Seth Godin made an interesting reference to the usage of the words friend and google this weekend. He talks about how they have become valid verbs. "I'll friend you", on Facebook , for example.
He makes a good point, but what I found interesting is that this usage depersonalizes the meaning of the word. Typically, you "make friends" with someone because you share interests, circumstances, or you just genuinely like them. When you "friend" someone, what is the nature of that relationship? It signifies that you are willing to share information with them that is consistent with the nature of the website. For example, on LinkedIn, you "connect" with people who want to network for professional purposes. There is no question about the nature of the relationship. But on Facebook it's a little different. Are all your "friends" truly friends? Do you have any friends in real life that you have yet to "friend"?
I have met several people who are experiencing a backlash against making "friends" through websites. One young woman from a consumer interview said, "This friend thing is getting out of hand. I'll be your friend in real life. That's what freinds are about. Don't bother me online. That's different." Yet another consumer reconciled this question with "It's just a word. It doesn't really mean anything."
And they are right. "Friending" doesn't really mean anything. Hopefully being friends still does.