Technology and social media have totally sucked the sentiment out of special occasions! Do you remember during your college years on your birthday when your mom and dad would call you at 7:45 a.m. and you were barely alive because of your birthday celebrations from the night before? Your head was pounding and all you wanted was more sleep, but there was something soothing about your parents off-key version of the Beatles Birthday. You felt loved, special and it started your day off great! Even though you were hundreds of miles away from them, you still had a special connection with them and you knew that they were thinking about you.
Although amazing, let's fast-forward eight years later on my birthday. Last week, I am sitting in my weekly merchandising meeting and I feel my phone vibrate in my pocket. I take it out, glance quickly and notice a text from my dad. I open the text and was flabbergasted. The text read "Happy birthday." Seriously? That's it? What happened to the phone call? The birthday card in the mail? The surprise visit with my favorite food? Nothing but a dry, emotionless text.
Is this what our world is coming to? Are we too busy as a society to take a few minutes out of our day to pick up the phone and wish someone "Happy Birthday"?! Today, social media and technology has become our way out of getting too emotionally involved.
An acquaintance of my mine recently lost her grandfather and she was devastated. Her grandpa was her world and they had a very special bond. Weeks later after she was finally coping with her major loss, I took her out for happy hour to chat. I mentioned to her about my lousy text from my father and she told me that a "friend" of hers tweeted at her the day of her grandfather's funeral. The only thing the tweet said was "#sorryforyourloss." I laughed and couldn't believe it! Yes, her friend gave her condolences, but totally in a wrong way. There is no sincerity in a tweet. Did her friend not realize this?
Speaking of funerals -- a while back, a good friend of mine lost a very close relative. To show my respect and support, I sent flowers and went to the visitation. While getting ready, I asked my roommate, who is also her friend, if she would like to go with me. Of course, she definitely wanted to go and show her support. However, once we arrived at the funeral home all support and respect went out the door. In a matter of a few minutes, after walking into the funeral home, my roommate sat down on a pew and took out her phone. A few seconds later, she asked me "Hey! Do you know the name of this place?" I kindly replied and asked why. She said, "I need to check-in." (You know, like "check-in" on a location-based service, like Foursquare) My mouth hit the floor and I abruptly let out a loud, "You're kidding, right?" She wasn't. I absolutely couldn't believe she did this and my friend was mortified and not pleased. My roommate was not even phased by our questioning. So, ask yourself, when "checking-in," is it absolutely necessary to let the whole world know where you are at all times? Personally, I don't care if you go to Quik Trip everyday and get a soda. Oh, you're now the "Mayor" of Quik Trip? Good for you. I don't care.
Recently, I read an article titled "Is Texting Killing the English Language?" written by Time contributor John McWhorter. In it, McWhorter writes, "Texting is developing its own type of grammar." He further talks about "LOL" and how it has taken on a completely new meaning. It is no longer literal, but more of a way to create a sense of equality, to ease tension and signal basic empathy.
Do you know something that is not empathetic and has no value at all? "HBD" (Happy Birthday Day). I couldn't even tell you the countless times I read on my Facebook wall the three letters "HBD." Have we become so disconnected that we can't even type "Happy Birthday"? I think this is just as bad as texting someone "ILY" (I love you). If I ever received an "ILY," I would have to question if that person actually loved me or not. If you loved me, you could type it or even better, call me and tell me! Yes, we all express our love in different ways, but there is a much better way of expressing your love than just typing "ILY."
My challenge to you, the reader, is put down your phone and relax! There is more to life than texting. Why don't you read a book, go for a walk or just take a nap and rejuvenate? Also, next time you see a close friend or family member of yours is celebrating a birthday -- send them a handwritten card in the mail (yes, they still make those); take them out for happy hour; or just pick up the phone. You wouldn't believe how much a personal rendition of "Birthday" makes someone's day! It use to make mine.
Follow Wesley Miller on Twitter: www.twitter.com/miller0505