By Pavel Shchegolevatykh / March 6, 2017

It's someone's birthday somewhere

Is it okay to ignore your Facebook friends' birthday notifications? That's the question bothering me ever since the social networks became a real thing.

Before those times if somebody wished you a happy birthday it would tell you a lot. It tells you that this person actually remembers your birthday (still counts if somebody told them earlier or they had it written somewhere). Even if it's just an ordinary happy birthday said in person. It makes you feel special. It brightens your day. You feel a lot better about yourself. You feel like somebody cares.

Nowadays people don't have to remember your birthday. Instead they get push reminders everywhere - from PC or smartphone calendars to social network websites. For example I could end up with five or six reminders about the same birthdate - a push notification from the smartphone calendar, another from my Windows PC, and a notification per each social network or messenger account (e.g. vk, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, Slack).

Is this a good thing? I honestly don't think so. It seems to me that people become obliged to react and say happy birthday to you somewhere. They could post on your wall, send you a private message, send a gift through social network, even post something about it on their wall mentioning you. This gets me wondering do they really care about my birthday, and to what degree if so? I am asking this because I believe the most of those communications were happening at your birthday. I mean you would never hear from those people in a whole year. Usually they don't care about you, and then suddenly they all sending you tons of birthday greetings wishing you very best. So you wait till the end of the day and reply thank you almost automatically to all of them. Well except for those who are really wished something thoughtful, and it felt personal. It affected you at a deeper level. Though this is usually rare. Such people would better call, or send an SMS at least.

You can see through the message history that most of those people don't care about you at all. Because eventually it fills with only happy birthday and thank you messages back and forth over the years. Is it really necessary?

So far I've mentioned only the receiving part but what about the giving? For me it's the hardest thing ever!

Here's the thing. I have a small circle of close friends. I usually celebrate their birthdays and my birthday with them all in person. So it's not a problem. The problem is with the people who are not so close to me. For example my school friends, university classmates, and former colleagues. Many of them are great people. I do care about them. I genuinely want to wish them a happy birthday. I want to brighten their day, make them feel a little better about themselves, make them think that I care. Unfortunately I don't remember their birthday but thankfully I have tons of reminders from everywhere.

Okay. It's all great. Now I'm ready to write some kind words to them. But what words exactly? It should be something creative. Something extraordinary, something only we both know, value, and share. But, what is it? What should I write to them? Certainly it should NOT be a verse from the Internet, NOT anything ordinary. So I'm thinking about it for an hour or so googling stuff on the Internet and trying to match it with my own feelings. All would seem ordinary and stupid to me. People already receive plenty wishes of good luck, strong health, happiness and success. I'm sure of it. What else could I say? What on Earth? There's nothing else it seems. Everything looks stupid and ordinary. So I end up with just Happy birthday! - something basic and simple. Usually it goes with a smiley face at the end to show that I'm happy for them. They would reply thank you at the end of the day, also with a smiley face.

After a while I realize that now I'm one of those people. Do I make the day of my friend brighter? Probably not. I'm just one of the others that wished the same thing through one of the social network websites.

Is there anything I might have done differently? I'm not sure about it. I don't know their mobile phone, and even if I do, I'm not sure if it's still in use. Also not sure that they would be glad to receive my call. I might be just a distraction, a thing of the past. So our message history over the years becomes just a list of birthday wishes back and forth.

Then if they didn't wish me a happy birthday last year I would stop writing to them as well. I would think they've decided to break this connection. Also each year I had to remember who wished me a happy birthday a year ago, so I won't forget to "wish them back". That's how it works now.

In the end I decided to remove my birthday from the vk.com (where most of my connections are) and have no regrets about it. Those ghost people are gone now. I'm receiving greetings only from those who truly care. The receiving side of the problem was solved. The giving side was also eventually solved in one or two years. I'm still wondering if I'm a bad person. It's like I know there's someone's birthday, someone I care about but I constantly choose not to greet them because they didn't greet me last year. It won't make any difference anyway.

What do you think about all this?