Tuesday, 2 August 2016

Birthday Wishes and Social Media

I recently celebrated a birthday. I had to do the maths to remember exactly how old I was turning and was disappointed to discover I was going to be a year older than I had thought. [Sigh] It’s happening…I am getting old(er).

I received two beautiful cards in the post, 87 birthday wishes on Facebook with another 230 on Twitter and 4 on LinkedIn (I guess I am not as connected on LinkedIn). 

Every year around the month of October, Husband begins his Christmas Card list with the goal of having all cards posted by the first of December. We mostly make the deadline. The cards for people who live in the village must be hand delivered and we seem to fail at that one – but we give it a good go.

I must admit, sending e-cards and posting JibJab messages on social media is a bit more instantaneous, and requires less preparation time, and less thought (not to mention less cost). As our digital footprint gets bigger, even Google sends us birthday wishes. We are all connected.

Carol Markowicz says that “…birthdays have become complicated to the point where people don’t know the rules anymore. Facebook has changed the whole birthday game, as it were. No longer do people get credit for remembering the day you graced humanity; now they get an alert (and a follow-up reminder!) about it. The ease of remembering has led to confusion about how to offer the appropriate “happy birthday” greeting.” (6 Rules for Happy Birthday Etiquette in the Age of Facebook, Time, 2015)

I must be honest.  I liked all the birthday wishes.  It made me feel good and much appreciated.  My birthday is at the end of July and the whole of my life was missed by friends at school – because of summer vacation.  I know, it’s childish and I know that I am not the only person who had a birthday during summer break; but as a young child, it felt like I was. So birthday wishes are kind of nice – even if it was force fed on the Facebook page by alert messages and a follow-up reminder.

Our social media life has connected us to people in an immediate way. They shouldn’t really be called “friends”; it should be more like, “acquaintances” or “work buddies” or “kind-of-sort-of-friends”. Having everyone you are connected to called “friends” sort of devalues the sanctity of what that role really means. I don’t have 500 or so “friends”; I have two close friends, a few dear friends, and a handful of “people-I-speak-with-on-a-personal-basis-from-time-to-time” friends. All the rest are social “acquaintances” or rather, “Facebook Friends”. I don’t hang out with them, I don’t go over to see them (nor they me), I see them maybe occasionally and say “hey”; or I went to school with them many years ago and just want to sort of catch up, and now we are “FB Buddies”.

Oh and then there is the Family Facebook Friends. Now that is special. Doing some family history research I found cousins I never met before and we have had some good chats along the way. A couple of cousins I was able to meet up with the last time I visited the USA. That is really special.

I must be more honest. My social skills are poor. I am not good at remembering special dates like birthdays and anniversaries. I have never been, and being an adult with attention deficit disorder the impulsiveness and immediacy of social media gives me instant gratification and alleviates a plethora of guilt.   

All this “Happy Birthday” stuff has had me thinking about cards. I think though that the intimacy of a home-made card or the joy of opening a special Hallmark card that someone actually took the time to pick out especially for you, is lost in all of this social media. In fact, cards, in particular, are put aside for the instant “Thank you” that an email can send.

A couple of years ago I was teaching a Health and Social Care B-Tech unit where I had several guest speakers come into the class each week to speak about their personal experiences with various physical disabilities.  After each visit, I had the class present the speaker with a box of chocolates and a thank you card signed by each member of the class.

The first time, I presented our guest with our little “thank you” gift and card.  After that experience, I asked the students to take charge of giving a special acknowledgement to our guest. I provided the card and chocolates of course and each student took turns to be the “presenter”.

This act of kindness created an avenue for quite an interesting discussion. “Why are we doing this?” One student said.

“Tell me what you think – why do you think we should take the time to recognise a guest speaker by giving them a “thank you” card and a little token of our appreciation?” 

I had to explain that this person, our guest, has taken time out of their life to come and share a very personal, vulnerable part of their life with us so that we can understand what it is
like to have their disability. We should acknowledge their courage, their grace and their kindness and so we show our appreciation by saying, “thank you” and by giving them a card and a box of chocolates, it shows that we thought of them enough to make a little effort.

So now in the days of social media and big digital footprints stomping through the internet, we should make an effort to be slightly more connected.  If we can’t send cards, then we can at least make our wishes a bit more reflective of the friendships we cultivate (or want to cultivate).  I think we can create those moments to feel a little more lasting like a card we sometimes get in the post – it’s not quite the same, but maybe it could feel something like it.

I very much appreciated all the wonderful birthday greetings and wishes I recently received. So many of my relatives and dear friends are in faraway places and if for a fleeting moment they wrote on my Wall, I don’t really care if they were prompted to do so. I am just happy to have heard from them.  

What are your thoughts about our social skills? Is the internet changing our social etiquette?  Do we need to establish some kind of social media manners? What do you think?  

Thank you for your feedback and Happy Birthday, Happy Holidays, Best Wishes and Be My Valentine - 'til next time. MGxx


6 Rules for ‘Happy Birthday’ Etiquette in the Age of Facebook

Facebook Birthday Wishes: What to Write in Posts, Tweets, or Status Updates

7 Better Ways To Wish Someone Happy Birthday On Facebook

Do you still send out holiday cards?

You never write anymore; well, hardly anyone does


  1. Ahh, cheers for that dear friend! Love you lots xxx

  2. Yes! Yes and yes! Facebook has been a great way for me to keep in contact with people that we couldn't affkrd to travel and visit, even an hours journey costs but i dont think anything can replace actually seeing people as for birthdays, i love cards and i love sending them its mote personal and thoughtful, this year we will be sending Christmas cards again, i like your idea of getting them out early and although i have my eye on some lovely ones from phoneix cards homemade are the best :) Marie x

  3. Thank you so much for your nice comments, Marie. I really do appreciate it. I agree, home-made cards are the BEST.xx

  4. Was that the group I spoke to? They were so good. I was worried I would bore them to tears but they seemed interested and engaged. I really felt welcomed, they were lovely x

    1. It sure was! You were magnificent!! You really touched their lives. Thank you so much - and I very much appreciate the feedback!!! xxx


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