Reading into birthday wishes

Friday was my 22nd birthday. Facebook has always faithfully reminded me of friends’ birthdays, but this year, it seemed that many people chose to send their message in a different way. I got a snap, a tweet (thanks again, @johnrobinson), some Instagram shout-outs, Facebook posts & messages and a ton of texts.

Somehow I missed the birthday text memo, and I’m so sorry to all of the friends that I didn’t sufficiently celebrate in the way that they feel is most appropriate based on how much we like each other.

I decided to take a tour of my life and my trusty Facebook timeline to see if I was right about the difference.

This year, 49 people posted on my wall. 53 posted in 2014, 86 in 2013 and 89 in 2012. The number of posts keeps going down even as my friend count goes up.

This could suggest that Facebook is less popular, but I’m sure that almost everyone still found out that it was my birthday from their Facebook. More likely its another reflection of the fragmentation of social media, specifically in the way that people develop a sense of what is appropriate to be communicated on certain platforms.

When I talked to friends about it, many communicated that they predominantly used Facebook to send birthday wishes to an acquaintance, sent texts to close friends and called or spent time with those closest to them. I agree for the most part, but these observations should of course be taken with a grain of salt since they only speaks to the culture of my friends.

However, I do think considerations such as this could be important in the branding of new forms of social media. Because people are willing to check multiple pages or accounts regularly, there’s opportunity to break into the market without necessarily having to come up with the new Facebook.

Maybe try an app that brings together friend circles and conveys closeness and familiarity. On birthdays people could post what they sent me in texts but didn’t share with the entire world. It would be like a card to be signed by the whole office. This year Instagram was the closest thing to this, saying, “I care about your birthday so much that I’m going to edit and post this embarrassing picture of us.”

I’m just throwing out ideas. But right now social media seems to leave something to be desired. It’s good at giving us lots of information, but not so great at conveying closeness.


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