You Say It’s Your Birthday

My husband’s big 3-0 is coming up next week, which of course has got me thinking about birthdays in general. (Also the fact that we met when he was 19 and now he will be 30. Which is crazy.)

Matt’s not on Facebook, which means he will miss out on the very most modern birthday phenomenon: The Facebook birthday greeting.

Now, I’ve written before about my feelings on Facebook wall birthday well-wishes. In fact, it was one of my most controversial posts (well, that and the whole wedding present dispute). Here’s the gist: I believe a “Happy Birthday!” solely on Facebook is acceptable from only the lowest tier of friend. If you’re a BFF or a close friend, a phone call is the way to go. A new friend or a casual friend, text. And if you’re one of those non-friends who has met the birthday girl only once, and you just happen to be connected via Facebook, then post on the wall. Fine. Basically, if you’re someone who would have wished the birthday girl a happy day even if Facebook didn’t exist, then you should do it in some more personal manner than a two-word social network message.

I’m not someone who gets mad when people forget my birthday. Last month I forgot one of my bestest friends’ birthday. I was horrified, but good friend that she is, she didn’t care. However if my BFF were to remember my birthday and choose to recognize it only on Facebook, I’d find it odd. I don’t think I’d be mad, but maybe a bit put off.

Still, the plethora of greetings that cover your wall from virtual non-friends is enough to make you feel like queen for a day.

And, like I said, Matt’s not on Facebook. So no wall greetings for him. Last year, I announced his birthday on the site for him. I know how many people rely on the birthday notification over there on the right. Perhaps his pals would see my status update and remember when they might have otherwise forgotten. I like to do what I can to help friends be good friends.

I recently read a hilarious article on Slate.com entitled “My Fake Facebook Birthdays.” The author, David Plotz, continues to change his birthday in his profile, so he shows up on the “today’s birthdays” list every few weeks. He does this solely because he believes Facebook birthday greetings are silly and meaningless. He writes:

“There is one manifestation of good manners that appears to have exactly the opposite purpose [of etiquette], a form of social lubrication that makes a mockery of everyone connected to it. I refer to the Facebook birthday greeting. The Facebook birthday greeting has become a symbol of all that is irritating about the social network. Every April 11 or June 7 or Sept. 28, your Facebook account suddenly chatters with exclamation-point-polluted birthday wishes. If you are a typical Facebook user, these greetings come mainly from your nonfriend friends—that group of Facebook ‘friends’ who don’t intersect with your actual friends. The wishes have all the true sentiment of a Christmas card from your bank. The barrage of messages isn’t unpleasant, exactly, but it’s all too obvious that the greetings are programmed, canned, and impersonal, prompted by a Facebook alert. If, as Facebook haters claim, the social network alienates us from genuine friendship, the Facebook birthday greeting is the ultimate example of its fakery.”

I don’t think a Facebook post is quite as calculated and impersonal as Plotz claims. Banks send Christmas cards to keep your business, people say happy birthday to be nice. Sure, it’s prompted by the good ol’ bookface, but so what? If you’re only a virtual friend, it seems appropriate to say happy birthday in a virtual world.

What do you think? Is David Plotz right, are Facebook birthday greetings “the ultimate example of fakery”? Or do they brighten your big day?

12 Comments

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12 responses to “You Say It’s Your Birthday

  1. katieleigh

    My birthday was yesterday, and I confess I enjoyed the barrage of Facebook birthday wishes. About a dozen of them were from people I never talk to any more – so that was a little weird. But a lot of them were from college friends I still keep in occasional touch with, or people from Texas (I moved to Boston a year ago) whom I miss. And although my mom and best friend both called me, and my hubs made me dinner, they all wished me a happy birthday on Facebook too.🙂

    I don’t think Facebook birthday greetings have to be fake. I’ve started sending them only to people I’m still genuinely in touch with – maybe as an attempt to be a bit more authentic with it. I will say, though, no matter how “fake,” that stream of wishes does give me the warm fuzzies.

  2. The only people that call me on my birthday are my parents. If it’s a weekday, then I’m at work and can’t talk. And if it’s a weekend, then I’m probably out doing something fun to celebrate and may not be able to talk. I assume the same for others, so I don’t make the call. I’m okay with texts or FB birthday wishes, even from actual friends, because they still thought of me – even if they were prompted by a birthday notification, or seeing lots of wall posts about my birthday.

  3. Robin

    My husband and I were just talking about this since his birthday was last week. Looking at all the comments, he said, “Wow, this makes me look really popular” and yet he and I were the only ones going to dinner that night to celebrate! I don’t know, sometimes it does feel fake, but whatever…it’s still nice to get 50+ happy birthday wishes – even if you never talk to those people otherwise, they’re still wishing you a nice day.

  4. Laurie Lee

    My philosophy is if I don’t feel I know someone well enough to sincerely wish them a Happy Birthday then I shouldn’t be Facebook friends with them. When I first got on FB I was all gung go seeing familiar names from my youth and I added anyone I knew I went to school with even if I never talked to them. About a year ago after seeing I never talked to most of these people on FB, I did a purge because this became too superficial. Now my FB friends list is much smaller and consists of people I really do know. So, a FB bday greeting now seems sincere to me and means something whether I’m giving it or receiving it.

  5. BeeBee

    I think FB birthdays are annoying. I do not have my birthday listed in the Facebook reminders, so this year I only got Facebook birthday wishes from my best friend (who also gave me a homemade card), my mother in law (also gave me a card), my closest aunt, a couple other close friends, and one client — out of 300 friends. My husband didn’t even post! LOL. I only leave birthday wishes for friends’ kids, especially when they post cute birthday party photos. That’s just me.

  6. I love leaving birthday messages – and like some, I have stopped leaving them for some people – in an attempt to be more “picky” and seem more “real” (not that anyone realizes this). Sometimes, I do it based on whether I received a birthday greeting from that person (because my birthday is in January, so I can use that gauge – really anyone can). Sometimes I do it based on the last time I talked to the person. Sometimes, it’s someone I don’t talk to anymore, but I still think of fondly (regardless of how little time we might have spent together). I’d like to think that people realize my birthday wishes are sincere. And I hope it brings them happiness or at least makes them smile.
    And I love looking at all the birthday messages…I guess I give people the benefit of the doubt, but if they don’t want to give the effort, I’m not going to be upset…so if they are going to go to the extra effort to send me a message or write on my wall, it makes me happy (even if they needed a reminder from facebook).

  7. Amanda

    What a coincidence, my boyfriend is celebrating the big 3-0 next week as well! He’s on fb, but doesn’t have his birthday displayed, so I’m curious to see who will remember.

    I tend to leave facebook greetings for people that I grew up with, but am not in contact with very often, many of whose birthdays I still remember without the fb reminder. Family that I’m not close enough with to call get fb greetings also. Close friends and family get a phone call, close-ish friends get a text or gchat message.

    If nothing else, I feel like my greetings are always sincere, and it does make me feel good to have other people make that tiny bit of effort to write on my wall.

  8. Anonymous

    I hate fb birthday greetings. Most of those people don’t even know it’s really my birthday or they only talk to me once a year anyways on my birthday (I should probably purge them off my friends list!) I only use the birthday reminders are a way to remember my good friend’s birthday then I send them a text. My best friends I know there birthdays anyways😉

    ERiN

  9. Cheryl

    At the risk of sounding highly superficial and fake-phony, I like it that FB has birthdays posted. It’s not that I’m so “busy” that I don’t remember people’s birthdays. I’m no busier than anyone else. It’s that I don’t put the birthdays of even close friends on a calendar – if it weren’t for FB, I would think of it two weeks before or three days after the event. Plus, I have acquaintances that I’ve known for a couple of years, but I wouldn’t know when their birthdays fell if it weren’t posted on FB.

    I have a handful of friends and family that I remember their birthdays because I’ve known them long enough that I actually remember, but otherwise, I am a complete space case, and without a digital reminder, I would never remember anything….. (Of course, I am a lot older than 30, which is not an excuse, but still….)

    I guess I’m just one of those who is grateful for anything that helps me tell other people I’m thinking of them at an appropriate time and in an appropriate fashion!! 🙂

  10. I am a happy birthday wisher on facebook. I tend to do it for family and friends that I actually keep in contact with, but I do still call or send birthday cards for immediate family and close friends.

    I am turning the big 3-0 this week too!!!!! 🙂

  11. Jenna

    It’s true. My birthday is set to “only me”, so no one gets a reminder – and it shows. I only got four birthday greetings this year on Facebook (out of a possible 50). Those who posted were people who mainly noticed that I had changed my profile pic to one that was celebrating my birthday! I did get phone calls and text messages from people who did not post on FB.

  12. Maybe it’s because my birthday is next week (hint, hint), but I LOVE BIRTHDAY wishes anyway I can get them. Sometimes there are so many phone calls because each young person in my family sings, but the more the merrier.
    I love to have my wall smothered in Happy Birthdays from friends of friends who don’t know, but are happily reminded by FB. I never feel it is an empty wish.
    Most close friends send cards and/or call. Even funny ecards are cool. I love the personalized jibjabs.
    It is the one day that distractions are welcome so thinking about the actual number I have reached….isn’t as sobering.
    Personally, I don’t love texts, but then I’m still not as text savvy as most.

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