Home > life, online marketing, social media > It Was Your Birthday? Social Media Didn’t Tell Me That!

It Was Your Birthday? Social Media Didn’t Tell Me That!

In case you did not know, Tuesday, June 1st, was my birthday. Surprise!

For most, it was a surprise.

Months ago, inspired by someone who did what I am about to describe, I chose to test my friends to see who actually remembered my birthday by taking my birthday off from Facebook and avoiding any discussion around my birthday.

Why would I do this? This was not a loyalty test. I felt there was an opportunity to make a statement about how social media is impacting the quality of all relationships, even if it is at the expense of my birthday.

Just five years ago, people did not have Facebook to keep track of their friends’ activities, happenings, current events, and important dates such as birthday’s, anniversaries, and more. We had to use our own brainpower to remember the important things about our friends and family. If you forgot someone’s birthday, you were considered a bad friend.

This brings me back to yesterday, the day of my experiment. I get online around 945am to see only one Facebook happy birthday wish from my girlfriend’s Mom, an early one at that.  I started g-chatting with my friend Nick, who wished me a happy birthday in the chat, as he was the only person who knew of my experiment. We kept track of birthday wishes, which was not difficult.

Suddenly, it was 10:35, and I had zero twitter friends wishing a happy birthday, and only one new happy birthday wish on Facebook. However, I did have four business emails wishing me happy birthday. For those keeping score: Email 4, People on social media: 2.

This confirmed what I had thought. Without a reminder, very few people would know about my birthday. Everything changed when my girlfriend, Amanda, sent a happy birthday tweet and Facebook status update. Experiment: dead. Before her status update on Facebook: 6 birthday wishes. After: 30. Before her tweet: zero. After: 40+.

Even though I told myself that I couldn’t be mad at anyone for forgetting my birthday this year (since it was part of an experiment), I had mixed feelings about certain people or groups forgetting my birthday. From most of the people in my office (yes, the place I work and spend 40+ hours a week forgot save for two people), and even friends I have had since junior high (you know who you are), it was a bit of an eye opener.

Imagine not having a girlfriend to send out a simple message to her network of friends that would trigger such a reaction.

Imagine having your birthday forgotten.

That did not happen to me, as after the tweet & facebook status posted by Amanda, the outpouring of support was overwhelming. I have so many thank you’s to give out. Amanda made this the best birthday  I have ever had. I will forever be grateful to her for that.

To those who did wish me an early, day of, or belated birthday, thank you!

I cannot point fingers without pointing one at myself. I rely on the birthday reminders as much as the rest of the world. I suck. But, isn’t that a statement of how relationships have changed?

Why do we have to know our friends when we have social media to know our friends?

I work within the social media and online marketing world, and see all of the good it does connecting people who otherwise may never cross paths. There are some negatives to what social media is doing to society, notably, the impact it is having on relationships.  I know hundreds, maybe thousands of people moderately well. Ask me what day their birthday lies on, and I will fail miserably. You would do the same.

It makes me wonder: how well do my friends know me? How well do I know my friends?

So many people worry about the relationships that corporations and brands have or should have with followers, fans, etc. What is more important: the Minnesota Twins following you back on Twitter, or a close friend wishing you a happy birthday?

Let’s get back to solidifying the friendships that social media have provided to us. Otherwise, what’s the point?

~J

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  1. Krista S.
    June 3, 2010 at 10:42 AM

    Personally, I don’t need to hear “happy birthday” from anyone on Facebook. I will accept well-wishes from anyone, but I don’t need 160 people to say it to have a good day. I KNOW all of the peopl on my FB, but I don’t call all of them friends. The people who should know (mom, dad, sisters, brother, boyfriend) do, and each can make my day in their own way.

  2. JW
    June 3, 2010 at 10:55 AM

    I’m bummed that this was all a test. Even with your noble (and harmless for that matter) intentions I think you risk crying wolf. For example, next year when I see you birthday prompt on facebook, I’ll think twice/hesitate before passing along a few kind words.

    Use a lab rat next time, not your friends.

    But alas- much love sir. And, happy f’in birthday! (Whenever the hell it really is) 🙂

    Jdub

  3. Rachael
    June 3, 2010 at 11:14 AM

    How could I EVER forget your birthday?!?!? After having you drum into my head the significance of how 6/1 adds up to 7 and the mystical power that number has in your life?!?!?!?!? ;-P

    • June 3, 2010 at 12:21 PM

      I’m glad you remembered the math to it all! It’s as simple as science. 🙂

  4. JW
    June 3, 2010 at 11:16 AM

    And why did you never tell me that story… First Ken Griffey. Now this. haha

  5. June 3, 2010 at 11:27 AM

    I remembered your birthday and sent you a text first thing in the morning! HOWEVER, you forgot my birthday a few days earlier. 😦 So maybe i shouldn’t have sent you a nice birthday text. I’m not mean like that though. haha

    • June 3, 2010 at 11:53 AM

      See!?! I am a horrible friend! Look what social media has done to me 😦 that’s why I called myself out!

      I remember how you would be mad at me for scheduling my birthday party the same night as yours, since our bdays are so close together 🙂 Oh the memories!

  6. June 3, 2010 at 11:44 AM

    you are smart. almost tooooooooo smart. i play this joke every year on April 1st for April Fools Day and it works every time. Even on repeat offenders.

  7. Sarah Tiambeng
    June 4, 2010 at 9:30 AM

    Great topic. I actually had a friend do sort of the same thing. He changed the date his birthday was listed on Facebook to see if people would remember that he already had a birthday two months prior. Sure enough, he got a flooding of bday wishes (including one from me). I think we don’t realize sometimes that social media is supposed to be a complement to our personal relationships, not a substitute. Thanks for the reminder!

    • June 4, 2010 at 11:10 AM

      Thank you for reading. You and I are on the same page. Your last sentence sums my thoughts up perfectly! The feedback has been mixed, but I expected that.

      Hope you continue to read in the future!

      ~Jason

  1. June 3, 2010 at 11:46 AM
  2. June 3, 2010 at 10:24 PM
  3. June 7, 2010 at 12:03 PM
  4. July 5, 2010 at 12:25 AM

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