I turn 30 years old today. It’s not so bad, really.
Well, that’s not entirely true. Drinking heavily and generally acting like a carefree and irresponsible dumbass has started to lose its luster and physically hurt way more.
But it’s cool. I’m easing into a pleasant life of moderation, and that’s fine. Sure, my curly locks might be going completely gray, but hey, check out King Buzzo. I figure I’m in good company. I can deal with it.
What I’m becoming increasingly incapable of dealing with is the existential dilemma of the Facebook Birthday. As I’m sure almost any Facebook user has experienced, if you make your birthday public on Facebook it inevitably leads to a deluge of mostly generic well wishes on your wall once your birthday rolls around. A good chunk of this outpouring of sentiment tends to come from people you haven’t seen or spoken to outside of the context of Facebook in 10 or more years.
Inevitably you start to ask yourself “Is this real?”
You’re probably thinking to yourself “Well, me, don’t post your goddamn birthday on Facebook if you don’t like being wished a happy one you crybaby,” which is all fine and dandy if you’re a secure and mentally stable person. In which case I’d argue, in 2012, you are completely insane. Look, I’ll fully admit, waking up on my sad day in February and seeing my friends, enemies, casual acquaintances, and even dogs remarking on my existence is, for lack of a better term, kind of nice. Does this make me a narcissist? Probably. Does it make me a hypocrite. Sure. You win, thanks for calling me out on my birthday.
Back to the topic at hand. I’m no saint. I’ve wished many a happy birthday on the devil’s book. Sometimes it’s to casual acquaintances and other times to close friends, but a year or so back the whole thing started to bother me. I frequently missed the birthdays of people who are very near and dear to me. At one point I sought the consul of a good friend of mine who also happens to work in social media. Apparently he is quite adept at the whole Facebook birthday thing, even with a friend-count that easily exceeds 1000. “It’s all politics baby,” he said through a sly grin and a cloud of pot smoke.
And though I agreed with him completely, the statement in and of itself still made me feel dirty. Wishing people a happy birthday, especially people who I know on a very tangential basis, isn’t something I can keep doing and feeling good about. How could I possibly want some of these people to be happy on their birthday? I don’t even know them. Come to think of it, how well do I know this social media friend of mine that I’m pulling quotes from? Am I just an experiment in his twisted marketing scheme? How did I wind up in New York? Damn, this weed is strong.
Then, of course, there’s the other side of things: The people in your life who really matter, and who just happen not to log onto Facebook that day, or who do, but don’t pay attention to the birthday notifications. Now if it’s your significant other, that shit is rough at best and ultimately just inexcusable, but what if it’s one of your closest friends, or that girl you’re in love with but haven’t sacked up to confess your feelings to? What if they say scrawl nothing on your wall for your birthday? There’s only one word that’s born from this silence: devastation.
All of the platitudes pouring from your grade school chums, former students, ex-coworkers, ex-bandmates, favorite brands, et al. couldn’t possibly make up for the emptiness you feel from not being thought of by those one or two special people in your life. Such an event will inevitably send you spinning into a shame spiral and will without question ruin a day that already reminded you of universal insignificance and grim death in the first place.
Worse still, said special people could leave you with a comment that reeks of generic passing interest. “HBD”, “Happy Birthday!” or some slight variation of the two. Let’s be real here: when you see those, you know in your heart of hearts that they weren’t thinking of you. You know they were initiating a conditioned response to a visual stimuli. They put as much thought into you as they did into watching a clip of a guy getting hit in the balls with a potato gun on YouTube.
If you’re like me, and you noticed this horrifying trend at some point, then you subsequently did your best to right the wrongs set into place by the reptilian illuminatus scum who run the internet/planet. My attempt at redemption has been to put some serious thought into my birthday wishes on Facebook. For example, I recall a fond memory or something we shared, something that will really let the birthday boy/girl know that I care about them and cherish the time we’ve spent together, and share it in detail with my post. Sometimes this will include a link to a pertinent video or whatever. You get the idea.
Anyway, I actually did this for a while but the practice ended op burning me out. In all honesty it’s kind of hard to think of these things, write them eloquently, and post them over and over again. Then come up with a new one every year. It takes a lot out of you. Then there are the ones you miss, which inevitably means letting someone down, or letting them know they don’t mean nearly as much to you as one of your mutual friends.
In the end, Facebook has left us with a cancer that resembles the tradition of the birthday itself. We need to recognize this whole damn system for what it is.
If someone remembers your birthday but doesn’t know what your favorite color is, or what your hobbies are, or what your job entails, or what the name of your band is, does that make them a real friend? Fuck no. Jesus Christ, how hard is it to remember the name of a band you bastards? We have got to stop placing meaning on birthdays and those that remember them. I dated a Jehovah’s Witness once. Sure, she was a pathological liar but she seemed to be pretty happy about the whole not giving a shit about her birthday thing.
In the end, the Facebook birthday has reduced the entire tradition into simple meaningless automation like everything else in this machine hell/graveyard we’ve built for humanity. In all rational sense the only people who should be held accountable for remembering your birthday are your parents for obvious reasons. Especially for little monsters like myself who were born backwards and caused all sorts of potentially life threatening problems. Sorry Mom, love you lots. I’m glad it worked out OK, too.
For everyone else in my life: if you remember the first time we met thats more than enough. I’d consider you a much better friend than anyone that remembers a random day in the middle of February because Facebook told you to.
Anyway. Happy birthday to me. Play me out, Buzzo: