Birthday E-tiquette - Birthday Week


By Meredith Schneider

Birthday Week means we celebrate everyone equally with enough cake, punch, “special” punch, and decorations to last an entire year of Birthdays. That’s all well and good, but we must not forget our manners.

In a day and age when virtual manners are much appreciated, it is time to outline the rules that come with Birthdays on Facebook (and other social media, of course). So abandon all celebrations for a few minutes and enjoy our list of rules. Then do whatever you were going to do anyway because—after all—it IS your Birthday!

Photo courtesy of Beth Kanter.

1. Don’t post photos of anyone getting sick.
It happens. Birthday celebrations get out of hand and people really get carried away with their cameras. Hell, you might take a photo of a friend with their head buried in a toilet bowl and tell them you are going to blackmail them with it. But when the threat leaves the realm of fun and becomes an actual threat, it’s always best to leave it off social media. Some people are friends with their coworkers, bosses, and parents. Allowing party foul photos to pop up on your newsfeed is like being the biggest gossip at the party. If they tell the story, it’s theirs to tell. Snap and share wisely.

2. Always thank your “friends”.
You get floods of Facebook messages on your wall wishing you the best of birthdays. You might not even recognize some of these people, or have heard from them in years. The point of it all is that they took time out of their day to send you well wishes. Don’t read into it, just know that it happened and take it in the best light. You don’t want to be that jackass that never acknowledges positive vibes.

3. How-To: Thank Yous
I grew up writing “Thank You” cards. Because of this seemingly annoying chore when I was a child, I now take the time to sit down and appreciate every gift and small joy bestowed upon me by others. Writing a “Thank You” is just as fulfilling an experience for the writer as it is for the receiver. The best news about a digital thanks? They can’t throw it in the trash when they’re done reading it.

There are four ways to go about this. Someone wrote you a kind word on your wall (or a paragraph, or posted an embarrassing photo, or instagrammed your face everywhere). You can:

A) Write a little note to that person as a comment on their comment. That way you can scroll down your page pretty quickly and you won’t miss a beat. Don’t be afraid to switch it up on your own wall so that people don’t see the same generic “Thank You” all the way down on the same page. That gets pretty obvious.
B) Go to each person’s page and write them a note, if you deem it appropriate. If you commit to a few people, you may want to just commit to thanking everyone on their wall so no one feels left out. It doesn’t soak up too much time. You know what I do when I see that it’s someone’s birthday and I don’t really talk to them anymore? I unfriend them. On their birthday. And now you know.
C) Write a status on your wall about how amazing everyone is for sending their well wishes your way on your special day. More often than not, this is what people do. Or you can write that status on your wall AND thank everyone personally. It catches them off guard and the element of surprise is always fun.
D) Email, text, or call them. It might not be public, but it’s personal and they’ll appreciate it. Your closest friends will do this for you anyway, so it’s easier to be like, “Hey! You attacked all of my social media platforms at 12:01am and I really appreciate what you did! Also, come out tonight!”

If you have a friend who not only barrages your social media and phone around midnight and leaves you messages singing “Idiot Boyfriend”, that’s stuff you can write about on their Facebook wall. Keep it fun and entertaining for the people who have to happen upon it on their feed.

4. If you are close to the person, it is always a “do” to over-indulge, even if they “hate” birthdays.
Nothing feels better than waking up to 100 notifications. It might seem superficial, but it means people are thinking about you. You know what’s better than that? Photos of my friends and I as kids, random stories, and pieces of us that date back years.

5. If your Grandma posts a birthday message on your wall, make sure you write back (on her wall, so she sees it), send her a personal message. Maybe email her, and mention it in your card if you receive a gift from her.
I don’t know how savvy your grandparents are with social media, but I see a lot of older people on Facebook nowadays. Of course, gauge this based on how technologically advanced your family is, but grandparents like to see that their kids raised their kids right. You also don’t want to receive a birthday message of any sort from a family member and have them think it went unnoticed. Call them, send an e-card, and just really harass them until they understand how thankful you are.

But don’t really harass them.

6. No Negative Nancys!
If you realize it is someone’s birthday and you aren’t close with them, don’t write a message on their wall. If you’ve had your ups and downs in the past, it will just come off as fake anyway. In fact, why are you friends with them in the first place? Take a page from my book and unfriend them. Maybe not on their birthday, but definitely don’t write a “Happy Birthday” post and THEN unfriend them. That would be pretty obvious when they scroll down their page and see a comment with one of those anonymous blue shadow people next to it.

The most important thing to remember in all of this is that no matter the medium, this is a human being taking the time to make you smile. Respond with class or quirkiness and just be yourself. Facebook doesn’t have to change the meaning of the message.