Tag Archives: birthday

How facebook hijacked our birthdays

9 Dec

Do you remember those big posters we had, back in the pre-facebook era? The ones that had the birthdays of all our friends and relatives marked on it? Birthday calendars, they were called. They hung in the toilet, where we would gaze at them intently while being held hostage by our bowel movements, using that time to ponder on similarities between people born under the same zodiac.

These calendars could also be found in hallways and corridors, where we would give them quick glances, reminding ourselves day after day not to forget someone´s birthday, then forgetting it anyway, and sending our loved one a birthday card which would arrive 5 days late, but with the self-reassuring message “better late than never!”

This doesn´t happen anymore. We don´t need to remember birthdays, because facebook is there to remind us. Ever since facebook took off, our birthday wishes have been arriving right on time and in greater quantities than ever before. But never before have these wishes been so worthless.

Worthless, really? Yes. Because when we send birthday wishes on facebook, we don´t do it because we remembered that person´s birthday. Facebook remembered. And those wishes, are they an act of genuine interest and care, or rather an automatic response to a programmed reminder? Of course we care, we say. Okay, but for how long? How long does it take to write that message and send it?

Weren´t we a bit more involved, back in the day when we had to remind ourselves of upcoming birthdays? When we went out to buy a card and write something on it (manually!), passing the card to other persons of interest, and then going to the post office, even spending money on a stamp and then mailing it…   Doesn´t all of that seem a bit more… I don´t know… valuable?

To be honest, I used to be very happy with all those birthday wishes on facebook. Until I realised how little they actually meant. Because I´d be sending those wishes too, to people I didn´t even care for that much. But it was all so easy –No, that´s not it. I didn´t do it because it was easy. I did it because not doing it was hard. It was hard to ignore that facebook message saying it was someone´s birthday that day. You´d feel like an asshole if you ignored that message. But what kind of motivation is that?

Two and a half years ago I quit facebook, and with that my birthday almost slid into oblivion. Except for a few people -some near, some far- who always seem to remember that date.Which I think is amazing.

I´m delighted when I receive a card or a message on my birthday. Knowing that someone actually remembered the date, and made the effort of sending me something personal to congratulate me, makes me feel loved and appreciated and cared for. Don´t get me wrong: I´m not the kind of person who makes a big deal out of birthdays. But I think it´s nice that we all have this one day a year that´s assigned to us, on which people let us know they´re thinking about us.

That´s why I have a birthday calendar, and that´s why I send birthday cards. Or sometimes just an email. Or sometimes nothing at all, because I simply forgot. But when I remember, it´s me who remembers.

Not facebook.