Over the last couple weeks I have read several familiar Facebook posts. They all read something like: Thank you all so much for the amazing, amazing birthday wishes. I feel so blessed and grateful and honored and special and cared for and loved by all of you. Lucky me. Blah blah blah.
With this last batch of posts, I could not help but go visit the poster’s page to see for myself all these amazing birthday wishes. In each case, I estimate about 90% of the amazing birthday wishes read: “Happy Birthday!” or “Have a great day! Do something fun!”
Call me crazy but is that really an amazing birthday wish?
When you add to the fact that Facebook prompts your friends that it is your birthday, I can’t help but call bull shit on what I am calling “Amazing Facebook Birthday Love” phenomena.
Not only are these sentiments less than amazing, they are less than authentic. Now, before you discount me as some bitter, righteous, anti-Facebook evangelist, I am simply going to ask you to think this through with me. Okay?
Let’s say it’s a Thursday in October. It’s not your birthday. It is not your spouses birthday nor child’s birthday. To the best of your knowledge it’s not any of your friends’ birthdays. You have no clue that you know anyone with a birthday until you log into Facebook and see someone you went to high school with and an acquaintance are celebrating birthdays. Facebook prompts you to send them both a birthday wish. So you post something, right?
My initial informal survey tells me your answer will be something along the lines of it being a nice – easy – thing to do, wanting your friend to know you saw it was their birthday, were thinking of them, etc.
And I believe that. But I also believe, because you were on Facebook in the first place, you were bored and looking to be entertained. (Sorry but that is the simple, perhaps depressing, fact of the matter.) In turn, this means that sending those birthday wishes on Facebook was really a form of amusement for you, not an authentically motivated action to reach out and acknowledge the birthday boy or girl. (After all you didn’t even know – or care until you signed onto Facebook – that it was these people’s birthdays)
Now flip this around. Let’s say it’s a Thursday in October. It’s your birthday. You start to read the stream of birthday wishes on your Facebook page. You feel loved and cherished. I get it. That makes sense.
But time out. Why do we really post birthday greetings on our friends’ Facebook pages? When it is your birthday it is easy to read these posts as thoughtful, genuine acknowledgments of you – an amazing out pour of love. I hate to burst everyone’s bubble, but they aren’t.
Those amazing birthday wishes are your friends killing time. And there is nothing wrong with that. But let’s call a spade a spade. All your gratitude for this “Amazing Facebook Birthday Love,” is really Facebook’s amazing way of keeping your friends on their site a little longer.
True Amazing Birthday Love comes in the form of genuine, meaningful gestures your friends make to celebrate you and your birthday: phone calls, emails, texts, cards in the mail.
It’s a Thursday in October. It’s my birthday. Since I don’t let people post on my Facebook page, I am fascinated and amused by those of you have wished me a Happy Birthday by commenting on my post about gun violence. I see dozens of my connections have messaged birthday wishes. I do appreciate the sentiments.
But meaningful, amazing, feeling so loved? Not from these Facebook messages. Rather these feelings come today from people like my friend Jim who every year on my birthday is the first to send wishes not because Facebook prompted him to (he doesn’t do Facebook) but because his calendar did and he was motivated enough to put that information into a thoughtful email that brought tears to my eyes.
So, let’s all keep spreading our birthday cheer, but how about we stop pretending that it is much more than a fun way to think about each other and distract ourselves.