16 September 2010

The Facebook Happy Birthday Farce


Once in a while, when I need to clear my mind so I can refocus it on the task I am currently trying to stay with, I will saunter off to a blogger site so I can read anything that catches my fancy. Earlier today, I chanced upon this blog entry that was entitled “Is Facebook a Farce?” As things happened, the writer said that she was getting tired of people’s over-reliance on Facebook to keep tabs on friends’ birthdays and was curious to find out what would happen if she deliberately changed the birthday she had registered on Facebook to a phony one.

As was bound to happen, when the day of the false birthday arrived, she started to get greetings of “Happy Birthday” from her long list of friends on the social networking site. Because some of even her so-called friends – those she would have thought would know her real birthday – fell to her trap, she expressed alarm that people may just be accepting friendship requests so they can inflate their numbers and feel better about themselves.

Furthermore, she asked, “How well do we know the people who are our Facebook friends if we need technology to remind us about things about them…?”

I will have to admit, some of the points she was trying to make were perfectly valid. I have a friend and a colleague on the same site, for instance, who deliberately registered a wrong date just for the sheer heck of it. When the false date was dutifully announced on the upper right hand corner of the Home Page, true to form, the birthday greetings started coming in.

I was amused to see the greetings stream down the News Feed, but felt impelled to butt in once the greeting came from somebody we all worked closely with in the office, before she moved on to find greener pastures. “His birthday is in July,” I felt it my obligation to remind the well-wisher.

Like the author of this blog entry I was talking about earlier, I also question the authenticity of greetings people almost nonchalantly hurl at birthday celebrants all over Facebook. I mean, how many times have we all seen “Happy Birthday God Bless” on people’s walls when they are celebrating their birthdays?

Many people are just plain suckers for birthdays – and I will shamelessly admit that I am one of these. It is that one day of the year when I feel I am the most important person in the whole wide world.

That is why I do not even have a birthday registered on Facebook. It is because I do not care for the impersonal “Happy Birthday God Bless” that people, well-meaning they may be, also thoughtlessly tend to write on celebrants’ walls.

It is a bit of a conundrum, in all honesty; and the author was candid enough to state that she was torn between being pleased that so many people bothered at all and alarmed that many seemed to have posted greetings almost mechanically, as if merely in response to a database prompt on the Home Page.

Although I share some of the author’s views, personally, I also wonder if there was any real wisdom in the author subjecting her Facebook friends to such a test. I thought she only got what she always had coming her way.

True, people request to be added as friends. That does not mean they will soon ask to lick the ice cream you are eating or come over for a slumber party. Sometimes, they just know you from a distance and wish to know what sorts of things are happening in your side of the world. It is up to everyone, after all, to not publish a shout-out saying how many times one had sex with one’s partner during the night – unless one has a sad and chronic need for attention.

With or without Facebook, I think we all know who are real friends are, anyway! The ones who really know us well will visit, call or send a text message. They do not need a Facebook prompt. If they forget one year, you feel somewhat hurt; but you eventually forgive them, anyway. For one, their forgetting will never kill you. For another, you are friends! True friendships transcend birthday greetings!

Although I do not have a birthday registered on Facebook, I always get a stream of greetings, nonetheless. I also get my share of happy-birthday-God-blesses; while I do not care much for these, I appreciate that the ones who post these do so for the simple reason that – on the other side of the coin – there are also those who cannot be bothered at all to even write something mechanical.

There are also those who do not know your birthday but see the greetings and jump onto the bandwagon. Some will even write heartfelt notes on your wall. These I appreciate as well.

The truth is that the people whose greetings I really care about will always come to see me, call me, send me a text message or even have a gift bought and wrapped for me days before my special day. So, if I get a happy-birthday-God-bless, that is merely the icing on the cake. Why get upset if somebody forgets? It is, after all, my birthday!

So, if I register a false birthday and get all sorts of greetings on the wrong day, guess whose fault it really is? It will have to be mine, no question about it!

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