First, to all of you who wrote on my Facebook timeline or sent me messages on my birthday, thank you! It’s wonderful and overwhelming at the same time.
As one who spent years (decades) under-celebrating her life, hiding in group photos, twisting my priorities to put other’s needs before my own, and basically trying to make myself small and not a bother (fabulously unbalanced — or balanced –by also being born? created? formed? eccentric, large and loud), it is, indeed, a modern-day experience to be celebrated in such a manner on Facebook.
Thank you. (I feel surprisingly emotional at the moment in recognizing how meaningful it is to be recognized.)
It is delightful to see among those saying Happy Birthday, names of folks I haven’t seen (or maybe even thought of) in recent years and to be reminded of how many Wonderful Souls I’ve had the honor to meet along my path.
Whether the message posted was a simple “H to the B, Jessie” from Fej or a more elaborate reflection of who I am to someone (from Katie) or whatever else, it adds up.
When FB was in its earlier years for the over-24 crowd, I found my way to it because my mentor and one I worked with and for at the time, Jean Moon, asked me to look into this new tool more as a PR query for some things being said about a client of hers. My mind was blown as I dove in. What was this place? What was going on here where people were connecting, right and left? Anyone remember the FRIENDS WHEEL, one of FB’s earliest apps? (Mary Kate Murray, Candace Dodson Reed?)
I remember seeing my Friends Wheel and wondering how a 64-year-old acquaintance of mine, now in New Jersey, was friends with this 27-year-old vet-school friend of mine in Columbia. What was their connection?
And while there are times — and I’m sure you experience them, too — where FB’s algorithm and the updates you get from people are in the “Ugh, why do I see their posts so much?” category, or “why don’t I see more variety of people in my feed?” it’s still an amazing tool for keeping a link to people’s lives.
the new email
Back around maybe 2009 or so, I was having a “let’s meet up” birthday party at Sharkie’s in Old Ellicott City, which I had posted on FB and was communicating with people via the tool. I don’t recall the reason, but FB suspended my account the day of my birthday. I was in a panic. “But this is the way I’m letting people know about the party. Facebook is how I’m communicating.” And, truth be told, in those earlier days where my friends list was much smaller, I was excited to see those birthday messages everyone else was getting. My account wasn’t reconnected for 14 days, and I never got the messages that year. And, yeah, the party was just fine. People had received my messages even though I couldn’t see their replies.
Then I started going to Burning Man
, which pretty much always occurred (the actual event or the build week and prep time prior) during my birthday. Often I’d be out in the desert for a week or 10 days with hardly any cell service, if any, and would come back to a slew of lovely birthday messages after the event. Reading and responding to the messages became part of my post-burn, post-birthday ritual.
Maybe back then more people took the time to post birthday messages for their FB friends. Maybe it was because their friends lists were smaller back then. I don’t know. (I know I used to post Happy Birthday message more in years past than I do now; perhaps that’s true of others, too.)
Still, when I’d get the birthday messages after Burning Man it was like swimming in recognition and acknowledgement to read the flood of messages. Again, wonderful and a bit overwhelming.
a tool for the ages
My mom tracks people’s birthdays on her wall calendar. She tracks anniversaries. She even tracks death dates of friend’s and family members’ loved ones and often calls people on death anniversaries and checks in on them. (Those are some old-school social skills there!)
While I was never that organized–or intentional, until FB came along and was embraced widely, did manually track birthdays of key people in my life. Doing so was part of the annual tradition and process when I got my new paper calendar or planner for the year. With its reminders and prompts to wish you all Happy Birthday, Facebook has pretty much made that task obsolete, and for that I am grateful. (I still track a few birthdays myself, digitally on my calendar, not manually.)
Facebook’s flood of birthday reminders has also made birthdays less important as in, “Gah, do I really want to send four, five, sometimes seven or eight, birthday messages each day?” Nothing personal to you; it can just seem a chore as well, and I can’t imagine any scenario in which I’d willingly track ~1,500 FB friends’ birthdays in a paper calendar. Nor am I, or anyone, obligated to chime in and post a message. Such are the modern-day circumstances of convenience, annoyance and overwhelm … all mixed in one.
Ah, the world changes, we adapt. We change, and change the world as we do.
Again, thanks for the birthday messages, recognition and celebration. I am moving toward celebrating my own life more, with each passing day, with each story I write, and with each moment of gratitude for all that is, all that was and all that will be.
Grateful for it all. Grateful for you all.