Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Social Obligations in the Electronic Age

Back before the twitters and the books with faces and the tumbles and the flicks, I was on a private bulletin board with tons of cool people that I inherited from my husband. The board emerged as something to do between fantasy football and baseball and other random fantasy sports seasons and the stated purpose was to talk shit about and to each other. It was awesome.

After a little while, we got organized and made a little page where we could all keep track of where we were. Which, actually was a challenge back then. Not many were stationary for too long. Addresses, emails, phones, birthdays. Ah, birthdays.

On the day of your birthday, you could expect a whooosh of birthday wishes. Some funny, some sincere. It was awesome if you were on the receiving end. But then there were days when you forgot to check the boards. Maybe even a few days. Maybe you were even away from your computer for (don't faint) something like a whole week.

And then you came back and wow. Great. You find you are the one sole person who didn't wish someone a happy birthday. Awesome. And then there were other days when, you know, maybe you didn't feel like wishing a particular person a happy birthday. Not because you didn't like them, but because you didn't know them as well as others and maybe by being so effusive in your wishes to them it might make your really sincere wishes to other people seem less sincere....It got to the point where I hated birthdays. Anybody's. Because I felt like I HAD to say something. Or else be the dick. No one wants to be a dick.

Cue Faceb**k.

So now, everyone in the world, or at least those that can see your profile, see your birthday. And now, remembering someone's birthday isn't an accomplishment, isn't a pat yourself on the back because you remembered to pop the card in the mail. (With stamp. Bonus.) It's this thing you HAVE to do. Because you have no excuse. How could you forget someone's birthday when its right there up in the top corner of your screen, maybe even emailed to you. When I get those notices I cringe. Like, what are you, my mom?

As you probably know, I'm not a big fan of social obligations. I want to do things for people because I WANT to do them. I want people to do things for me because they feel the same. Not because they have to, not because some computer dinged at them. I mean, sure, it's awesome to get the pages full of FB wishes. Who doesn't dig that?

Wait. Maybe some of you don't. Does anybody not like them? Anyone see it as flotsam? Ok, fess up, anyone out there with fake birthdays listed to sort through the real friends and the FB friends? I know one or two people in real life who do.

In a strange and roundabout way here, I'm trying to get a handle on social media etiquette. Me, my brother, my mom. All Taurus. All with birthdays this week.
  • If I send my mom a card and a little gift do I have to post on her wall too? 
  • If I text my brother first thing in the morning, am I a jerk for not also publicly blessing the day he was born on his page? 
  • If I do post on someone's wall, does that relieve me from any other birthday obligations? 
  • Are you bothered if you expect someone to post on your wall and they don't? 
  • If you can't see someone in person, if you could only have one, which would you rather have for your birthday? Card? Call? Text? Wall post? Shout out on the twitter?
  • What do you prefer to give?
If I had a little more time this morning, I might have put that barrage of questions into a little poll, but for now, I'd just love your two cents. Any way you want to share them.


Lori Lavender Luz said...

First of all, happy birthday this week! I say this because I WANT to :-).

I've figured out that scorekeeping makes me not-happy. So I try not to do it. I know that some in my life do do it and maybe they get upset with me that I didn't reciprocate to their standards, but I'm OK with not owning that.

I don't want anyone wishing me HB out of obligation. For that reason, I put a fake birthdate in FB when I signed up -- boy was I surprised one random day to wake up to a bunch of birthday wishes. Now I just have it marked private so that I don't even have to deal with it.

Again, a sincere HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

dana said...

social obligation = new anxiety disorders, I'm sure of it.

I rarely go on Fbook these days. Usually the only time I log in is from my phone when I get an alert of some sort, which means there are hundreds of people I never say HB to. ;) That being said, when my bday does roll around and I get alerts that people have posted to my wall, I don't pay close enough attention to know who didn't. I also don't thank everyone individually, instead opting for a status of "thanks, y'all!" or something similar.

As for your question, I'd rather get a bday text or call...seems much more personal, imo.

Wishing you the happiest of birthdays and so much more.


Hope's Mama said...

Funny, I meant to write on your wall yesterday to say happy birthday, because I guess that's just what you do in this weird new world, but then time got away from me. Then it wasn't your birthday any more. So I didn't write on your wall.
But I'm here now!
So happy belated birthday!
And for the record, I always text or ring the good friends/family first, Facebook second, if at all.

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog through a friend's blog. (I'm a surrogate.)

I love this post. So so so much.

I have my birth date set to "private" on Facebook. I also don't allow posts to my wall. (They still happen, though. Any friend can tag me in a post and THAT gets put on my wall.)

I like these little rebellions. No one really understands it, but they make me feel good. People can call, text, or email me on my b-day. IF THEY REMEMBER IT.

I called my cousin today because it was her birthday. And I didn't say it on her wall.

My BFF's birthday was a few weeks ago, and I knew I wouldn't have time to call her that day so I wrote on her FB wall. Can't not acknowledge it at all......