Birthday Media

Birthday CakeAt one point, I thought that social media was worthwhile in that I could tell people, “Happy Birthday” at the appropriate time, which I had been unable to do before because I simply don’t remember people’s birthdays – something that some see as a personality flaw. They made me think it was a personality flaw by badgering me about it – particularly the women in my life who, oddly enough, always hated getting older.

You’d think that women would therefore not want to celebrate birthdays, but that is largely not true in my personal dalliances with the female of the species. We’ll get back to that.

So here I was, thinking all these social media services actually were doing me a favor, covering a personality flaw – largely so people wouldn’t think I don’t have this personality flaw, that I cared enough to stick calendar dates in a rolodex in my head for people I care about. And it became easier and easier – to the point where Facebook offers me to post on someone’s page something witty like, “Happy Birthday”, or something wittier that I might come up with in the time it takes me to read and react. I think I’ve written some atrocious things that way, but everyone seems happy enough.

This all came to a head today because LinkedIn offers me to ‘like’ someone’s birthday. How cheap is that? All I have to do is click ‘Like’, and presto magico, I have conveyed that I care that you were born a certain amount of years ago.

Yay.

So here’s the truth. While I am no longer someone who subscribes to religion, I had the misfortune of being born into a Jehovah’s Witness sort of background – I had no choice. And while not having that choice, we didn’t celebrate birthdays. Why? Well, as I recall the rhetoric, “Jesus Christ didn’t celebrate his birthdays!”. Thus the same rhetoric for Christmas.

I’m not sure that celebrating them should be a sin in any religion, really, but hey, whatever makes you happy… I’m also not into a few other things being a sin, either. But let’s pretend for a moment that Jesus didn’t celebrate birthdays, even if it’s not true and there were omissions in the Bible (there weren’t potty breaks either, as I recall, so pooping could be a sin.) This leads us down a path where a calendar was set up BECAUSE the big J.C. was born, and a count was begun known as A.D. – anything beforehand, B.C. But that’s not accurate either if J.C. were born on Dec 25th, because then that would be the end and beginning of the year… and… that’s open to dispute too.

In other words, the reasoning behind not celebrating birthdays that I was presented with simply doesn’t make sense. Of course, they celebrate the death of Christ as well, as well as his resurrection. Absolutely nothing about his visit from the Tooth Fairy, or about a bunny hanging out, or elves… so let’s not go there because we may end up in a Mordor trying to get a ring into a volcano.

I eventually did have birthday parties, when people got together and acted like I was special one day out of the year. Just one. And I thought they sucked – not because people showed that they cared on that day, but because of the surrounding 364.25 days where I wasn’t.

So after all of that, here’s the thing. The only birthday I really cared about was when I was 21. I think the 23rd my auto insurance went down slightly in the U.S. – or was it 28? – and then the only way the auto insurance went down is by getting married. Clearly that wasn’t enough of an inducement for me…

And now, here I am, in my 40s, and I don’t care about my birthday. Sometimes I’m not even sure how old I am and have to do math – fortunately, we count 13th birthdays unlike how we count 13th floors in buildings, so the math isn’t tricky at all – and at a moment’s notice, I can figure out how old I am.

And I don’t care about how old anyone around me really is either. It’s not like it tells you how long you have to live – it doesn’t – but like Bayesian probability, it lets you know that the more years you live the more likely you are to die within the coming year. Think on that a moment.

So what are birthdays really about? About making people feel special, like you care. Like they matter to you on a deep level. How wonky is that? And this is why I think women seem so agreeable to birthdays despite the landmark of growing older.

Here’s my thing. If I’m not there for you for the rest of the year – if I don’t treat you like you’re special for the rest of the year – is this sort of like accepting your deity of choice, and begging forgiveness for all those times you masturbated, before you die? Try that last one without the Oxford comma. New dimensions to death. 

So, no. I’ve stopped clicking ‘Like’, and I’ve stopped posting atrocious things when forced to treat people like real human beings on what are allegedly joyous occasions.

The truth about me – as ugly as it may seem – is that I don’t care about your birthday. I don’t care about Valentine’s Day, for that matter, or Anniversary dates, and so on. I just don’t. Relationships are fluid.

If I like you, I at least try to be nice to you throughout the year.

If I don’t, I don’t.

And that’s that. So, I won’t apologize for not liking your birthday, or posting something on your Facebook wall, or tweeting something, or sending you nude pictures of me, or dressing in a clown costume, or whatever else, on your birthday.

Truth be told, you won’t even see me at your funeral.

Even if I show up.

 

Hitting Pause: Social Networks

3D Social NetworkingI’m displeased with social networks in general at this time, particularly after the last year of idiocy with the U.S. Presidential Election. It extends beyond that, and I will touch on that shortly.

I wrote about what I saw in June 2016 as related to politics in “Social Networks, Democracy, and Ethics” – and after the election, people are still wrapping their heads around it because they have been given their opinions from within the echo chambers of their social media accounts. It’s the allegory of the cave in that people are fed what they want to see, and it’s the hedgehog’s dilemma with a bunch of thin skinned and long-quilled hedgehogs.

Typically, I’m in the center – connected to all walks of life, around the world, of different opinions on everything. I’m in a prime location to watch people disagree, and when I try to explain the sides to each other I find myself tired. People are just going to have to figure out how to deal with each other. And, of course, everyone who reads this will think I’m writing about everyone but them when in fact the odds are almost 100% that I’m also writing about them.

The conservative that can’t allow for the free choice of others (ain’t that free will?). The liberal who pursues their ideology with the fervor of a zealot who, fortunately, isn’t armed by their very nature. The religious person who tears at science, the anti-theist who just can’t leave people be with their religion. The anti-Islamists, intent on calling all Muslims violent, and the Christian right, who has no idea just how much they have in common with the Islamists.

It goes on and on and on and on. And on. My newsfeed is littered with articles based on supposition and no actual facts, posted by well-intentioned people to poorly belabor their own perspectives.

The Internet has allowed these people to know about each other and, rather than hash out differences, it becomes a battle of tribes that I have lost patience with.

So: Pause. When you folks figure out how not to be assholes to each other… let me know. A smoke signal or something.