Facebook Birthday Notifications Matter Because People Matter

It’s not official until Facebook

I’ve heard this cliche expression dozens of times, yet it’s not completely false. You can, of course, have a friendship, relationship, etc., etc. without publishing it to the world. A lot of people thus scoff at the expression, but the fact is that social media matters. “Why,” you ask? Well, let me explain by talking about birthdays.

First, birthdays are important. Yes, they can seem kind of arbitrary, since the major accomplishment they celebrate is simply having successfully completed another journey around the sun. But it is an occasion that we care about. When it’s someone’s birthday, we laud with complements and ask about birthday plans and a variety of other things relating to being a whole year older.

My birthday was May 30th, and I got asked these sort of things throughout the day. Yet, I was also a year older on May 29th (from the previous May 29th), meaning the same questions could have applied for that day as well, but no one was asking them. It didn’t matter that I was a year older on the 29th, or the 28th, or God forbid the 3rd. It only mattered on one day of the year, just like Christmas.

Speaking of Christmas, there’s a sitcom I really like called Community, and during one of its Christmas episodes, Abed, a main character, feels disillusioned by the holiday season and searches for its meaning in a group therapy session led by a psychology professor. In the episode’s conclusion, Abed determines that the true meaning of Christmas is that Christmas has meaning, that we want it to feel special. And this is my point with birthdays.

I find myself extremely interested in who happens to post on my wall for my special day. There are usually a few surprises, some notable absences, and I overall genuinely appreciate the attention. Many of you are the same way (whether you admit it or not). It’s so easy to write something, even a simple happy birthday. Without any prompting, my phone lets me know each morning whose birthdays are today. Birthday notifications also hang prominently on the right side of my Facebook News Feed.

Again, birthdays are important, if for no other reason than because we feel they are important and want to ourselves feel important. They remind us not only that someone is a year older, but that they were born and that their existence in some small measure matters to us. Facebook recognizes this and helps us remember. Mark Zuckerburg might have seemed like a calloused prick in The Social Network, but he got this one right and this is why:

People matter.

That’s why Facebook birthday notifications are important. Many like to go against the mold and talk about how meaningless it is to write on someone’s wall or use social media to send birthday greetings, but why think that way? My mom doesn’t. Her writing on my wall for my birthday hardly stops her from calling me or seeing me or getting gifts and all the other birthday jazz. I’m important to her, and she shows it in every realm she can.

I tend to be open to people’s views on life and what they care to spend their time on, but it bothers me when people tell me that they don’t care about or want to care about those beyond their immediate family or circle of friends.

Make people’s lives better.

It’s a simple rule I like to try and apply. If you can do something to make someone smile, to help them a little, to lift them up when they’re down, then do it. If you don’t think you’ll enjoy it, give it a try or two or three and you’ll realize that you’re wrong. There are sad people, struggling people, overwhelmed people, and anxious people all around us (including ourselves by the way).

Facebook is a way many of us choose to interact with the world. Some of us just use it to stay in touch, but many of us hope that by putting ourselves out there into the world, electronically or otherwise, that people will see that we’re there. Letting someone know they are noticed and their presence appreciated is one of the simplest acts we can perform, yet it has the power to provide a deep and meaningful sense of joy and love.

One last time. People matter. We should all be a little like Dug in Pixar’s animated classic Up:

You don’t have to lick people’s faces when you meet them, or declare your love for them with great frequency (or at all if you’re not like that). Simply show people they matter in what they do, even if it’s just a little, like posting on their Facebook wall on their birthday. Don’t do it because you want people to think you’re great or because you’re expecting them to do the same for you. Simply do it because, alright one more time, people matter.

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