Before social media, each year on my birthday I’d get one card mailed to me from my mother and a call from her brother. Of course my wife and I would have a dinner or whatever, but the day went largely unnoticed. And that was totally cool.

Then came Facebook where they asked questions like birthdate, hometown and whether I like ‘sleep’ or not. Innocuous personal questions that helped me ‘connect to’ other people. As I began playing around with Facebook,  I noticed alerts for birthdays of people I’d connected with there. So I wished them a happy birthday on their wall. Everyone did. And when my birthday rolled around the next year, my wall was filled with these kinds of wishes. It was pretty cool. Since then, I’ve toned back wishing everyone a happy birthday. Mostly because there are certain people who I really don’t know and I felt like I was mailing it in. While it sounds nice enough, “Happy birthday” just isn’t adequate for a copywriter. But for people I don’t know very well, that’s all I can say. The fact I am connected to people there who I’m not very close with is my own fault. I mean, everything I could ever need to know about them is right there in their info. Including whether they like ‘sleep.’

My birthday was Saturday. I turned 47. I received my annual card from my mother, and the call from her brother, and spent the day with my wife and kids. It was brilliant. And all day long, Facebook was lighting up. And, as the result of using that medium differently, I’m not even connected to that many people there. But what happens is that because of network crossover, people wish you a happy birthday on Twitter too. Sure, I mentioned that it was my birthday on Twitter, but the shelf-life of a tweet is so short that unless you’re screaming that it’s your birthday all day long – no one is going to really know. But they did. Thanks to Facebook.

What does it mean? I don’t know. Sure, some people mailed it in like I used to, and some people don’t do the birthday thing at all. There were even some people who recommended that I enjoy a drink (?). No, not everyone is going to know everything about you in social media, but that isn’t so important.  What’s important is feeling loved.

There are 365 days in a year. We each get one that’s ours. It’s ok to enjoy it. To everyone who wished me a happy birthday on Saturday, thank you.

47. Amazing. Time just keeps piling up. If you’re lucky.


Jim Mitchem

Soldiering On

Jim Mitchem

Writer. Father to daughters. Husband. Ad man. Raised by wolves. @jmitchem on twitter. First novel, Minor King, out now.