It happens every time. You open the Facebook app to wish a friend a happy birthday only to find 100 people have already written "Happy Birthday!" or "Hope you have the best day ever!" - and it's only 9:30am. You scroll to the bottom to write something more unique but you can't help but think it'll be lost in the noise. Will they even know you wrote something? And if so, what does it mean to be lumped in with a hundred other people they hardly know. Wishing someone a happy birthday is one thing whose meaning has been diluted in the Facebook era.
Facebook has made writing a birthday message too easy. They're surfaced in several areas of the app, including notifications every morning at 9am and the top of the News Feed. I've even seen pre-written, one-tap messages. It literally takes two seconds to type "Happy Birthday" and the notifications mean you don't even have to remember. No thoughtfulness required.
Before social media wishing someone a happy birthday was a big deal! Just remembering someone's birthday meant you cared because you had to have written it down - no notifications. Then calling or sending a card took time and all that took effort, and that meant something. Not any more.
Facebook has streamlined the meaning right out of birthdays.
When Facebook removed the effort, they removed the meaning. Relationships take effort. They are built on quiet, behind the scenes gestures that show we care about someone: the offer to help them move, the message asking about a sick parent, messaging before a big trip, or calling to say "good luck" before a big interview. There are no notifications and no prompts for these. This is what sets friends apart from acquaintances.
The challenge in today's world is that we know more people than ever before and life is busier than ever before, making it easy to accidentally forget even our closest friends. That's why I'm building my Revere app. I want to make it easier to keep relationships strong even when life gets busy. Now when someone mentions they're moving, I can make a note (and offer to help later). When someone mentions the anniversary of a parent's passing, I can set an anniversary (and call them later). And when someone says they're going on a trip in a few weeks, I can set a reminder (and wish them safe travels).
So while Facebook has depreciated the value of a birthday wish, they haven't changed the importance of the small, thoughtful gestures that show someone they're important. And it's those that separate the friends from the acquaintances.