Celebration or Convenience?

Birthday Card saying Happy Birthday Old Chap
Old? Me?

Yes, I know how this will sound. It will sound like the sad complainings of a person with no friends. And it will sound like a ‘Hey, look at me’ post too. But it’s not either of those. I’m too old to be bothered about such things now and this is merely an observation and a musing on how technology is changing things.

Yesterday was my birthday. And, relative to other people i know, I had surprisingly few happy birthday messages. And by messages I mostly mean people writing or commenting on Facebook.

Some people pointed out that I didn’t allow others to see when my birthday was. There’s a whole post that, frankly I don’t have time to write, about Facebook’s complicated security settings and the fact that I had no idea that this was the case. I still don’t actually know if I’ve fixed that.

And someone else even said: ‘I’m going to write this in my calendar seeing as you’re keeping this information from Facebook’

I observe that two things have changed.

  1. The means by which people are reminded about birthdays. People now depend on Facebook for this information – at least, for the subset of their contacts that are on Facebook and have their privacy set up right.
  2. The means by which people wish each other a happy birthday. For many people a card is no longer necessary.  This has an up side: you can probably wish many more people a happy birthday than you previously did.  And a down-side: because it’s easier to do it somehow – in my head at least – has less value.

I’m torn about whether or not this is a good thing.  It’s hugely convenient, but does it de-value the interaction we have with each other over occasions?  And that’s a geuine question…does it?  In my heart I think it does, but I can’t think of any real reason why.  Of course, I’m delighted that lots of people can now very easily be reminded of my birthday and very easily wish me a happy one.  And I too make use of that convenience to celebrate other peoples’ special days too.

However, I note this fact…it now seems that it’s my responsibility to publish the fact that it’s my birthday.  This is a new piece of knowledge to me.  I’ve always assumed that people put these things in their calendars anyway.  That assumption has been challenged.

What other assumptions that I have about the world might have changed because of social media?  What else don’t I know that I don’t know?