July 8, 2007
No, its not my birthday. That’s still a few months away. A few friends have had birthdays recently and it go me to thinking about the wishing of Happy Birthday with all the various forms of communication available.
I used to keep on top of birthdays through a variety of methods. All of which left out a large portion of people. Still, it was better than nothing. My first line was my friend Matt, who remembers every birth date he hears. Its really quite remarkable. My other method relied on Away Messages. Either the person who’s birthday it was, posting a ‘Hey, its my birthday! Yay me!’ type message, or a mutual friend having a ‘Happy Birthday so and so!’ Away Message. So if people did not know Matt or did not go on IM, they didn’t get a birthday wish of any kind.
Then Facebook came along and would let you know, when you visited the site, which of your friends had birthdays coming up. The birthdays aren’t quite as obvious as they used to be on Facebook, but I’ve moved on from that method. It was very helpful to keep track or to look up a date if you couldn’t remember.
Currently I try and keep track of birthdays by adding them to my Address Book on my computer. I have gathered the dates from all the previous methods. This is part of a larger initiative of mine to try and keep email address, phone numbers, and addresses as up to date as possible in a single convenient location. Birthdays are part of the Mac Address Book. What makes that so great is that it also incorporates them into iCal. Then I found this amazing widget called Happy Birthdays! It lists all the birthdays you have in your Address Book. It tells you the date of their birthday, how many days away that is and the age they will be.
When the birthday comes around the question is how to handle the acknowledgment of the event.
To me Facebook is the lowest on the list of ways to wish Happy Birthday. While its simple to do and you can mean the best by your wish I feel that you get roped in with lesser wishes, thus weakening your birthday wish. For one, its possible the wisher didn’t know it was your birthday until they logged in and saw it. The larger problem is when this person is someone you haven’t talked to in a really long time. Now if they just wished ‘Happy Birthday!’ then fine, thanks for thinking of me. However, there is no reason to go any further. Any sort of ‘It’s been a while’ or ‘We should hang out’ has no place here. If I haven’t talked to you in a few years I don’t think you wishing me a happy birthday is suddenly going to turn us into best friends. Essentially you want to avoid any sort of exchange that would like similar to this:
Wisher: Happy Birthday! It’s been a while. We should catch up, what’s new?
Me: Thanks! Things are good. Let’s see … a lot has happened since we last talked. I got my driver’s license, graduated High School, went to college, graduated that, got a job and did about a million other things that I can save so we have something to talk about next year when you wish me a happy birthday. Sorry, but don’t expect me to post on your wall whenever your birthday is.
Get the point? Now I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing some of this. I have since become aware and will try to control my actions in the future. Who knows, maybe I do want to be friends, and I remember the person being pretty cool, you know, when we were teenagers.
So without Facebook, what are my options?
My method of choice recently has been text messaging. Just a simple happy birthday, possibly with an additional message. No questions or reasons for the person to text me back anything more than a ‘Thanks!’ Personally I don’t even need the thanks. I just want to send the wish along but not mess with any part of their otherwise enjoyable day that I really have nothing to do with.
A phone call is an example of the messing with the day. The phone call will inevitably turn into a conversation and an awkward one at that. Some people do fall into the phone call realm. At this point that list is incredibly short. My phone usage level is at a 2 (out of 10) right now so its going to take a lot for me to dial someone these days. Dial means finding the person in your contact list and hitting Send these days, correct?
E-Cards are an excellent idea. I just haven’t gotten into the habit of using them. There are a couple of options and you can write whatever you want at the end to make it personalized. For some reason I’m more likely to send out E-Cards to a bunch of my friends on some obscure holiday than on your birthday. I think I’m going to start considering E-Cards from now on.
Here’s a throwback: A Card. No E in front. This means you actually went outdoors, picked out a card, purchased said card, signed your name, maybe included a message, located a stamp and that person’s address, and put it in the mailbox. These days I’m pretty sure that if you go through all that, and its not a family member, you are legally married to that person. I’m going to guess that its been almost a year since I mailed a birthday card. Who knows when or if I will ever send another.
Now you think you’ve got me all figured out. If you’re my friend you may now be offended if I post on your Facebook wall or that you didn’t get a phone call. This is just what I’m thinking today. Maybe on your birthday I will be in an E-Card mood or have some sort of other crazy idea. Perhaps you’ll get some land on the moon or a membership in the cheese of the month club. If I do post on your Facebook wall, maybe I’m being ironic and figure you will get the joke and enjoy it that much more. Don’t try and keep up, you’ll hurt yourself.