On 21st Aug I added an extra year to my age. I woke up with that scary figure on my mind and the first person to wish me a happy birthday surprisingly has no ties whatsoever to all sorts of social media communication, my mom. I would later realize that she is among a handful that have that date off head (for obvious reasons). I always said that technology is bringing places and people closer to our noses.
I’m a heavy twitter user and so I don’t spend a lot of time on Facebook but my birthday was a huge reminder of how much in the minority I am. While I received maybe 10 mentions or DMs wishing me a happy birthday via twitter (all deeply appreciated) I received somewhere around 100 wall postings and/or Facebook messages. I was struck by the way people got in touch with me. A few Skype and email wishes came in too. Facebook is simply just big. Huge even. I know that on an intellectual level, but it is great to have these visceral reminders every once in a while. They hit home much harder.
Of course, the results are not a perfect metric of adoption. One thing Facebook has going for it that email and twitter don’t is it reminds you of your friends’ birthdays on its landing page. This is just plain smart of facebook’s part. But it is also interesting in that, knowing this face had no impact on how happy or grateful I was to get messages from people. The fact that technology reminded people – and so they weren’t simply remembering on their own – didn’t matter a lick in how happy I was to hear from them. Indeed, it was wonderful to hear from people – such as old high school friends – I haven’t seen or heard of in ages.
All of this is to say, I continue to read how social media sites and social networks specifically are creating more superficial connections and reducing the quality or intensity of who is a “friend.” My birthday was a great reminder of how ridiculous this talk is. Ultimately, these technologies don’t create binary choices between having close intimate friends or lots of weak ties, they are complimentary. My close friends who move away can stay connected to me, and those with whom I form “loose” ties, migrate into my strong ties.
In both cases – for those I get to see frequently and those I don’t – I’m grateful to have them in my life, and that Facebook, twitter and email makes this easier. My wish is that God keeps me alive long to witness many more of such days, perhaps technology will twist how we celebrate these days even further.
However, all that said, I think social media is making us very anti-social and very lazy. As for the presents, I still believe that one of you reading this will soon deliver a belated Samsung S4 or better still a Blackberry Q10, (God knows I asked for that) and for those whose birthdays I don’t have off my head, no worries, Facebook will find a way of reminding me.