So yesterday was my birthday, and anyone who really knows me knows that while I love other people’s birthdays, I am not a fan of my own. Perhaps it is because it is a reminder of what is still not accomplished while the years continue to roll relentlessly by, perhaps it is a fear of my own mortality, perhaps it is because it is getting harder to get that many candles on a normal sized cake. I always wanted a way to see it in a better light, and something that people seem to take for granted (or that they even disparage) has turned my mind around 180 degrees on this.
As anyone who is on Facebook knows, any current birthdays of Facebook friends show prominently on one’s Facebook page in the right sidebar. Clicking on that birthday list then brings up a pop-up that then allows you to quickly enter a birthday greeting for all of your Facebook friends who are having a birthday that day. I’m sure everyone has seen it, but it looks like this:
They make it SO easy. So easy in fact, that one will get birthday greetings from all sorts of people: family, friends, acquaintances, former co-workers, that person you went on two dates with and never saw again, people you haven’t seen in two years, people you haven’t seen since college, since high school, since GRADE school even.
So easy in fact, that I have heard people say how valueless it all is. That someone who has not seen you in ages wishing you a happy birthday doesn’t mean anything; that they don’t know your current life and just did it because they were on Facebook, it popped up, and it only took them five seconds.
The people who say that are looking at it all wrong.
Instead, try it the way I am going to explain to you, which I did by accident last year and on purpose this year. On your next birthday, give this a shot and see what you think, no matter WHAT your opinion on birthdays Facebook birthday messages happens to be.
This is what I did:
Whenever I saw someone post on my page for my birthday, I simply took a few seconds to think of them and whatever we had shared whenever we had happened to share it: a cry last week, a laugh six months ago, a conversation five years ago, an adventure two decades ago. When I took just a few seconds to think of that person, who I had perhaps not thought of in YEARS, I was able to nearly ALWAYS found something funny, interesting or moving between us, and this did not take much effort.
What it DID do was to give me such an appreciation for the people we are fortunate enough to know at different times in our lives. Something that, in these days of constant data flow coming at us from what seems an unlimited number of directions, we can easily forget. With all of the ability to connect these days in so many ways, our friendships can seem fleeting because we are so quickly on to the next. Many last for years or decades, but some just last when we are in a certain place in our lives; but they all have an impact, and that is worth remembering.
But we need a marker in space and time to allow for the remembering, and that place and time is your Facebook wall on your birthday. And as amazing as those memories were as they trickled in all day and filled my soul and my heart, I found a way to make it one step better.
When I would see their post and think of our shared experiences, I would choose one and reference it back to them as a comment on their birthday greeting. A mention of when I was looking through photos of a friend’s vacation on her iPhone only to come across a nude shot of herself. A reference to someone’s cool car they had back in high school. A reminder of the time we got caught in a lightning storm above the treeline when we thought we were rugged outdoorsmen and instead ran like frightened rabbits.
Pretty simple, right? But now my small effort of remembering had a larger effect: now you’ve given back to them what they gave to you, which is a memory that perhaps you had both forgotten. Let’s call it paying it BACKWARD.
For me, I think the sum total was 134 different people posting a birthday message on my wall, and like I said, I could come up with something for nearly every one of them. I mean, who gets to remember 134 different shared experiences that occurred over a lifetime in the course of one day? And even better, reflect them back the person who shared it with you?
That alone was enough to change my mind about how I feel about my birthday.
So when your special day comes, give it a try, and let me know what you think.
And of course, happy birthday.