Last night I went to a birthday dinner for some old friends. During the meal, I asked one of celebrants how another one of her friends—her maid of honor, in fact—was doing. Were they still close? I had hardly heard the MOH’s name recently.
“We’re still friends. But let’s put it this way,” my friend said. “She wished me a happy birthday on my Facebook wall…And that was it.”
That simple sentence told me everything I needed to know. And so began a heated discussion about appropriate birthday greetings between friends.
There are unwritten rules about this. But evidently the MOH wasn’t in the know, so maybe said rules deserve to be written after all.
Facebook wall posts are at the bottom of the totem pole. They’re for the people you like, but who you wouldn’t otherwise wish a happy birthday at all—be it because you aren’t in touch or your relationship hasn’t reached a texting, emailing or calling stage. I might slap a “Happy Bday!” on the wall of a coworker’s husband or an old acquaintance from college. I’d go that route with an improv classmate or a camp friend from the old days.
Emails and texts are for casual friends. They’re not your BFFs, or even close friends, but you have a current and independent relationship with them. I’d opt to email or text most of the friends I’ve made since this search began. (With a few exceptions, we generally haven’t reached the phone call place yet.) I’ve even got some women in my life who I’d consider a semi-close friend, but our chosen method of communication has always been text, so I’d go that route for the birthday greeting. Email is also acceptable for some family members—I often use it for aunts, uncles, and cousins.
Close friends and BFFs deserve a phone call. Making the effort tells your friend she’s worth a few moments of your day. Oftentimes you’ll be sent to voicemail anyway—it’s a weekday and who has time to field birthday wishes all the time? Leave a message, show you care, and be on your way. It’s not hard. That’s the approach I take. It doesn’t matter if I talk to that friend once a week or twice a year. If our history warrants it—we were uberclose once, but time and distance has caused us to drift—your phone will be ringing. It’s the perfect time to catch up and say “I know we haven’t spoken, but I’ll always think of you on this day.” So your, ahem, maid of honor, no matter if you’ve started to grow apart, must pick up the phone. No exceptions.
If you’re someone’s BFF, you can work your way down the totem pole. That is to say, if I call my best friend and she doesn’t pick up, I can shoot her an email to say “Hope you got my message! Thinking of you.” Then you can post on her Facebook wall, so she feels the extra love. But you cannot go wall post only.
A final thought: I would rather a close friend simply forget my birthday than opt to go the Facebook route. I’ve forgotten friends’ birthdays before. I never feel good about it. But there have been instances where I was so harried that I never registered what day it was. And often on weekends I don’t look at a calendar at all. When my close friends simply forget, I don’t get mad or hurt. I know how life can get. It’s not personal. But if someone who holds bestie status remembers my birthday and consciously decides to go the facebook route… Well, then I’d probably feel the sting.
What about you? Do you buy into this birthday etiquette? What about when a friend forgets your big day altogether?