Happy Birthday, Stranger

2044_10100592264733793_1788374556_nI’m not a birthday guy. For my 30th, my wife and family arranged a surprise birthday party for me and it was literally the most surprised I’ve been about anything. Not because I didn’t deserve it (of course I deserved it) but because I’ve never been big on my birthday. It comes and goes.

The party was pretty great, though.

This last year though, I took my birth date off Facebook completely. It wasn’t secret. My birthday can be found (a good sourcer or identity thief could probably locate it). And a few people wished me happy birthday (thankfully, both my parents remembered without the aid of Facebook). For the most part, it went under the radar, including by a few people whose birthdays I know.

Luckily, I didn’t cut them like some would.

My main intention wasn’t to mess with people or try to play the gotcha game with them. In fact, my only hope is to relieve people of the chore of writing a meaningless happy birthday on my Facebook wall without any semblance of feeling. Happy birthday, stranger. As casually and thoughtlessly as a nod to another person as you walk by on the street.

This seems to be one of those courtesy things that made sense when Facebook was truly about a place with just your friends. When I had 25 people as friends, wishing a happy birthday was a natural thing because I’d probably find a way to do it anyway for these people. It just doesn’t scale, though.

As I have seen birthdays hit my Facebook feed, I’ve tried to calendar the ones that are more important to me. For someone with some serious memory issues at times, calendaring is the only way to go. Since I am constantly looking weeks ahead, it helps to remind me better than just seeing the date pop up on Facebook the day of the big event.

For everyone else, though? I’m not wishing you a happy birthday. Not if I’d never be invited to a birthday party or have a reason to know one way or another. Not if we’ve known each other for a long time and we’ve never connected on birthdays.

That might be bad news for Facebook, too. They are trying to make money by allowing users to gift tangible objects through Facebook. I wouldn’t be surprised if they suddenly flipped my privacy settings for hidden birth dates.

If your birthday is a big deal to you, I’ll pick up on that. I’m not dense and I’m not uncaring. But when 200 people are wishing you happy birthday on Facebook, we should also be honest with ourselves about the depth of those sentiments. If you’re a regular birthday wisher, can you remember the people you wished happy birthday to in the last week?

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