It’s my birthday today. Yeah yeah, no big deal, I’m past the age when turning a year older makes you excited and full of anticipation. In fact I just booked myself a rejuvinating facial at my gym’s spa.
Anyway, it’s still nice when people remember your birthday. Of course, back in the old days,such category was made of people who considered you somehow special and close to their heart. I still remember the birthday of my best friends from school – Lucilla: 19th of June, Simona: 8th of August, Giovanni: 26th of May and so on… And I remember my parents’ and my sister’s birthday of course. I happen not to remember the birthday of that colleague of mine who I see twice a year in a recording studio and I hardly exchange two words with. I don’t remember it because probably he’s never told me, no big deal since he can hardly remember my surname.
But everything’s changed now….
First of all now lots of “Apps” offer a “birthday alert”. You’ll find it on Google, Outlook and on many other services. So many people who would have NEVER remembered a special date in their lives now have automatic email reminders telling them when their second cousin’s husband’s birthday is.
That in itself could be useful. Many people are terrible at remembering dates. Problem is, it doesn’t stop here…
Most smart phones syncronize automatically with your computer, your email address book, your Facebook contacts Ipod contacts. Googlemail contacts, Twitter contacts, phone book contacts… What does that mean? that it’s enough to have given your date of birth to one of these websites (or affiliates, such as Itune, Farmville or such amenities) and it’ll be automatically passed to all these other websites via one of your friend’s smartphones, Ipods, computers etc. So you’re not safe at all. Your birthday will end up in a reminder sent to anyone in one of your address books, whether you like it or not. Same thing for any utility or servie you’re registered with – tax, electricity, dating websites, job centres… Thanks to the constant exchange of datas happening in cyberspace, you can be sure the most absurd “entities” will be in possess of your date of birth, from your gym to your Post Office via your Gas provider.
So this is what happened to me this year.
Yesterday, 15th of July, at eleven pm London time, I checked my email to see whether an audio file I’d sent to a studio in the US had been delivered, only to find a Facebook message: XX has written on your wall! Click here.
I don’t know XX, but I assume he’s one of the people who claims to be a “fan” of my voice work , a category I feel bad refusing my friendship to. After all, it’s only Facebook. Friendship can be so easily distributed on social networks because it doesn’t imply any commitment, no responsability requested, only the possibility to have a peek at your holiday’s pictures. And you can only cancel them after a few weeks..
XX lives in Italy where the time is one hour ahead and where the date is already the 16th of July, my birthday. So he immediately decided to wish me happy birthday.
Thanks very much XX… But who are you?
Ok, that is my fault for accepting strangers as my friends simply because they happen to like my voice. Vanity is a sin…
But how about this:
One hour later, as soon as midnight touched the UK shores, I got 3 more emails.
“Dating for London wishes you a great birthday, lara, we miss you!” (I stopped using Dating for London 2 years ago)
“Lara! Want to look your best for your birthday? Visit Virgin Active Crouch End. Happy Birthday!” (which I did by the way, hence the facial)
“Voice123 wishes you a fantastic birthday!” (Voice123 is an online service to find voice over work)
“CastNet and its team wishes you a happy Birthday Lara!” (same as above)
These wishes didn’t even come from a person I hardly know. They came from “websites”. From virtual, non-existent, cyber-entities who apparently are very happy about my big day.
As we all know, most of our FB “friends” would have hardly qualified as aquientences 5 years ago. Virgin Active would have just qualified as a gym, a venue, not an entity with feelings towards me and my date of birth.
Such compulsory congratulations, propelled not by somebody thinking of you and remembering your date of birth but by a database sending automatic reminders, make me incredibly sad.
I remember when I was a child and on the 16th of July I didn’t have any friends to celebrate my birthday with because at that time of the year all Italian kids – including me – were on holiday. My parents would buy me a cake and, if I was lucky, they managed to round up a couple of kids on the beach to sing me happy birthday. Those kids I hardly knew who clapped and wished all the best to a little girl they’d never seen before made me as unconfortable as the myriad of FB “buddies” wishing me happy birthday today. Thank you, you’rer very sweet but… who are you?
Then I remember that sometimes, on my return from the summer holidays, I would find a birthday card from my friend Lucilla or from one of my schoolmates. And that made me happy. Because they had remembered me while I was away. Sometimes my parents and Lucilla’s parents would arrange to go on holiday together and that was even better. We both had sisters, and then there were Lucilla’s cousins, so I could have a proper party with people I KNEW. THAT was nice. Like it was nice when my aunt Lina called, or my grandmother. They cared. The kids on the beach were only there for the cake.
I make a point of NEVER sending happy birthday messages to Facebook contacts whose date of birth I would have never known, hadn’t it been for an automatic system telling me. They might think I’m rude but I don’t care. If I hardly know you, if I don’t speak to you more than twice a year, I’m not likely to be interested in your birthday and you’ll have to live with that. I’m sure such a notion won’t keep you in tears for too long. You’ll have hundreds of other “friends” writing nice things on your “wall” to celebrate your day.
Luckily, just after midnight, my boyfriend told me happy birthday on the phone. And in the morning a package arrived in the post with a present from my sister. My parents, my aunt Lina and my friend Miriam called, followed by Tanya, Simona, Elena and other people who ALWAYS wish me happy birthday, Facebook or not Facebook.
But of course Lucilla won first “happy birthday” of the day. Like most years… And she’s not even on Facebook.