blogitto ergo sum

March 31, 2011

#175 – FaceBook Friendship; more than a “Happy Birthday”

A couple of months ago, I decided that I’m not too happy with what became almost a compulsory “happy birthday” posting on every FaceBook friend’s wall.  I want to do it, because I want to do it, and I want to do it my way, with a little extra; I want something a bit more personal.  Posting a card or a video clip to one’s wall seemed like the right idea at the time.

I decided that the happy birthday wish has to be somewhat personal or personalized.  It has to reflect something about the birthday “celebratee”.  Sounds easy, right?  Not so much.  And it’s much harder on days shared by FOUR birthday “celebratees”, which happened twice over an 8-day period.

Tough challenge.  Not planning to stop.  If anything, I now feel stronger about it than I did initially.

sadly, some great birthday clips, include a name…

People keep saying that FaceBook allows one to have many meaningless friendships, dilutes the concept of friendship and encourages superficial relationships with minimal emotional commitment or engagement.  Virtual interactions, we read again and again, are not “real”. Tell that to the happy and the not-so-happy couples that made life choices based on virtual relations.  Stop; not going there.  My point is that superficial, meaningless FB friendship is only ONE possibility the platform offers.  There are others however, and it’s up for one to choose.

other clips, I fear, may be inappropriate

There’s the fun of sharing what one does, thinks or messes-up with long-standing friends, near and far.  This is how many of us use it.  It’s easy and requires a minimal effort.  Alternatively, one can use FaceBook to enhance and enrich existing friendships, get over time and distance, get closer to REAL PEOPLE one cares about [friends, acquaintances], one otherwise can’t, doesn’t have the time, or is uncomfortable doing.

If you wonder what “uncomfortable doing” means, think how much easier it is to not only break, but also melt the ice on FaceBook, compared to being introduced to someone at a cocktail, dinner and wanting to have a deeper conversation with one, but not sure how to initiate it.  Exchanging business cards doesn’t really work too often or too well.  Hoping to bump into X again since it’s a global village and a small swamp rarely works.  So what do you do?  Even if you took the extra step, looked @ the business card and sent a LinkedIn connection request, it’s still hard to build much on top of it, isn’t it?  Broken ice is still there.  How are you going to melt it?

melting friends. source:

My answer?  FaceBook.

This brings me back to the personalized happy birthdays.  How do you make it personal, knowing it’s as public as can be?  How do you “get it right”?  I picked a few methods, such as include the “celebrate” name, find greeting in “celebratee” mother tongue, link to music/group/show you know the celebratee likes…

Sometimes I draw a blank.  Sad, but true.  There are people who I know, have known for a while and on their birthday I realize how little I know of them.  Nothing that is personal enough to help me focus my search.  Some of those challenging people [sorry], I’ve known for a year, two, three… work with, interact with and yet know nothing of personal significance about them.  And you tell me that FaceBook is superficial?!  How about our daily face-to-face exchanges and interactions, how personal are they?!

My biggest, hardest, most challenging frustration that I had to get over was when I landed in Canada [1991]; first time ex-pat living outside Israel, in a very cold country.  To sum my first 18 months experience, the Canadians were all very polite, yet superficial.  Problem was that I didn’t know that they were superficial.  It took a while to realize that the nice person that has just spent 5, 10, or 20 minutes with me, being awfully friendly and warm, had forgotten me the minute I was out of sight.  It took me a painful time to realize that “let’s do lunch” actually means “nice meeting you, have a good life, see you around”… It was hard, I was getting offended by people who wanted to be nice, but their concept of being nice was very different from mine.  Remember, this was not FaceBook, this was face-to-face.

Of course, once past the culture shock, things looked and felt a bit different.

Oh well, Canada

So when I draw a blank trying to pick your birthday greeting, it’s FaceBook as a matter of fact that comes to my help.  Most of us, at one point or another, shared with FaceBook some of our hobbies, favorite artists, films, bands… books… it’s personal, trust me.

The other day, Mashable posted How Women Really Feel About Their Facebook Friends [SURVEY].  i think one may say that 400 women represent a statistically sound sample to draw conclusions, though data about the selection criteria and the response rate for example, would have added extra credibility.  anyway, this is not a statistics class. To these women, “the most off-putting post was some kind of whine; a full 63% said complaining from Facebook friends was their number one pet peeve, with political chatter and bragging coming in a distant second and third.”  doesn’t sound like a meaningless virtual existence to me.  “The majority of female respondents said they had at least one friend who was a “drama queen” on Facebook. A majority also said they had at least one obnoxiously “proud mother” as a Facebook friend.”  i am guiltily thinking about the one friend that i forced myself to “hide” since reading the didactic know-all comments was putting our friendship at a serious risk.  had we not connected on FB [on top of our very much strong friendship], I’d have never been exposed to that dimension.  my point?  FB is not superficial by definition, nor are the FB friendships. whether you put on a mask or a different persona or none, overtime your friends will learn a thing or two about you.  for me it mostly have been all good. i love reading about your hobbies, the food that makes your day, your blog, the causes that get you moving, to know what you are cooking…  i think i share the same, if at times too much, too often.   i guess you could say that in a “don’t ask, don’t tell” world, i do tell.  my sincere apologies.

Oh, BTW, is it your birthday today?  Happy Birthday.  Thank you, FaceBook.

Clipart sources:


  1. Yael, you kind of touch two different subjects here.

    The fact that Facebook chose to name ‘Friends’ their virtual connections is more like a UI feature. For sure FB ‘friends’ are not necessarily real-life life friends – they are just people you connect with and share some information with. Being a friend with somebody on FB says nothing about the real-life connection.

    Not to speak about the fact that on FB you can ‘befriend’ a library, or a movie, or a restaurant, or a soccer team.

    Personalized greetings are a different thing. As you probably know I do not like and do not use any kind of electronic cards. I send text messages if I do not call to say ‘Happy Birthday’ and the choice of words seems to me much more significant that the choice of a greeting card. Personalized e-cards are certainly a better choice than from-the-shelves cards, but for me a few well chosen words tell much, much more than any card.

    Comment by Dan Romascanu — April 7, 2011 @ 03:47 | Reply

    • as is the case in many areas of life, it’s a matter of choice, preference, comfort… the way i look at it, a FaceBook greeting is so much better than none.

      words, terms have a psychological, social, cultural weight, meaning that is carried over, even if the term is used outside its original “field of use”. as such, regardless of what it means in your “FaceBook universe”, it includes at one level or another, the weight of friendship.

      Comment by yael wagner — April 7, 2011 @ 04:10 | Reply

  2. > a FaceBook greeting is so much better than none

    no doubt!

    Comment by Dan Romascanu — April 7, 2011 @ 04:25 | Reply

  3. GREAT Post!!! I really enjoyed this one and I couldn’t agree more with all you said. Thanks for taking the extra time to make special birthday wishes.
    That’s very admirable! I too enjoy reading about your escapades (and culinary outings) even if I don’t see you too much.
    Thanks for the thoughtful blog.

    Comment by ellen cohen — April 7, 2011 @ 23:35 | Reply

    • thank you. weren’t it you who introduced me to FaceBook?

      Comment by yael wagner — April 8, 2011 @ 05:06 | Reply

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