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Slate

Facebook Friends and their Birthdays

On my way into work this morning, I was listening to KCBS – our local news station. They had an interview with the appropriately-named David Plotz, who wrote an article for Slate Magazine about a recent experiment in which he put three fake “birthdays” on his Facebook profile, to see what people would do. Well, apparently a lot of people wished him happy birthday three times.

So he wrote this article about how phony it was for all these people whom he didn’t really know to wish him a happy birthday. He says that while he appreciates that sort of greeting from people in his “real circle of friends,” it’s meaningless when it comes from people who don’t know him.

Okay Mr. Plotz – I have one question for you, which the good folks at KCBS didn’t think to ask this morning: If the people who aren’t in your “real circle of friends” are so “meaningless” to you, why did you accept them as Facebook friends? If you’ve just got them there as experimental rats or as “networking” resources, you’re guilty of at least as much superficiality as you accuse them of. Mr. P(l)ot(z), meet Mr. Kettle.

At this writing, I’ve got close to 3,000 Facebook friends, or nearly twice as many as David does. I don’t manage to send birthday greetings to them all, but I do try to get to most of the people I’ve met in person – and I’ve probably met close to a thousand in person at one time or another and keep up irregular correspondences with quite a few. And when someone turns up on my birthday feed, I go to their page and use it as an opportunity to remind myself of why I “know” them – did I meet them at a show? While down in Key West? Do they know somebody I know?

I do get to turn Facebook friends into real-life friends at least a couple of times a month, and it brings me great joy to do so. I have some truly amazing friends.

And when my birthday – my real birthday – comes around, I will appreciate the notes I get from everybody, like I did last year. Before Facebook, not that many people knew when my birthday was. Life can be as much of a drag or a blessing as we want it to be. Taking the little “positive strokes” that come my way, whether they’re “real” or not, helps keep my world on the “blessing” side.

I guess I’m glad I don’t have to live inside Mr. Plotz’s life. It sounds like a drag.