Last year I got irritated at Facebook and their insistence that I wish every single one of my friends a happy birthday. It’s one thing to remind me when someone has a birthday approaching, it’s another to prod me to post on their timeline or suggest I use the convenient and totally impersonal method of just pressing “1” on my phone. It seems that one of my friends has a birthday just about every day. And now I’m also being pressured to buy people a gift – with real money!
What’s the point of a virtual birthday greeting anyway, when it is sometimes the only direct interaction I have with that person all year long. An acquaintance from high school or the girl in the other department at work won’t notice if my “happy birthday!” never comes.
So I quit. I didn’t wish anyone a happy birthday on Facebook for a year.
My brother has told me several times of a “Cool Kids Club” he jokingly keeps with his friends, and the only requirement for membership is that you receive at least 100 Facebook greetings on your birthday. (My brother is a grown man, btw.) I wondered if I would still receive birthday wishes on my special day even though I didn’t give them. I had a cynical outlook as my birthday approached, and was ready to be annoyed at the random people I forgot to un-friend who were suddenly reminding me via a boring birthday wish that we are still virtually connected.
But then the big day rolled around and after changing my profile photo to an adorable selfie with my dog just in time for the influx of people looking at my profile, I was surprisingly pleased. No one was mad at me for not wishing them a happy birthday. Perhaps no one noticed or even cared that I hadn’t.
I received several cute squirrel related memes on my Facebook wall (I’ve got a thing for the cute little tree-rats), I heard from several friends with whom I’ve been trying to make plans for months – and actually set a date, and I got the standard number of greetings from assorted friends and family members. And you know what? It made me feel special. I don’t care if all they did was press “1” on their phone, they did it for me. It’s just as easy to not press that button, yet they decided to do that little act of kindness to make my day brighter.
It was then that I realized why I think Facebook pushes the birthday wishes so much. Because it reminds us why we joined Facebook to being with. Remember back in the day when you first opened your Facebook account and had so much fun connecting with old friends? Your high school friends and teachers, former coworkers, cousins across the country, etc. On your birthday it’s almost nostalgic to scroll through your notifications and be reminded about how many people like still like you. It makes us happy to receive those greetings, regardless of how easy it was for them to be sent. We all like to receive positive attention, and we connect those feelings to Facebook, making us want to come back for more, and maybe return the favor for a friend.
Even if we are secretly annoyed by the incessant birthday wishes, and we know that if Facebook didn’t remind our friends we wouldn’t hear from nearly as many of them, we still love it when our turn comes around.
And I was reassured by my brother that although I didn’t quite reach the requisite 100 wishes on my birthday, I’ll always be a member of the Cool Kids Club.