Happy Birthday…from Facebook

happy-birthday-from-facebook

It’s been a while since we’ve posted anything. Life is hard, and we’ve been focusing on other things lately (like, since Christmas-ish). I’ve been focused on my marriage. Chris has been job-hunting/starting a new job. And Brian has up and moved to be a part of Desire Church down in Pembroke Pines, FL. I’ll forego reintroducing why Mannerd exists, and just get right back into doing what we are here to do.

I recently celebrated a birthday, and have now accumulated as many years as Baskin-Robbins has flavors. While birthdays as an adult don’t have the same level of excitement associated with them as they do for kids, it’s always nice to get together with (or at least hear from) new and old friends. Then there’s that other kind of friend: the Facebook Friend. I think we can all agree on the definition of the Facebook Friend. These are the people with whom we are barely, if even, acquainted. Sometimes, it’s an even lesser degree of connection. Maybe they’re just the friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. Yet, because we accepted that friend request years ago, we’re now given the opportunity once a year to acknowledge the day they “burst forth from their mother’s loins”1 based on nothing more than a little red notification badge.

This year, I conducted a bit of a social experiment. A few days beforehand, I made my birthday private on Facebook. There would be no little red badge to notify everyone on my friends list of my further passage through the sands of time. The results were quite conclusive. I did not receive one single “Happy Birthday” on Facebook. These results perfectly mirrored my hypothesis. This might sound depressing and, in a way, I suppose it is. Without the reminder from Facebook, most of my friends, acquaintances, and even family members don’t know when my birthday is. I did get a handful of well-wishes, and because I knew they were more than a response to a notification badge, they meant a little more to me.

I’m not encouraging you to memorize the birthdate of any/every person with whom you interact. I am, however, suggesting a lesser dependence on an emotionless corporation to remind you when to celebrate with a friend. I’d like to urge you to help put an end to what I’ll call the Facebook Happy Birthday post. If the only reason you know your friend’s birthday is because Facebook reminded you, then you don’t really know their birthday. The FBHB post is shallow at best, and insulting at worst. I’m not saying you shouldn’t wish a happy birthday to people who aren’t your besties. I’m not even saying you should never say it on Facebook. However, consider the method and manner in which you offer the salutation. The FBHB post says to the recipient, “Hey, I was routinely checking my news feed this morning, and this notification told me it was your birthday. So, then I took no more than 4 seconds out of my life to type ‘happy day!’2 before getting on back to my ever-pressing snooze button mashing ritual.”

Consider taking the time to make a phone call in response to the little red badge. It doesn’t have to be long. Just take a little extra time to make sure your friend knows that you actually enjoy connecting with them and that you aren’t just following what has become the societal norm. Want to take it to the next level? Maintain a special calendar for your friends’ special days (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.). You can, by all means, keep it on your phone or whatever the tech-du-jour might be. I’m certainly not implying you should go out and purchase a Thomas Kinkade calendar and pencil everything in by hand like your Grandma did. You could set your calendar to remind you the week before an upcoming birthday, and then take them by complete surprise when you call to say, “Hey, seems like you’ve got a special day coming up soon. Could I take you to lunch or buy you a drink this week?” If you do choose to wish them a happy birthday via Facebook (maybe that’s the only way you have to stay in touch with them), take the time to send them more than just two words and an exclamation point. Share a memory of a fun time you had together. Remind them of what you enjoy about them. Maybe even say it in a private message (think about the difference between a “Happy Birthday!” said in passing in the hallway versus a hand-delivered card). These methods let you friend know that not only did you remember their special day, but you took a special step to make it personal.

I’m guilty of missing the special days of even those I deeply care about, and for that I am very sorry. Let’s try to remember that we don’t have to say “Happy Day!” just because a social networking site told us to. Let’s remember to give our friends the thoughtful connection they deserve, because we care about them. Take it upon yourself to set the reminder about those you care about, and then follow through. Use the comments section to tell us how you remember (or plan to remember) the special days of your friends.

1This quote is attributed to my mother, who is all to glad to remind my friends of where I came from any time she gets the chance.

2Capitalization omitted purposefully in order to better reflect the reality of online “grammar.”

For a little more lighthearted take on the topic of the FBHB post, here’s Garfunkel and Oates with their aptly titled video “Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance.”

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