I find it truly sad the way Facebook has led us to reduce wishing friends a happy birthday to a meaningless, generic chore. It’s not Facebook’s fault. It gives us an open-ended comment box. But our laziness and sense of social obligation unfurl as a pile of “Happy Birthday!” or even “HBD!” wall posts.
I’ve been bashing this emergent behavior since 2011. It’s one of the reasons people feel like Facebook is destroying the meaning of friendship. Some go so far as to change the date of their birthday or close their wall to avoid the contentless notifications. Some might say posting “HBD” or another simple nicety is better than nothing, but it’s so easy to be more heartfelt.
That’s why I think the latest Facebook status update meme going around should be repurposed for birthdays. Dozens of friends recently posted “If you’re reading this, even if we barely talk, comment a memory of us. After, make this your status because you’d be surprised the memories people hold of you.”
It’s cute, no doubt, often inviting a flurry of touching stories, torrid tales, and silly photos. But it also feels a bit ‘extra’ (no offense). I’m sure plenty of people have declined to repost the call to action for fear of appearing needy or like they’re pandering for engagement.
After all, Facebook recently told business Pages admins they’d be downranked in the News Feed for posting this kind of “engagement bait” because the comments trick the algorithm into thinking a post is more important than it is.
So rather than making people coerce us into sharing our memories together, let’s give them freely. Next time you go to post on someone’s wall for their birthday, take that extra second to recall a moment you shared together or something specific you love about them. Social media doesn’t have to stunt our humanity.