Happy Birthday to Everyone!

Those of you who have befriended me on Facebook might have noticed something – I don’t post birthday greetings on your Wall.

It’s nothing personal.  I truly like birthdays* and if I haven’t unfriended you yet, you can safely assume that I like you.

*I’m on record saying that your birthday should be a paid holiday.

But I’m probably not going to wish you a happy birthday on Facebook.

Why?  Four key reasons:

1.  I’m lazy.
I have a healthy amount of friends on Facebook (around 300, give or take).  On average, that means five days a week a Facebook friend is having a birthday.  Even if I felt like taking the 30 seconds to go to their wall, type “Happy Birthday ______!!!!” and hit enter, I’m wasting 2.5 hours of my life each year.

And for what?  To become the 43rd random person to wish you a happy birthday?  Pass.

I’d rather use those 2.5 hours for sleep, playing with my kids, or concocting some silly list.

2.  My generic wishes won’t make your day any brighter.
Answer me this:  will my birthday wishes (or lack thereof) have any notable impact upon your day?  The day after your birthday, when you’re sorting through the avalanche of notifications and wall posts, will you think “Huh, Dave didn’t wish me a happy birthday”?  Probably not.

Nor do I think you’ll say “Wow, look at all the people who remembered my birthday!  There’s Dave, that creepy guy from Econ 212, Brenda that I used to work with back in the 90s…”

3.  Facebook birthday greetings are more political than personal.

Let’s face it:  saying nothing more than “Happy Birthday” or “Have a great day!” represents the least required effort to show that you care.  Or more cynically – that you noticed the list of birthdays in the upper right hand corner.

And let’s not forget the politics of birthday greetings.  I’ve often wondered if the people who post “Happy Birthday!” truly care about that person’s birthday, or if they feel socially obligated to post something.  Will be ramifications if you don’t post birthday wishes to your boss or Rhonda the receptionist?  Are there people who judge me for not posting “Happy Birthday” on my wife’s wall, (even though Mrs. Feit Can Write usually receives two birthday cards from me, each with a handwritten note)?

My rule used to be:  If I don’t have anything more interesting/original to say than “Happy Birthday!” then I’m not going to bother.  And for the most part, that worked out nicely.  I like to believe that my buddy Jeff enjoyed it when I posted a picture of a car that looked a lot like his old Pontiac Parisienne on his wall.  But since I don’t want to offend anybody by ignoring them (or trying to draw an imaginary line on whose birthdays to recognize and whose to ignore), nobody gets a cold, impersonal message from me.

Call me old-fashioned, but immediate family and close friends are going to receive a birthday card in lieu of a generic FB post.

Happy Birthday

4.  We’re really not that close.
There.  I said it.

My list of Facebook friends is probably very similar to yours in that it is broken down into the following categories:

  • Acquaintances from high school / college
  • Current and former co-workers
  • Immediate family, cousins, aunts, and other assorted relatives
  • Friends of friends and that person you met at that thing a few years ago
  • Your real-life friends

And within those groups, do you really, truly care about wishing them a happy birthday?  No disrespect to many of my fellow Gretna High Dragons, but the odds are good that we haven’t seen each other since the last reunion (or graduation day), so don’t be sad when my greetings don’t come in.  I like to believe that guy I worked retail with 15 years ago is able to have an enjoyable and fulfilling celebration of his birth without a copy and paste Wall post from me.  (And if not, I sincerely apologize).

Of my 300 some Facebook friends, I’d guess that I have not have a face-to-face conversation with over 50% of them* in the last year.  With some notable exceptions, if it’s been a year since we’ve seen each other, I’m guessing that a “Happy Birthday!” from me isn’t going to make or break your day.  If it is, then we really should get together more often.  Call me.  Let’s do lunch or grab a beer.

*I had to do the math – After doing a quick count through my Friends list, it appears as if I’ve only conversed with 29% of my friends in the last year – and that was being pretty generous in defining a year and counting emails/texts as “conversation”).

*   *   *

I get that some of you still want to leave birthday messages for your Facebook friends.  That’s fine by me.  I’m not judging you, or mocking your decision* – you get to use Facebook how you want to use it (even if it hits every single one of my pet peeves).

*I’m not mocking you, but this brilliant post from College Humor probably is.  Worth the click.

Maybe you’re now rethinking your whole Facebook birthday strategy.  Should you bother posting birthday wishes for that long-lost friend, classmate, or former co-worker?   I can help with a simple two-step test.  If the person in question passes, then post away:

  1. Without using Facebook, would you know when their birthday is?*
  2. If that person posted birthday greetings on your wall, would your spouse/partner/whatever ask “Who is this person”?  If so, then don’t bother posting on their birthday.

*A former co-worker (whose birthday is in the fall) changed his Facebook birthday to December 25.  He said that he planned to de-friend anybody who wished him a happy birthday on Christmas, because they clearly didn’t know him that well – or remember that he had a birthday two months earlier.

*   *   *

So in conclusion, my dear and beloved Friends, please consider this post your birthday/anniversary/bar mitzvah/kid’s birthday/Groundhog’s Day greetings from me.  If it makes you feel better, you may post this on your wall and tag me in it.

Happy [Event_Name]!!!  I hope you have a great day!!!1!

And just we’re all on the same page (and I don’t get accused of being a hypocrite), I’ll be clear:  I’m not going to lose sleep, be upset, de-friend you, or anything else if you don’t post birthday greetings to me on my birthday.

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