I’ve been wanting to tackle this issue for quite a while now. If you look at my Facebook "Info” page you will notice that there is one key piece of data missing that everyone else seems to have displayed: my birthday!
There’s a special reason for this. In addition to thinking that it’s not very relevant to anything, I also abhor the idea of people saying ‘happy birthday’ to me on my wall. I’m not going to pretend that I have never done this myself but I think it’s firstly, lazy and secondly, so low effort that it means almost nothing to the recipient.
When you see birthday messages on your wall from 100s of people do you sit there thinking, “Aren’t I popular, look at me, I’m a person of the people, loved by many…” You really shouldn’t; those message are very low delta. People write them almost on autopilot: rapidly drafted without the writer even thinking that it is YOUR birthday. They probably write exactly the same thing for other people. They might even have a message they just copy and paste from one wall to the next!
Furthermore, wishing someone happy birthday on their Facebook wall can’t be used as a means of ‘showing off’ that you remembered their birthday because the fact is, you did not. Facebook alerted you to the event and you took out 15 seconds from your precious day to write on the person’s wall.
If I care about and appreciate someone and assuming I haven't forgotten(!), I will make contact with them via the email, text, telephone or the Facebook INBOX. I will let them know what I wish for them on this special day and I’ll find out what they have planned for the day. If I write on your wall and you haven’t also received a message via one of the aforementioned platforms, I am probably not that into you. This probably applies to all the other folk that wrote on your wall.
Let’s think about this in a real life context
Assume you live in a little village where a birthday-board is put outside people’s doors on their birthdays. Would you just walk past and scream happy birthday across the fence? I assume you wouldn’t.
You would probably enter the front lawn (their personal space) for a short while have a quick chat then be on your way. You might even give the birthday guy or gal a small gift – a fresh banana or peach from your land, a handmade card or simply a pleasant wish.
The Facebook inbox or email inbox is such an intimate place. If you are going to send someone a personal wish you have to think a little about it. It’s less transient and that is exactly why most people don’t do it.
This year, I am going to do something different. I will put my birthday up on Facbook a week before my birthday and simultaneously disable my wall. I would really like to see how many people take that perilous journey to my inbox. Why don’t you try the same, if I get even 10 messages, I would rate that as doing very well and I will respond to each message in turn: a personal message deserves that respect.