There, I said it. It won’t be a popular opinion and many can counter it by saying all of the wonderful things that Facebook does for birthdays (such as remind us when they are, which is the part I love), but the end result is an utter destruction of the birthday construct that has lived perpetually in western society for centuries and that was nearly perfected in the 20th century prior to the rise of the internet in general and Facebook in particular.
We used to get cards. We used to get calls. We used to get visitors. Today, we get wall posts. Last year’s birthday was the first time I noticed the dramatic drop in my phone ringing. I don’t do family holidays outside of my immediate family so my birthday and the birthdays of my friends and relatives was a reminder to catch up, to ask my brother about his family, to make sure that my cousin’s old dog hadn’t died yet (it persists year after year going on 2 decades now), to hear about how an old buddy from college or even high school had finally gotten married and would have sent me an invite if he knew I’d moved to California.
Last year was different. I was offended. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not the birthday party or birthday gift type. Like I said, birthdays represent a day of communication with those who don’t live at my house or work at my office. When I received nil in the form of phone calls last year other than my mother, I wondered what had happened. I called a friend who informed me to look on my Facebook wall.
There they were. A ton of Happy Birthday messages from friends, family, coworkers, and even a few people I didn’t recognize. It was nice at first, but then I realized that I didn’t have a chance to catch up with my brother, to talk to my cousin, or to muse with an old buddy. They did their duty. They wished me a happy birthday. I was unfulfilled.
Please, if you’re out there and if you’ve allowed Facebook to become your birthday greeting method, step back for a moment. Which is better – a wall post or a phone call? Don’t get me wrong – Facebook has allowed me to wish acquaintances happy birthday in ways that I would never have had before. I wouldn’t have called them, sent them a birthday card, or gone by their house. The ones close to me, though – Facebook isn’t enough. It’s gotten to the point that it’s so personal that it’s almost impersonal.
Use Facebook for the people you don’t know very well (or don’t like a whole lot). For the people you really care for, pick up the phone, send them a card via snail mail, or drop by to say high. In person. Face to face. With a real voice.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t post on their wall. That’s for the public. Post a funny picture of them. Write them a poem for the rest of their world to see. THEN, pick up the phone or hop in the car and make an appearance.