Social Media Birthdays

Facebook fundamentally changed the nature of birthdays for anyone who uses the site. Instead of getting one insincere card from your office and a couple sincere cards from your family, you now get dozens of insincere well-wishes from people you knew in high school. Not sure it’s a positive change. But this year, I decided to see how a Twitter birthday would be. I made sure all my followers knew my birthday was coming a week in advance:

And on the big day, I re-tweeted all the birthday wishes I got. Of course, I still had a birthday on Facebook, so we can compare.

Quantitative Comparison

There are two ways to look at this. In raw numbers, Twitter is the winner with 47 well-wishers. Just 34 from Facebook. However, I only have 211 “friends” on Facebook, and I have almost 3000 followers on Twitter. So if you look at percentages, Facebook would seem to be the winner with 16% vs. less than 2%. However, we all know that a follower on Twitter isn’t necessarily someone who reads your tweets. I keep track of who actually interacts with me in a list called “Regulars.” There are 130 people on that list. So relative to that population, 36% of my peeps checked in on Twitter. Net/net, there’s no clear winner. So let’s look at the quality of these wishes.

Qualitative Comparison

On Twitter, you have but 140 characters, and 10 of those have to be my handle, so it’s a pretty constrained space to wish someone well. On Facebook, there are no limits like that. So let’s compare some actual, typical wishes, and you can guess where they came from:

A: Happy birthday!

B: I hope you get a blow job!

Okay, so maybe that one was a little easy. B is Twitter, of course. Let’s try again:

A: Does anyone wish you a miserable day & a year of despair? Not me! Happy Birthday
B: Happy birthday

Well the first one is a lot longer, so that must be Facebook, right? Wrong. A is Twitter.

A: Did I hear correctly that it’s ___ birthday today? Well then HAPPY BIRTHDAY King of the techies!
B: Happy birthday, ___!

Here we have a competitive game. The first wish is making reference to something about me, and addressing me by a nickname I actually use. The second uses a nickname I haven’t used since high school, and am actually kind of annoyed by these days. You guessed it, A is Twitter.

A: Happy Birthday ___!! Have a great day!!
B: Happy Birthday for my sweet friend, who has taught me so much about life and love, music and pizza making.

The first one used my actual name. The second one probably took 10 minutes to write to find all those emoji’s. Yeah, B is Twitter.

As my favorite author once said:

The difference in quality of the wishes I get in the two domains is truly striking. On Facebook, populated by the people I know (or once knew) in real life, there is no effort, no love. Just a quick shout out. Whereas on Twitter, where the people are just my imaginary friends who live in my phone, the sentiments are grand and full of heart. There is real love on Twitter. It’s remarkable, and after a couple really good martinis I got kind of sappy about it:

One other really interesting thing happened on my Twitter birthday. I got a happy birthday wish from someone I don’t follow, doesn’t follow me, and I’ve never interacted with:

So what? Well, that person has more than a million followers. She seems to be some sort of a media mogul. I dunno. I DM’d her, and she’s super nice, and apparently she thought, “Hey, let’s throw some random love at the world.” That kind of thing just doesn’t happen on Facebook.

I’ve never really cared about birthdays, and maybe next year I’ll go back to not caring about them. But the love I got on Twitter was just amazing this year, and it really made me feel awesome. Combine that with the love I got at home from my wife and kids (which was also really, really great), and you can see where this old man may have gotten a bit sentimental.

It was a real winner of a birthday, and I consider myself an incredibly lucky man. Thank you all.

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2 thoughts on “Social Media Birthdays

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