We live in an age of striving for positive feedback from our peers, but also making it so easy for our peers to give positive feedback that the effect is diluted. One can show that they "Like" a Facebook post or "Favourite" a Tweet in just one tap. Instagram makes it even easier, and lets you double-tap an image to give it your love, so you don't have to take the time to find and tap the heart button.
It's always been popular to wish people a happy birthday on Facebook. In recent years, it's been made even easier, and you don't even have to go to the person's profile to do it. The number of wall posts with the text, "hbd", and other abbreviations like it, is amazing.
I used to be happy with a few physical birthday cards, but now, I need hundreds of wall posts to feel special. A month ago, as an experiment, I removed public mentions of my birthday from Facebook, Twitter, and anywhere else I could think of, in preparation for my birthday.
Instead of the barrage of useless congratulatory messages, I received 10 birthday wishes, eight of which being completely unprompted.
To some, this might seem depressing, or it may just look like I don't have very many friends. I suppose it is true that I do not have very many friends, depending on your definition, but I am a rather introverted person and would rather have a few really good friends then call everyone I went to school with a friend.
In the end, someone's birthday is just an arbitrary marker that doesn't really say anything. It also has a major flaw: it's value goes down over time. When someone turns 6, they are 20% older than their last birthday, but when they turn 41, they are only 2.5% older. I would rather celebrate using a scale based on an equal increase each time. I'd rather celebrate ever time someone is, for example, 5% older than the last time.
I'm quite happy with the end result of my experiment, as the number and percent of honest, authentic greetings that I received, versus the 5-second version, was quite surprising. I felt more appreciated with a few authentic messages than with the barrage of useless ones of the past. Here's to not ever sharing my birthday when not necessary again!