This year on my birthday, I decided to disable my Facebook Timeline, which means no one can post on my Timeline.
Earlier, I stopped posting "Happy Birthday" greetings on friends' Timelines.
Facebook tells you, in advance, whose birthday it is.
For a few years, I eagerly wished my Facebook friends on their birthdays.
On my own birthday, I would excitedly see how many of my Facebook friends had greeted me and then, individually thank them.
For the past few years, I felt love and attention by reading birthday wishes on my Facebook Timeline but now more recently, I don't think it is 'real' anymore. I want to consciously move away from the Facebook Birthday.
If you've provided details of your birthday in your Facebook settings, then, Facebook will automatically inform your contacts on the home page. You will also see everyone's upcoming birthdays and, it will further remind you. It's extremely automated.
Before Facebook, one would note birthdays in a notebook or better, remember your friends', siblings', parents', and cousins' birthdays. You would buy a greeting card, hopefully write a thoughtful message and present it in person or post it. I would love sending and receiving cards.
As one grows older, you decide whether you want a party or a quiet birthday at home. It is a personal decision, unless someone decided to throw you a surprise birthday.
Now, even if you want a quiet, intimate birthday with close friends, you can't because the whole freaking world knows it's your birthday.
So, today, despite disabling my Timeline, I'm still getting a stream of birthday greetings in private messages. It's midday and I've received about 20 messages. If my Timeline had not been disabled, I would have received at least 100 posted greetings from my 800+ contacts and, would have been busy all morning replying them and thanking them. After all, how can you not thank someone for taking the time to wish you?
The effort and thought is sweet but it's prompted by an automated algorithm. My Facebook contacts include and are not limited to:
- school friends (a good group of friends, many of them found after many years thanks to Facebook and we all cherish our collective childhood memories but otherwise might have been lost)
- high school friends (when I was at high school, I had very few friends and only befriended many of them after the fact on Facebook)
- school and high school teachers
- college friends (again, very few friends)
- graduate school friends (I became much better at making friends by then and have a big group of them)
- former colleagues from previous jobs
- all the persons I have met over the years as an adult in Monrovia
- my immediate family
- NATC clients
- my partner's relatives and immediate family
- persons I have never met but befriended online
I lived abroad most of my life and, went to school and high school in 5 different countries and, have never met some of my school and high school friends again. Many of my contacts are spread all over the world.
If we did not have Facebook or the internet or smart phones, one's birthday would only be known by a few friends and, one would celebrate it by choice with those near us. So many persons wouldn't necessarily know the date of our birthday.
I like to give gifts and greeting cards if I'm ever invited to a birthday gathering and, would love to receive something real, especially greeting cards. I have collected so many in shoe boxes but this tradition is fast disappearing.
My sense of alienation from this automated life and world is not merely nostalgia. There is something quite impersonal and, enforced about this online interaction with friends. We can't replace 'real' interactions with a few strokes on the keyboard. This is not social interaction. And, unless you are really close to someone or spend enough time with someone, they can't be 'friends'. Sure, they can be your online community of similar-minded persons or former class mates or ex colleagues. We only remember the birthdays of our close friends or family members and, would make the effort to present them a gift or throw them a party. One would not normally make such an effort for someone outside one's close circle. And, there's nothing wrong with that. But this automatic prompt to greet someone on their birthday does not feel genuine at all.
So long with Facebook birthdays.