Birthday Greetings

Some things are better since I started to use Social Media like Twitter and Facebook. One of those things is my birthday.

Before Social Media, birthdays were okay… not my most favourite thing. Another year down, I’d get some cards and pressies and phone calls… move on.

These days, though, my birthday feels like some kind of an actual event. Take this year, for example. My birthday was last Friday. The real life aspect of it was better than most years. I spent most of the day on the road and it was a blast. Then it was home for cards and chocolate and a book-token pressie. (A book-token pressie is one of my most favourite things in the world. I’m not good at buying stuff for myself and a book token is a license for me to buy a little of the stuff I like best… I’ve already used it.) After that there was dinner out with a lovely lady. Who could ask for anything more? Nobody, that’s who.

Except I got more, didn’t I? 

On my birthday, my Facebook and Twitter pages erupt with smiles and greetings and a myriad of kind wishes for my birthday. Friends, virtual and real life, descent on my pages with messages of felicitations and goodwill. Wave after wave of lovely messages continue to roll in, right up until midnight when they are then followed, for a while, by notes from people regretting the fact that they missed my big day.

I can’t help it. I find it all terribly uplifting.

It makes me feel like a more important person than I am. It also makes me feel liked and well-regarded. This virtual warm shower sets me up to better enjoy my birthday out in the real world.

There are so many contacts that it becomes hard to know how to deal with them all. It’s hard to reply to everyone and a general one-off ‘thanks’ seems a little churlish, especially when there might be a couple of individual replies thrown in to the mix. Perhaps this brief essay might also serve as a grateful acknowledgement of your kindness last Friday. I may not have replied, in the hurly-burly, but your message was seen, enjoyed, and highly appreciated and it added a tile to a bright mosaic of well-wishes which may brighten the road ahead for some days to come.

And what a mosaic it is. There are people you hardly know, wishing you all the best. There are people you know very well, who you haven’t hard from in ages. There is family, never in contact as much as we should be. There are the best of friends, saying nice things in ways that only friends will know how to say. How could you not be a little happy about the whole thing?

Of course, to some extent at least, it’s all a bit of an illusion. I know this. I’m not a fool or overly naive. Social media has its methods of telling us when it’s somebody’s birthday and, when we know, it’s quite easy to drop a line wishing the person a happy birthday. I do it myself, all the time. It only takes a brief moment. A quick sentence typed, a click of the mouse… done, easy.

But knowing that doesn’t take away from the effect I feel when it’s my turn to get those birthday messages. They may only be a quite type and click but they mean something, to me at least.

Let me get fanciful about it for one moment. 

Hardly anyone will send a birthday greeting with a hateful thought about the person in their mind. They just wouldn’t bother sending it, would they? It therefore follows that there is at least a small measure of real warmth and kindness in even the most basic of ‘Happy Birthday’ greetings. Of course there are also the larger greetings that contain a lorryload of warmth, they help too.

I think this atom of good feeling carries across social media from the person sending it to the person getting it. It doesn’t come down the wires or across the net. It’s like an small infusion of good-thought which has soaked into the plain everyday words and which has floated ethereally along with them to rest with the recipient of those words. These many tiny beads of warmth combine to raise and cheer the birthday person in a very real and tangible way.

It’s like, it works. This simple birthday greeting stuff really works.

So thanks for Friday. I was looking forward to getting home and seeing if anyone had remembered what day it was. You did. You may have been prodded a bit but you did.

You warmed me up a bit.


Jim Murdoch said...

I guess I owe you a belated birthday greeting then. I’m spending less and less like on Facebook these days and if something doesn’t jump out at me in my… whatever the central bit’s called (Carrie keeps telling me but I keep forgetting) then forget it. I never look at the columns on the left or the right. I tend to take out much of my resentment against the Internet on Facebook; it’s become my whipping boy. I’m resistant to change at the best of times but I seem especially so when it comes to Facebook. I’ve received numerous invitations asking me to install some birthday app or whatever it is I have to do and I’ve declined every one of them. The only evidence you’ll get that it’s my birthday is the age on my blog and who reads that, eh? Only one person apart from my wife remembered my birthday this year and I’m fine with that. I think I’m fine with that. I don’t like being the centre of… it’s not attention as such, it’s fake enthusiasm and cheerfulness that annoy me. When it comes en masse it feels phoney. It probably isn’t. It’s probably as sincere as it’s possible for us to be considering how little we really know each other. But that one e-mail I got meant something to me even though I’m not sure I’ve ever wished him a happy birthday or even remember when his birthday is. If he forgot next year (which he probably won’t do because he’s not that kind of person) I don’t think I’d be upset.

We missed the group birthday celebration last month—my birthday’s in May, my wife’s in June and my daughter’s in July so we amalgamate—Carrie’s mum died and she had to rush back to the States for the funeral which is a shame because she’s only just come back and really hadn’t recovered from her last trip. But she’s back now and we’ll have to set a date. Two months on from my own birthday I’ve lost any interest that I had—which was not much to begin with—and if the whole thing got abandoned or left until Christmastime I could live with it. I really am getting to be a grumpy old man.

But there’s no reason you should be and I don’t mean to rain on your parade. I think one of the things that’s dampened my own enthusiasm in birthdays is my daughter’s injunction that we only buy one present and that’s just sucked all the fun out of it for me. I’m not a materialist, not by a long chalk, and I never really cared what people got me but I loved buying pressies for others and I’d start buying months in advance which is why when the date came I’d usually amassed so much because I kept finding new and exciting things. Keeping up with me was impossible and I know others found it a burden and so what can one do? Now, for me, birthdays and Christmases are a chore, a duty to get out of the road. And I’m bored with them. How does one pick just one present?

Fortunately it takes all kinds to make a world and a world full of mes would be a miserable place indeed. I used to get birthday reminders in my e-mail—something to do with my calendar—but I must’ve clicked on something and they’ve stopped. I’ll see if I can do better next year. Fortunately if I forget it looks like there will be plenty of others to pick up the slack.

Anonymous said...

Well alright! ... great post, Ken! -C

Ken Armstrong said...

Don't worry about birthday greetings, Jim. We'll get by, you and me.

I'm very sorry to hear about Carrie's Mum. Please pass on my condolences. K

hope said...

You and my Dad share a birthday...wouldn't dare forget you.

However, not sure you got my greeting on that book of faces since it appeared to have eaten some of your being so popular and all. :)

I was there, even if my message didn't turn up. Seems like you've started your personal new year on a high. Enjoy it!