There’s only one thing worse than turning 25: sorting through and answering the slew of banal birthday messages on your Facebook wall (er—timeline, whatever). That’s not hyperbole; for me at least, more daunting even than officially reaching my mid-20s is actually wading through the dozens of “happy birthday” wishes from half-strangers I barely remember friending in the first place. So here’s the solution I propose for our collective social media presences going forward: Let’s all agree to stop wishing people “happy birthday” on Facebook altogether. Pinky swear? I sure do.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good birthday wish or celebration, although that may change starting this year when I do turn 25 in August, but year after year of the same dull “happy birthday!” littering my wall is just getting out of control. So let me qualify our pact with a few caveats: Don’t wish someone a happy birthday on Facebook unless it’s a) creative and personal, b) a segue into catching up, or c) one of the many messages you will send him or her throughout the day because you’re one of those birthday-obsessed, overeager friends. There, that sounds about right to keep most people satisfied.
When Facebook first entered our lives, providing daily reminders of our friends’ birthdays, it was a godsend, an utter revelation. No longer did we need to commit to memory these many days of cake-filled celebration. As long as we were connected on Facebook, it was beyond easy to wish everyone a happy birthday with a simple message to let them know you were thinking about them. In fact, it was almost rude not to do so.
That was cool for a while, I’m not going to lie—that brief period in which you could send virtual gifts (cute and collectible graphics) from the Gift Shop to people was amazing, but then that feature disappeared, only to be replaced by real Facebook Gifts (that almost no one used) so that’s also going by the wayside August 12. But anyway, it seems that as with most conveniences, people started getting lazy and repetitive with their greetings. They no longer needed to remember your birthday (or you); they just needed to write a generic message on your wall when the little red flag and a popup window told them to.
It’s been 10 years, and I’m tired of the annual reminder of my constant aging, especially when the messages are all the same. Thus, I think it’s high time to retire the “happy birthday.” For so many people, continuing to write “happy birthday” on literally all of their friends’ walls—even people they no longer even speak to or want to speak to—is a result of habit. They feel like they should acknowledge a birthday because it’s so simple, but they don’t have anything of substance to say. In this case, convenience begets oversupply and little demand: the more “happy birthdays” there are on the wall, the less valuable they are. Facebook even bunches them altogether (knowing full well they are all the same), making it harder to read the individual messages. I suppose, you could always purge these people from your friend list, but that takes effort, and it’s not as though you want to sever times permanently; you just want to stop the birthday madness.
Besides, if you were just going to write “happy birthday” on someone’s wall without furthering the conversation, you probably could have just skipped it in the first place. The birthday guy or gal probably wouldn’t even notice, and you’d just be writing a message that gets filtered into the forever unread birthday abyss. So why even bother?
Because some people actually keep a tally of how many people wish them a happy birthday and use this number as a proxy for their relative popularity, you say. If this is you, I suggest you spend a bit more time frolicking in the real world. If you care more about the quantity than the quality, there are more serious issues we should be discussing.
Which brings me to my next point. For your real friends, the ones who matter, do something more considerate than merely writing on their wall. There are so many other outlets that take just a modicum more of effort but have an enormous and memorable impact. Go out of your way to text them, write an email, send a card, call them (God forbid), or if you can, hang out in person.
Conversely, if you’re on the receiving side, the ones who go above and beyond are your real friends. Do the same for them, and let’s make this a virtuous cycle of epic birthdays.
As for me, I hid my upcoming birthday from Facebook this year to avoid the glut of messages. The ones who go above and beyond without the reminder I will know are the true-blue BFFS that matter. And the ones whom I still consider friends but forget anyway desperately need to invest in creating an accurate Google calendar.