Facebook Birthday Wishes Are Offensive

Thinking it and typing it are basically the same effort. You might as well do nothing.

Taking picture with phone of cake with candles
Getty ImagesJonathan Knowles

It’s Thanksgiving, which means you’re probably about to hear some terrible political opinions. As a refreshing palate-cleanser, every day this week the editors of Marie Claire will be sharing their most tightly-held unpopular opinions on a range of decidedly non-political subjects—in case you need something more interesting to fight about at dinner. See yesterday's here.


Thought you’d score some karma points for wishing that ex-coworker a happy day on Facebook? Don’t do it. Seriously, don’t. It’s time to stop and rethink this whole social media birthday etiquette. How can I begrudge people for doing something so harmless and potentially joy-giving? It’s 2018: Our phones are glued to our hands, so thinking something nice and typing it take basically the same amount of effort, making FB birthday wishes the digital equivalent of a sweet-smelling soda burp.

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Yes, I’m a Birthday Diva. I don’t let the annual Day About Me slip by without pre-birthday drinks, taking the day off work, some sort of blow-out, and then make-up drinks with anyone who missed the pre-celebrations or the main blow-out. (Make-up drinks are like make-up tests: Join me for a cocktail, you get a passing grade.) If I meet a cool person and then learn she or he shares the same birthday, then sorry! We can’t be friends. I’m not sharing my day. I need to maintain the sick illusion that it’s mine alone. And I have to say to my Friends List that the little two-by-two inch shout-out on my feed, with the thoughtfully picked-out background (“Isn’t orange his favorite color?”) isn’t going to cut it.

There’s an app for that...

There really is! And if you have a robot do the task of posting a uniquely-worded greeting to every person linked to you on their special day, would anyone really know the difference? That’s pretty sad.

Is nothing sacred?

It’s not like all the people linked to you have the Holy Day of Your Creation on their iCalendar. Their FB Notifications gave them a big fat hint that’s it’s your birthday. So even if they truly thought of you first thing when they woke up, you’ll never know.

Scroll through your feed on your big day and chances are, you’re going to see super-sweet posts from names you barely recognize belonging to people who definitely spent 364 days of the previous year not thinking about you. And because that they’ve stopped for two seconds to boost your ego, they’re definitely expecting birthday-backsies. Stressful, right?

If, like me, you have the nagging feeling that a birthday is sacred to a few people (yourself...your mom, maybe?), then this knee-jerk impulse to post on the feed of some ex-boyfriend of a former friend that you forgot to unfriend feels like the utter apocalypse of thoughtfulness.

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Be the change you wish to see.

Can we go back to how it used to be, when people sang and gave us edible cake instead of cake emojis? It’s not going to be easy, because it starts with ignoring those FB notifications.

Being absent from the string of cleverly-worded wishes on your coworker’s feed might result in getting some side-eye from her at work tomorrow. Plus, you’ll sound like and ass when you explain that it’s for a greater cause. But when you get that alert that it’s your dear pal’s birthday and you were so busy this week that you almost let it slip by, you’re going to have to walk the walk and call them. Maybe even figure out a time to meet IRL.

Just for writing this piece, I’m prepared to see the wishes dwindle on my own feed. But I’ve decided that it’s worth it and I will only sulk a little. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll still post the obligatory, “Thank you all for the wonderful wishes! It means so much to me.” But I’m going to post it at 12:15pm on my glorious day, just to give a little passive-aggressive smackdown to the people who thought it was okay to wait until after lunch.

To those Facebook friends who are not planning to see me face-to-face, buy me a drink, call, or even text because you moved to a part of the country that is devoid of me, I’m giving you a free pass to not care about my birthday. I sincerely mean that. I won't unfriend you after tallying greetings up on a spreadsheet at midnight and finding no check-mark next to your name.

Now here’s an idea: Use that two seconds for something that actually makes somebody feel your sincerity. Have you texted your mother, today?

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