I have a November birthday.
You may not know this, but Facebook does, and if you follow me on FB, you’re bound to be given that information because my name will pop up in your inbox next to a birthday cake and a cheery reminder to let me know you’re thinking of me.
People often note that one thing Facebook gets right is birthdays, and it’s true that this particular social network provides ample reminders to its users of the birthdates of fellow users. But, as Peter Parker’s Uncle Ben once said, with great power comes great responsibility. Once you are equipped with the powerful knowledge of the birthdates of your 983 Facebook friends and friends of friends, you are faced with the responsibility of wishing all of them a happy one.
And let’s face it: this takes time. Even if Facebook’s helpful algorithm created a special video of you and your birthday buddy floating on a hot air balloon over a field of flowers bursting into bloom, you still have to type a personal message and post it on the timeline, and then inevitably, you’ll start reading all the other birthday messages that your friend’s friends have left. Before you know it, your coffee’s cold and you’ve got to get back to work.
And this sets the stage for my current situation.
Several months ago, a friend sent me a chain letter cleverly disguised as a Facebook post for the literary-minded. She nominated me to post the name and cover of a favorite book every day for seven days, and each day ask a friend to join the challenge. It was honestly kind of her to think of me, because I do like to read, but then paralysis of choices took over and I never followed through, and then I was so disappointed with myself for having broken the book-challenge chain that I was compelled to slink quietly away from Facebook, and THEN I became too embarrassed to show my cyber-self there again.
But in my hiatus the birthdays amassed, compounding daily like a 30-year mortgage at 8.75%, and even though I often toyed with the idea that the occasional birthday greeting might help reduce the debt, I finally admitted that there was no hope of amortization.
I had missed five months of birthday greetings and 146 notifications, and it would take me a solid 267 hours of posting to break even.
So, I filed for birthday bankruptcy with Facebook.
And then I began to enjoy my retreat. It was like slipping away from a Sandals resort to a quieter beach and hearing the faint strains of the conga line across the bay and being kind of glad that you’re not part of it.
I ditched the conga line and spent more time with Instagram.
Instagram is a no-strings attached relationship. There are no birthday reminders. There are no videos created for you that someone somewhere hopes you’ll enjoy. There is no post of you and a random neighbor spinning in a canoe together, reminding you of your FB friend anniversary.
Nope. All Insta asks of you is that you scroll and like.
And I scrolled and liked in the Intsa way for a couple of months, but then I began to miss my friends in the Facebook conga line, so I cha-cha-cha-ed my way back in.
Now I move through my days scrolling and liking and dancing and kicking, and every so often I stop and wish a friend a happy birthday.