It is always nice to wish a friend or family member a happy birthday, but Facebook is ruining birthday greetings for me. Each morning I awaken to find two or three birthday reminders on Facebook. Over the years, the result is that I do my best to enter a quick message that says, “Happy birthday” and I’m done with it. That doesn’t seem right.
A birthday is a special day, and most people probably delight in the well-wishes they receive. The problem is that Facebook has turned birthday wishes into a routine assembly line affair. It might be your birthday today, but I’ve been sending birthday wishes to someone every day for the last several years. That wears on a person, and it makes the birthday wishes I send seem impersonal.
Being able to wish someone a happy birthday has evolved with the available technology. Birthday wishes were sent through the mail. As the telephone grew in popularity, and the price of long-distance calls came down, phone calls replaced some of the birthday card traffic. Email messages made it even easier. And Facebook, with its knowledge of everyone’s birthday, and proactive reminders, has turned it into something routine.
I don’t like it. When I see a list of the day’s birthdays on Facebook, I roll my eyes, grudgingly send birthday wishes, and tell myself that this is the last time I’m doing it. Of course, I do it again the next day, growing ever firming in my resolve to stop sending birthday wishes through Facebook, but the cycle continues.
There are people who brag about not being on social media. They are like people who brag that they never watch any television. I envy those people. They don’t have to deal with the onslaught of birthday wishes that faces you each morning, and the stress that builds up around them if you don’t manage to get in the birthday wish during the 24-hour window.
People are always making mistakes with birthdays on Facebook. Facebook reminds you that Joe’s birthday is tomorrow, but you’re not paying attention so you send your birthday wishes prematurely. Or, someone comments on a birthday wish thread, which you commented on seven months ago. That thread shows up in your timeline, and since you no longer have any grasp of when anyone’s birthday really is, you add a “Happy birthday” comment to the end of the thread. A few hours later you learn that today is not, in fact, your friend’s birthday, it’s five months from now, and dammit, if you were a better friend, you’d’ve known that.
I preferred the days when there was a wall calendar in the kitchen that listed everyone’s birthday. There were maybe five or six birthday’s in a month, and everything was manageable. Now, depending on how many friends you have on Facebook, there can be five or six birthday’s on a single day.
It’s too much for me. I’m not quitting Facebook, but I am quitting the Facebook birthday game. I’ll find a better, more personal way to wish my friends and family a happy birthday.