporaries does change over time, the more traditional indicator being deletion from the Christmas Card List.

And that's where my interest is piqued. There's an alternative term being used for 'unfriend', and that is 'defriend'. It appears to be more popular in North American English, where it may be more frequently used than 'unfriend' (Facebook, the organisation, prefers 'unfriending').

But is it even less friendly?

Why should the prefix 'un' seem to me to convey a simple statement of fact, i.e. 'I haven't really had meaningful contact with this person for ages and my click on the settings recognises this fact', but the prefix 'de' seems to carry with it an element of deliberation and exclusion, somehow implying I really don't want this person to have friend status.

Because that's exactly what they do.

Our affixes (that's both prefixes and suffixes) allow us to make exactly this sort of distinction. 'Un-' denotes an existential 'not' or 'opposite', but 'de-' implies action, either the reverse action of 'deceleration' or discriminatory action, the 'getting rid of' of 'deporting' or 'declutter'.

I think I'd rather be un- than de- friended. And I'll never de-lete someone from my Christmas card list again...

And you?



16 Responses to


bika said:
April 23, 2012 at 12:22 PM

Not having a Facebook account, I was blissfully unaware of the dilemma. Just as well, because I'm still uncomfortable with the incorrect usage of to/too/two and your/you're (there are others but I'm applying the KISS principle). Aaagghh!

April 23, 2012 at 12:36 PM

I don't 'friend' anyone to start with, other than my daughter, who swiftly 'un-friended' me one day, after a 'friendly' mother-daughter tiff ;) This has now been reveresed mind you, and we are 'friends' once more. I don't see the value of 'friending' anyone else, as I find emails contain far more meaningful information that the odd garbled 'just cooked dinner' or whatnot message. So there is no dilemma of 'un- or de-friending' someone for me.

April 23, 2012 at 2:14 PM

I joined Facebook only so that I could see my step-daughter's Facebook page, where she sells beautiful craftwork. I was "friended" by a sweet but determined niece, who then had all her family request to be "friended". I had to simply ignore some that I've never met and have no interest in, but I felt very guilty. I've now settled into simply Liking a few pages from bookstores and businesses, which means I get their latest news. I rarely say anything personal, except in messages, and as you say, emails are more interesting than the occasional rant on a Facebook page. Good points: being found by an old friend, who keeps in touch now, and being friended by people I don't normally see.

kragzy said:
April 23, 2012 at 3:34 PM

Good thoughts Miranda. Middle ground can be indicated by a... as in amoral, apolitical, etc. Please don't unlete my post even if you delike me. I would be pleased to afriend you.

Xrosie said:
April 24, 2012 at 7:32 AM

All very confusing, particularly when people you know send names of people you have never heard od etc. Friends and acquaintances are two different things

April 24, 2012 at 10:26 AM

I am afraid I am old enough that I refuse to use Facebook (or its alternatives). When I first tried, I was inundated with requests for friendswhip from total strangers. I have an email account with only the people I like on it, and we keep in touch. But I think I merely "deleted" the unwanted people.

gm1951 said:
April 24, 2012 at 1:58 PM

I have never bothered to join Facebook or any of the other myriad computer "cliques" - having seen what rubbish ends up on other peoples' pages, I'm glad I haven't. Why on earth anyone wants to share every boring second and nuance of his/her life is beyond me. Once your profile and details are on these types of sites, they're on there forever - great for people tring to commit identity theft. Even if you un- or de- friend someone that does not stop them spreading falsehoods and untrue rumours about you and there really is no recourse - you have left yourself wide open. If you want to un- or de- friend a person you should do it face to face. Better still, pick up the telephone and call them rather than hiding behind a virtual page. Perhaps we should all get back to using correct English - no wonder the younger generation can't spell or use correct grammar when acronyms and abbreviations on these websites are the norm.

April 24, 2012 at 4:50 PM

I have a friend, in reality that is, and she writes her every day events for all to see. I would be worried about identity theft. I do have a Facebook page, but only use it to see what my grand-daughters are up to. A lot of it I don't understand as I don't know the modern 'language' of the teenager! Nor do I know the musical groups they speak of.

maggaz said:
April 25, 2012 at 3:39 PM

I agree, articprincess, I too only opened a Facebook page to get heaps of photos of my great granddaughter, also I get to see a lot of what is going on with my grandchildren, that I wouldn't otherwise know about. I don't understand half of what they are on about, and I rarely comment, just sometimes like a particular photo etc. I am afraid emails are a thing of the past with the younger generation, as are computers, just about everything is done on phones today.

April 26, 2012 at 7:44 AM

I defacebooked long time ago. I was tempted to write I defacedbook, but that wouldn't be true, Facebook tentacles can continue to do it on their own.

April 26, 2012 at 2:49 PM

I got a very pleasant surprise on Facebook yesterday. My niece posted a picture of my father in his army uniform for WWI, which I had never seen. Dad was 45 when I was born, so I never knew him as a young man. The photos were collected and she ended up with them - and soon I'll have them too - photos I didn't know existed! We live in different states, so hadn't been in close contact until I joined Facebook.

April 28, 2012 at 4:08 PM

only use facebook for games like hotshots etc dont bother otherwise

spoggy said:
April 29, 2012 at 5:31 PM

i unfriended face book a while ago , i am a very private person and my sis in law decided to post pics of hubby and me on her page !! I protested and was told by her that she would remove them ,, but not from her FB album ??? so that means a million people could see us ?? This is lack of privacy gone mad !. And , NO , i dont want to know when anyone has had a nice cup of coffee hehehe

May 01, 2012 at 9:57 PM

One day I joined Facebook but was overwhelmed by random people wanting to friend me. It scared me off and I unjoined/dejoined/ajoined... But after reading your blogs I'm thinking I might give it another try - in the interest of being intouch. Is it possible to keep a low profile and just see what goes on (in case there's suss photos of me) and not get too involved??? I don't think I could bear to be defriended in public... I just couldn't handle the rejection...

spoggy said:
May 08, 2012 at 8:18 PM

Hi Jafa,, i just stick to messenger , i can pick who i talk to , and email , and of course YP !!! It is only etiquette to ask permission to put a pic of someone else on FB

bronski4 said:
May 10, 2012 at 1:03 PM

I use facebook and i love it... I only have close friends/ family on there. I also have joined favourite pages i.e : Australian shows i like, so that i may comment on them. There are quite a number of security features on Facebook and it is you who can choose who views these..such as family, friends or no one else but yourself. I suggest people look around the site before jumping to conclusions too early.