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30: Not Just An Age, But a Milestone

Today marks the 30th anniversary of when I was birthed. 30 years in the books and hopefully decades more to follow.

The remarkable thing: I made it to 30.

Very few people know anything about what I will be sharing below.

Something that started when I was 17 recently came back in full force over the last few months as my 30th birthday was fast approaching.

When I was a mature 17 year old, I was reflecting on how life was currently going and where I was headed. I was incredibly active and had a desire to never sleep, thinking that something major would happen and it would be missed. I was always moving, anxious, and never able to relax. That lifestyle wore on me. It would wear on most anyone. While at home one evening, I remember telling myself “if I keep this pace up, there is no way I will make it to 30.”

Since, I have had the thought of dying before I reached age 30 in the back of my mind. For 13 years, this thought has followed me around.

That thought became a perceived fate, a foregone conclusion for many years. I do think it impacted some decision I have made in my twenties, believing if I only had so much time left, I may as well experience all I can.

I was careless at times, thinking my fate was soon approaching. But I never went off the deep end doing absolutely anything and everything, breaking all possible rules, engaging in illicit drug use (yuck), among other non-optimal lifestyle choices. I was willing to consider the chance I was wrong and would make it not only to my 30th birthday, but beyond.

At times, thoughts of an early death would subside. Frequently, a new life event would have me back on the early death bandwagon quickly. Add that thought to some serious anxiety issues since turning 29 and that makes for a fun life.

Imagine having that thought in the back and sometimes front of your mind as you go through life. I cannot count how many times I have gone to bed thinking “is this it? Was today my last day alive? Did I accomplish everything I needed and wanted to?” No wonder I have sleep issues.

As my 30th birthday has approached, those thoughts of dying before reaching 30 have crept into my mind one last time.

30 is not just an age. 30 is a milestone that for years, was assumed to be something considered impossible.

It’s 11:21pm in Minneapolis, and I will be staying up past midnight solely to prove myself wrong.

12:01am: I have never been so happy to be wrong. I made it to June 1. Thanks for the conversation, Mr. Nash.

7:02am: Officially, I am 30. And 30 is going to be amazing.

With malice toward none; with charity for all.

Jason

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

June 2, 2010 15 comments

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