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?