13 May 2014
398 words • 2 minutes

I came across this beautiful video recently:

Facebook, the social network that makes the world more "open and connected", has created new definitions for some words which have a deep connection with emotions.

Let's take a look at the word 'Like'.

like (/lʌɪk/)
1. find agreeable, enjoyable, or satisfactory.
synonyms:   be fond of, be attached to, have a soft spot for, have a fondness for, have a liking for, have regard for, think well of, look on with favour, hold in esteem, admire, respect, esteem;
antonyms:   dislike, hate

I have taken a subset of the possible meanings of the word, since it also can be used as a preposition, adverb or noun. We're sticking to the verb usage for now. Let's see what #2 has to say.

like (/lʌɪk/)
2. indicate one's liking or approval of (a web page or posting on a social media website) by means of a particular icon or link.

Wait? What? You're telling me I use the same word to express my emotions; and to mention the action of clicking a button? I surely am not the only one who finds it strange, right?

Words are the medium using which we express ourselves. If the words which are used to express the most human of feelings are "owned" by corporations, I feel that they lose their meaning.

There's another word integral to our culture that has fallen victim.

friend (/frɛnd/)
1. a person with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically one exclusive of sexual or family relations.
synonyms:   companion, boon companion, bosom friend, best friend, close friend, intimate, confidante, confidant, familiar, soul mate, alter ego, second self, shadow, playmate, playfellow, classmate, schoolmate, workmate, ally, comrade, associate;
antonyms:   enemy
(used as a polite form of address or in ironic reference) an acquaintance or a stranger one comes across.
2. a familiar or helpful thing.

And then there is this meaning:

friend (/frɛnd/)
3. a contact on a social networking website.

'Like' has become so ambiguous that people now have the need to check which of the two likes I meant. It has happened to me more than once.

I recognize that language is an ever-evolving medium and it adapts to the cultural changes. I think we can do better than sacrifice etymology for profits.

Here's a video on a related note. I have marked it to play at the relevant location, but I recommend watching the full video.