I recently celebrated another birthday... thank you for your well-wishes. In the week since my birthday, I've received over a hundred "happy birthday" messages, many of them from people I haven't spoken to in years.
Isn't it funny how people seem to come out of the woodwork to wish you a happy birthday? Don't get me wrong, I think it's great! It really makes you feel special to be inundated with well-wishes on your birthday, but the contrast is striking. Where are most of these people the other 364 days of the year? Some are like your great aunt Sue, sending a mass "happy holidays" message in December and a unique "happy birthday" message on your special day. Others are school friends who haven't interacted with you since graduation day. There are the people you're vaguely friends with, and those whom you're surprised they know your birthday; but of course they do - Facebook told them.
There, I said it. The number of people who actually know when your birthday is, or have a sense of what month it's in, can probably be counted on your fingers and toes. But thanks to Facebook, hundreds of people get reminders that prompt them to send the two words "happy birthday" en masse. Don't believe it? Try changing the date on your Facebook account and see how many birthday messages you get on your listed fake birthday. (You'll also see who actually knows when your birthday is by the few messages that say "I'm confused, I thought your birthday is in April" - go buy each of them a present, they deserve it.)
But are these prompted well-wishes bad? No. Everyone wants to feel loved on his or her birthday, and getting a plethora of birthday wishes reinforces that you are special. Remember, even with an automatic reminder, your friends and acquaintances are still choosing to send you a message. And let's get real, we all have senior moments, no matter our age; even your closest friends who know when your birthday is need reminders sometimes - I've sent numerous belated birthday wishes to childhood friends whose birthdays I've known for decades but I forgot on the actual day.
Indeed, one of the most amusing things to me on my birthday was, amidst the onslaught of "happy birthday" messages, to get a text about something unrelated from a good friend who's forgotten my birthday. Seems odd, no? It was an amusing variation from the theme of the day's messages, and if someone is my friend 364 days of the year then I don't mind if he or she forgets my birthday.
Try something new for a year: commit to reaching out every three months to each person you send a birthday wish to. That's just four times a year, once a season. (Space them out so you don't have to send all 200 messages on the same day.) But how will you remember if Facebook isn't reminding you to message them? The same way we did before Facebook: Set a reminder in your calendar. (And how convenient, your phone or computer can automatically repeat the reminder every three months!) I assure you that if you do, at least a handful of these acquaintances will reply and a few will blossom into great friendships. And then on your birthday next year, they can be the ones who obliviously give you a laugh by forgetting it's your special day!