Birthday pile in a sadness bowl.

Joanne McNeil at The Tomorrow Museum writes about the social awkwardness of grown-up birthdays, particularly in the era of Facebook, and how that’s emblematic of a devaluation of social interconnectedness and, indeed, friendship itself:

Were there a Getting Things Done-style book for keeping up with friends, well articulated methods how not to alienate ourselves from the people we like best, no one would read it anyway. A shame, as I find so much of my email consists of messages back and forth from friends on why one or the other can’t meet up on this or that day. We all over-extend ourselves, because we can. […] I don’t know anyone too busy to watch The Wire or Mad Men, but somehow we get too busy to meet up with friends.

Somehow, I think this will figure into my 2009 new year’s resolution.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

5 replies on “Birthday pile in a sadness bowl.”

  1. I had a birthday-at-a-bar-with-a-party-room birthday party several years ago, and I invited maybe 16 of my closest friends. 12 showed up, and most of them honored the no-gifts request. I emailed the invite and all 16 of them saw that there were only 16 people invited, so not only were they my closest friends, but they knew for sure they were my closest friends, and they also saw what a small invitee list it was. I think — no, I know — that the dozen who came made a special effort to be there. And it was a wonderful night. For a “toast,” i made the toast, and it was a toast to each of them. We had one big long banquet table, and I spent a minute to two minutes talking about each one of them (so yes, I spoke for about 20 minutes straight, something which doesn’t surprise anyone who knows me in 3d life, *chuckle*) saying how I know him/her, why I love him/her, and something interesting about that person that should make everyone else at the party want to get to know that person, too. Then I told them that the best present would be if they would meet each other (not a single person knew all of the others in the room, although no one was in a room full of strangers, either – there was plenty of overlap but I’m not in one defined social “crowd.”) It was so cool. Friendships were formed and to this day I still love hearing about how people who met that night are going out to grab a drink – Sometimes I’m even invited! ; )

    I think nowadays it’s important to acknowledge the different kinds of friends that we have. I don’t mind getting nothing but a Facebook Wall post of “happy birthday!!!” on my birthday from an acquaintance. I also don’t mind one bit if good friends forget to acknowledge it at all (that is, assuming that they’re not ignoring a party invite, which only go out every 3-4 years at most… I’m not an annual birthday party type of person, after all, I am a grownup…). But I do love it when I listen to my voice mail on April 8 and I get to hear my sweet awesome goofy friends from past and present crooning Happy Birthday into my voice mail.

    Birthdays or just regular old friendship get-togethers, I agree that it’s way too easy to take friends and friendships for granted. I periodically make a list (mental or written) of the Most Important People in my life and I look at my email/phone history/datebook and see if my stated priorities match up to my actual time spent. When I find that those things are out of whack, I get on the horn and make dates/buy plane tickets/schedule phone visits, or I write a handwritten letter, or I drop by my friend’s house with a plate of Toll House cookies and a hug. Friends are way too important to let fall by the wayside. Real friends, I mean. The dozen or so (or the three or four, or the 24, depending on who you are and what your style is) that you would put on Your List.

    Thanks for the post and the link, Waldo. I’ll go ahead and friend you on Facebook so I can be sure to write you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!! message on your day. ; ) Hee!

  2. I recently caught my wife attempting to throw me a surprise party for my upcoming 35th birthday party. I’m glad I did, because I’d rather have it on my own terms, and know who is coming. Of course, the idea completely terrifies me because my paranoid personality is convinced that absolutely no one would ever want to hang out with me.


  3. This reminds me, Waldo, how’s the 2008 resolution going? We haven’t heard about the exercise regimen in a while.

  4. I’ve been thinking this week that I’m at the six-month mark, and I’ve intended to write an update since Sunday. You’ve spurred me onto doing that. Though, coincidentally, I’m off the gym, so I’ll have to do it later. :)

Comments are closed.