How People Feel About Birthday Wishes on Facebook

Why some people don’t want birthday greetings on Facebook

August 12, 2011|By Meagan Choi, Special to CNN
Some people say Facebook birthday messages are pale substitutes for more meaningful interactions.

For most people, logging into Facebook on your birthday means feeling like the most popular person in the world. Notifications flood your inbox, new wall posts appear with each page refresh and everyone seems to “like” anything you say.

But there’s another group of users who have little use for Facebook birthday celebrations. Some feel overwhelmed by the repetitive flood of “Happy Birthday!” wishes (do I have to answer every one?), while others say the greetings feel perfunctory.

A few, such as H. Chung So, even wish they could avoid Facebook birthdays altogether.

So, 29, switches his birth date on his Facebook profile as often as some people change their relationship status — simply to avoid receiving the inevitable wave of birthday posts.

The Arcadia, California, man’s birthday is July 14, but at the beginning of each year, he moves it to an arbitrary date in October. After his actual birthday rolls around, So moves it back to April. Thus, he always remains out of range of the Facebook birthday notification system.

Back when there were far fewer than 750 million users of Facebook, getting a birthday greeting was more of a novelty. So, who says he’s a private person, has never enjoyed the hoopla surrounding his birthday. And as more and more Facebook notifications crowded his wall each year, it all became too much.

“The quality of birthday well-wishes means way more to me than the quantity of them, which typically happens on Facebook,” he said. “Birthday wishes are very well-meaning. But if you get flooded with them, it just dilutes the impact.”

Luke O’Neil of Waterford, Massachusetts, doesn’t mind being buried with online birthday greetings. But he thinks Facebook, with its popularity-contest dynamics, encourages some people to send birthday wishes for the sake of electronic appearances — not out of sincerity.

“We just want to be seen at these virtual parties,” said O’Neil, 34. “It’s like stopping (at a party) and saying, ‘I just wanted to say, happy birthday,’ but it takes much less effort.”

Though O’Neil says he gets “annoyed” at birthday messages from near-strangers, he admits there’s still a sort of gratification at being recognized. “I couldn’t help but think, ‘The only thing worse than this would be if no one had said anything.’ ”

Spreading birthday wishes on the social-networking site has become an automatic impulse for many users, said Jackie Cohen, editor of Cohen posts at least one birthday message a day, she said.

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