Sunday, June 23, 2013

Birthdays used to be an Event - Now it's a Notification

People Wish You On Facebook

Millions of people clustered to Facebook in the past decade as it provided something they’d never experience before. Virtual was suddenly imprinted into our everyday lives and it was here to stay. For me, it all started back in 2007, and by the 2009. Most of my friends were on Facebook. This meant that I could stay in touch with my childhood and college friends without even picking up the phone or sending an email. As with everything else, birthdays were to be changed. I for myself have never remembered dates and numbers, I was terrible at that. Naturally, when I discovered that Facebook is showing me the birthdays of all of my friends and connections I was so thrilled. Finally there was a mindless reminder which would let me wish someone a happy birthday exactly on that day, not a week or two late.

Despite family members and relatives, I rarely get a happy birthday phone call. Only some of my best friends call me, whereas most of the people just wish me a happy birthday on Facebook. They simply write down few words and post them on my wall. This goes on from 12 AM and throughout the day. Earlier we celebrated birthdays with greeting cards and phone calls to make someone feel TRULY special! In fact, there have been occasions when a few Facebook "friends" who had wished me on my Facebook Wall had passed me by in real life and never even acknowledged when they came Face-to-Face!

Facebook both perfected and ruined the birthday. At first, it was the greatest convenience—never forgets a special day ever again! And then it stopped having any meaning. On Facebook, your birthday is automated and empty because nobody has to devote a single shred of mental energy to remembering or celebrating it. And it's not just you—everyone does it. Why? Because it's just so easy; it makes us feel like we're noble people. Facebook now not only automatically alerts you when it's a friend's birthday, but lets you click that alert to post directly on their wall. You don't even have to visit their profile to remember how you know them or what they look like. The next logical step is having Facebook just post "happy birthday, buddy!" on your behalf at 12:01 AM every year.

If we further break it down and try to find the cause of this pattern, is that the telephone call is dying? Or is it an exaggeration, of course. We will still make millions of telephone calls on both mobile and fixed lines every day. Depending on our line of work we might make dozens in a day. But increasingly we do have options other than a phone call and increasingly we're finding them way more convenient and attractive. Sometimes it's related to the nature of social media which has made our friendship networks much wider but shallower. There are people with whom I'll happily chat or exchange messages on Facebook but would never call on the phone.

For most people, logging into Facebook on your birthday means feeling like the most popular person in the world. Notifications flood your inbox, new wall posts appear with each page refresh and everyone seems to "like" anything you say. A recent study published in the journal "Social Psychological and Personality Science" found that adults have almost as much need for being popular on Facebook as teenagers do. And people who crave acceptance are more likely to share personal updates and post birthday greetings on friends' walls, said Emily Christofides, lead author of the study. Nonetheless there's another group of users who have little use for Facebook birthday celebrations. Some feel overwhelmed by the repetitive flood of "Happy Birthday!" wishes (do I have to answer every one?); while others say the greetings feel perfunctory. In the past many people that I knew were switching their birth date on Facebook as often as some people change their relationship status -- simply to avoid receiving the inevitable wave of birthday posts.

Spreading birthday wishes on the social-networking site has become an automatic impulse for many users. It fits into this bigger pattern within social media and blogging: 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine,’ "I wish you a happy birthday, and you're going to wish me a happy birthday. ... The more 'Happy birthday' wishes you have you on your wall, the more prestigious it looks. It’s not clear how many Facebook users actually count the number of birthday messages they get. But research has found a link between Facebook activity and feelings of popularity.


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