Last year on my birthday I had over 100 likes and messages on my facebook page. For each one, I dutifully thanked those for taking the time to wish me well.
A couple of months ago I liberated myself from the shackles of Facebook and deactivated my account. For business purposes I have another Facebook page (which is slowly creeping into a social thing again), but it is not intended for engaging with friends and family on the same scale as my original Facebook page did.
With my birthday just passed, I was interested to see how differently it might feel, given that I would not hear from large numbers of Facebookers wishing me a happy birthday. On my current page, I do not have my date of birth so would it make me sad that I would not see comments on my timeline from one of my hundreds of ‘friends’ ? Would it make me feel less popular if I didn’t hear constant pings from my facebook notification throughout the day? Would it reduce the enjoyment of my birthday if people I haven’t seen in over two decades don’t wish me a Happy Birthday? The answer – No! – on all accounts.
The close friends I have already knew it was my birthday and sent me a card or a text or both. Even closer friends than that – who are generally hopeless at staying in touch on day to day basis – took the time to call me to sing happy birthday. Friends who live near by, who I see regularly, even took the time to pop over to say happy birthday in person offering generous and thoughtful gifts.
This probably would have happened anyway. But it was even more special to know and recognise that it wasn’t because a message popped up on their Facebook Notifications reminding them that it was ‘Rachel’s birthday, send her message’. I am embarrassed to admit that I missed my own Auntie and Uncle’s birthday last year because I had previously succumbed to the laziness and reliability of Facebook reminders.
I have a friend who lives up the road from me. We can go as long as six months without even seeing each other in the street. We are not particularly close and our kids don’t hang out anymore but she still knew in the back of her mind that it was my birthday. She went on Facebook to check. I didn’t exist so she couldn’t confirm it. She could have decided to not do anything – it turned out that she assumed I had unfriended her, so she could have taken umbrage to that. Instead, she popped a card through my door, taking a punt that her instincts were right. She wrote a message inviting me for a cuppa the next day – which I took her up on. We chatted for over two hours about family, work etc etc. We probably won’t do that again for another six months but, I am grateful she made the decision she did because it confirms my view that true friendship has not died since Facebook came on the scene.
It’s all about balance, isn’t it. Social media platforms can be wonderful ways of keeping in touch with friends and family who live too far away from us to be in regular close contact. I also get much enjoyment and value from belonging to groups which focus on, for example, hobbies or other matters of interest. But problems can arise if we start to rely on those portals as props for our self-esteem. Like anything in life, it is important to maintain perspective and use these tools to enhance, not hinder, our lives.