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Word of the day: kennis (acquaintance)

Last week I briefly discussed the distinction between VRIEND (friend) and KENNIS (acquaintance) and I intended to follow this up later on. I was sidetracked by another couple of confusing words (Dutch, Nederlands, Deutsch and German). So here I am again back to VRIEND and KENNIS.


Facebook does not make any distinction between VRIEND and KENNIS. To Facebook everyone who’s admitted to your page is a ‘friend’. And we’re all taking it for granted that these ‘friends’ aren’t really ‘friends’. In doing so, we accept that the honorary title of ‘friend’ has become greatly devalued.

A VRIEND has become a KENNIS, someone you may know by name and in person, but certainly not intimately.

Today (Monday, 14 April 2014) my Facebook ‘Friend’ Marcel Möring, the famous Rotterdam author, announced the following shocking decision (translation underneath):

‘[…] ik sluit mijn facebook-account. Ooit begon ik er mee, omdat het de website leek te vervangen en lezers er om vroegen. Maar facebook is mij steeds meer gaan tegenstaan en ik moest steeds iets overwinnen om foto’s, berichten en aankondigingen ‘te delen’. Eigenlijk wil ik helemaal niets delen. Dat wil zeggen: niets dan mijn romans en af en toe een stuk…. Je moet doen wat bij je past en de kruising tussen bruin café, familiebijeenkomst en stencilmachine die facebook is, past niet bij mij. Ik ben geen mens voor groepen, ik ben niet geïnteresseerd in vakantiefoto’s (ik maak ze zelf niet eens), ik heb moeite met de golven van verontwaardiging, opinie en emotie die horen bij een sociaal medium. Het past niet bij mij. Ik houd er dus mee op….’

A rough translation of Möring’s message is:
‘I’m going to shut down my Facebook account. One day I started it because it looked like it was going to replace the website and readers asked me for it. But I found it ever harder to stomach Facebook and every time I wanted ‘to share’ pictures, messages and announcements I had to overcome something. I don’t want to share anything at all (except for my novels and articles). You have to do what suits you and the cross of the local pub, the family gathering and the duplicator that Facebook is, does not suit me. I am not a person for groups. I’m not interested in holiday pictures (I don’t even take them myself), I find the waves of indignation, opinion and emotion that belong to a social medium, hard to take. It does not suit me. So I stop…’

So Marcel, my now Ex-Facebook friend, goodbye! Go on, unfriend us radically! Do it! Cut us off!

We totally respect your admission that you are ‘geen mens voor groepen’ (not a person for groups). You’re an artist, so an ‘Einzelgänger’. We, your 1897 Ex-Friends can take it. We understand that you don’t want to share anything with your Facebook Friends anymore. Gee, Marcel, what a great blow to take…

And yet, it’s not easy to accept that I and all the other names on your list of friends now turn out to be members of a group that you don’t want to be a part of. After all is said and done, we aren’t friends or acquaintances. We are the sickening shades in a virtual group that exude waves of indignation, opinions and emotions.

Who is Marcel Möring? You may ask. Those of you who are living here but are not born and bred Dutchies probably have no idea. Möring (1957) is the author of several acclaimed novels, some of which were translated in English and German.

On several occasions Möring said that he discovered his ambition to be a writer after he had happened to read James Joyce’s ‘Dubliners’ when he was thirteen. Yes, my friends, when he was thirteen! Joyce is still his favourite writer. ‘Dis’, one of his recent novels, (published in 2006; in German: ‘Der nächtige Ort’, in English ‘In A Dark Wood’) echoes Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ (1922). What Dublin was for Joyce, is Assen for Möring. Assen is Möring’s hometown.

I sometimes wonder what James Joyce (1882-1941) would have thought of the Internet and social media like Facebook, had he still been alive today. Joyce crammed all of Dublin, Ireland and, later on in ‘Finnegans Wake’, the entire world into his novels. He also loved gossip, emotions and popular culture. I think he would have taken a lot of delight from our waves of indignation. What do you think?

Sorry, this posting turned out to be another sidetrack. I don’t seem to find my way to the core of the matter. Tomorrow more about the true meanings of VRIENDEN and KENNISSEN.