All your friends posted on your timeline...except one.
July 15, 2013 9:32 AM   Subscribe

Facebook Filter: Possibly beanplating the etiquette of birthday wishes on social media. Details within.

This year I made an arbitrary decision to take an all-or-nothing approach to wishing people a happy birthday on Facebook, keeping with “all” for the most part. My Internet access during the summer, however, is sporadic to the point where I may not log in for a week or more. So I’ve missed lots.

I’m wondering what the best course of action is from here. Post in advance (though I’m not sure how far out to do so, given I can’t establish a routine for being online)? Catch up after the fact, regardless of how much time has passed? A status update explaining? Or should I just let it go because most people wouldn’t take it as a slight?

posted by xenization to Human Relations (25 answers total)
Everybody I know gets a zillion "happy birthday!" messages on facebook. So many, in fact, that nearly all of them turn into white noise, unless they're extra-witty/special beyond "Happy birthday!"

The presence or absence of a given person's wishes, unless they're a very close friend, generally is not even noticeable. I even know people (i'm now one of them) who disable wall comments for the day to avoid having a huge block of content-less well-wishes taking up space.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:35 AM on July 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

It depends on your social circle, but you're probably ok with letting it go, or wishing them well after the fact ("I hope you had a great birthday, you're super awesome and deserve it!"), or texting them on the day of instead of Facebooking (if that's open to you). You could print up the calendar from FB to use for texting if you expect to be offline.

Personally, I love all of the birthday wishes I do get, but I don't hold it against people if they don't wish me a happy birthday, so you're probably in the clear.
posted by RogueTech at 9:36 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I personally don't pay attention to the people who post on my FB wall on my Bday.
posted by radioamy at 9:36 AM on July 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

I'd say something like "this depends entirely on your friend group and their investment in social media," but I took the "nothing" approach (i.e. over Facebook specifically I don't 'like' birthday status, I never wish anyone happy birthday) and I can't say anyone has made so much as a peep about my not wishing them a happy birthday, and my social group's investment in Facebook is all over the map. I've also never noticed whether someone particular has posted on my wall for my birthday.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 9:36 AM on July 15, 2013

Not only will most people not take it as a slight, most people will not even notice.
posted by something something at 9:38 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Just let it go. If you have a friend whose birthday you're particularly sad you missed, you could a post for them.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:38 AM on July 15, 2013

I love, love, love all of the birthday wishes I get on FB every year. I do not usually notice if someone is missing, and even when I do notice, I assume they're doing something more fun than being on FB.
posted by kimberussell at 9:43 AM on July 15, 2013 [17 favorites]

I notice who posts on my wall on Facebook, but only in a positive way. Like, if someone I don't normally hear from much (on FB or otherwise) posts a birthday greeting, I think "Oh, how nice, so-and-so said happy birthday!"

I do not specifically notice who does not post on Facebook for my birthday, because honestly, how could I, unless I actively sat down and cross-referenced my f-list with my birthday greetings? I also don't and can't know which of my friends *always* post birthday greetings for people and just didn't post one for me unless I'm doing some major post-stalking, and all of their friends' walls are open for me to read.

Making birthday greetings posts on FB is a positive thing, because generally people like to feel that flush of birthday love, but it's not a necessary thing that you need to go out of your way to do it. People who go out of their way to take the trouble to know or care whether specific people posted on their wall for their birthday are probably best served by a little comeuppance to their narcissism, because that shit is a lot of work just to be offended.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:50 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would definitely not notice this. Even if I did notice for some reason, I would never take it as a slight. I'd probably assume one of many things:

a) that particular friend didn't have access to a computer or time to browse Facebook on my birthday
b) that particular friend doesn't like Facebook and prefers not to use it
c) that particular friend checked Facebook and either missed the birthday notification or saw it, but forgot about it
d) that particular friend thinks that saying "Happy birthday!" on Facebook is impersonal

All of those would be hundreds of times more plausible than option e) friend is upset with me and/or trying to make me feel bad by not posting on Facebook on my birthday.
posted by capricorn at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

i'm such a birthday hypocrite. while i love all the fb messages i get on my birthday, i only send out messages to a select few people who i really love and care about, and it's more than just the standard "happy birthday"

if there was someone special whose birthday you missed, then i would send them a private message and be like "sorry i missed your birthday! hope it was great what have you been up to blah blah blah"

otherwise, i'd let it go. if someone decides to hate on you for not wishing them a happy birthday on facebook then take that as a sign.
posted by kerning at 9:53 AM on July 15, 2013

I'd only be concerned if some of your friends are those people for whom their birthday is still A Very Big Deal, then I'd let those people, specifically, know in advance.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 10:05 AM on July 15, 2013

I am pretty neurotic and pay a lot of attention to Facebook and I still don't pay attention to which specific people did or did not post a birthday greeting. I enjoy having lots of people wish me happy birthday, but my enjoyment or attention doesn't get more specific than that. If you want to post a belated greeting a few days the fact, I'd say go for it (especially if it's someone you know beyond the level of acquaintance), but don't sweat it.
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:08 AM on July 15, 2013

I think that if they're close enough friends that your missing happy birthday on facebook would be a big deal they're probably close enough to call/text/send a card to.

I figure those people in my life who I know well enough to have their birthday in my memory/calendar are the ones I should make a point of wishing a happy birthday and the rest of my facebook acquaintances will live if i don't make it onto facebook that day.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2013

If there are people you are close enough to that you think they may be offended by the oversight, send them a Facebook message, email, text, or call them with belated wishes but don't post to their page. But I agree, most people I know would neither notice nor care.
posted by juliplease at 10:10 AM on July 15, 2013

Please don't treat facebook like it means anything.
posted by humboldt32 at 10:11 AM on July 15, 2013 [16 favorites]

I think it is really only a big deal to people that don't have many facebook friends, such as older relatives. I have no idea if my closest friends posted hb to me and I'm sure they feel the same, but it does seem to mean a lot to my aunts & grandparents.
posted by susanvance at 10:15 AM on July 15, 2013

Seriously, no one will care. (And, on the off chance someone did care, I can tell assure you, they are a deadweight in your life.)

Also consider this informal breakdown of people on FB:

1) the people with a million friends who are on FB all the time: These people will not notice that you didn't post birthday wishes, because they will have hundreds of "Happy BDay!" messages.

2) the people who don't take FB seriously: These people will not care whether you did or did not post anything.

3) the people who have few friends, but love the social aspect: these people tend to be older, in my experience, and they'll really appreciate a card more than the FB message.

Cards are always, always, better than a FB message.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:18 AM on July 15, 2013

I am an extremely sporadic birthday wisher.

Nobody seems to notice or care.

This is so not a big deal. Let it go.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on July 15, 2013

The only ones that make me feel slighted are the people I barely know/haven't spoken to in 10 years who post "Happy birthday [my name spelled wrong]!" on my wall.

I do not care or even notice if someone doesn't say happy birthday.

By the way, it is totally cool if like a month later you post something saying, "hey, friend! I was just remembering that time we accidentally set the chem lab on fire and realized I missed your birthday back in June--hope you're doing well!" or whatever.
posted by phunniemee at 10:19 AM on July 15, 2013

There is an iPhone app called "Birthday Box" that notifies you of someone's birthday and gives you an in app option to post Happy Birthday to their wall. I've had great success with it.
posted by Shouraku at 10:53 AM on July 15, 2013

On my last birthday, I got a FB notice that said "PersonA, PersonB, PersonC and 42 other friends posted on your wall for your birthday". I spent about 10 seconds trying, but I couldn't figure out how to expand that italic 42 friends and see who they were. Then I quit thinking about it until you asked this question.

So, not only does nobody notice or care, they might not even be able to tell whether you posted or not.
posted by CathyG at 11:10 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

No one cares. No one will care. Just carry on and don't worry about it.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:51 AM on July 15, 2013

I agree it's not a big deal, but also: no one gets mad if someone gives them a "hope your birthday was great!" belated b-day message. I mean, like, six weeks after the fact would be weird, but in the birthday week, you're totally cool to do that if you want. Otherwise, I'd just let it go.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2013

Nah, you don't need to catch up. Nobody notices, since everyone on Facebook gets a bunch of Happy Birthday messages anyway.

I don't like to make a big deal out of my birthday. (There's a movie or book which I unfortunately can't remember the name of at the moment, having a quote to the effect of "why celebrate something that happens by just waking up, eating, and breathing every morning... you should instead celebrate things that you actually have worked hard to achieve." That quote pretty much sums up how I feel about birthdays, but anyway...) I do realize that a lot of people, unlike me, like to make a big deal out of birthdays, though.

Facebook exacerbates how I feel about this. On my birthday I get eleventy gabillion messages on my wall/timeline that say "Happy Birthday!" -- invariably from people who do not talk to me at all on any other day of the year. Oh great, you have a reaction to a Facebook prompt telling you it's my birthday. How nice. It's far more meaningful to me to have an ongoing friendship with someone where I have more than superficial conversations consisting of a grand total of two words per year.

If somebody I talk to on a regular basis sends me a FB birthday message, I don't look down on them, or look up to them -- I have a neutral reaction. If someone I don't talk to sends me a FB birthday message -- I definitely look down on it.

Consequently, I do not wish people happy birthday on social media platforms (I used to -- many years ago, but I don't any more). This gets me in trouble with the wife -- "Why didn't you wish my [insert obscure relative here] a Happy Birthday on Facebook, you look so insensitive" -- so I've learned to make exceptions for her family, even though it goes against how I feel about such things.

I'm sorry for rambling on. Point is, I don't think anyone will notice or care, and you run the risk of making some folks angry. If the person means a lot to you, I'm sure you'll communicate with them in other, deeper ways.
posted by tckma at 12:28 PM on July 15, 2013

I was hoping you'd all confirm what I suspected--I'm over-thinking this. And you did just that. Thanks!
posted by xenization at 11:06 AM on July 16, 2013

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