New Birthday Rituals

My birthday last week turned out to be a communal event. I‘m taking back all those critical comments I’ve made about 21st century technology, especially about social media. After all the good wishes I got from “friends,” I’m thankful Facebook and other systems like it are revolutionizing the way people celebrate their birthdays.

In addition to the Facebook greetings (which are prompted by Facebook reminders that a friend’s birthday has arrived), I received e-cards, which offer, in addition to good wishes; moving visuals, cartoons, music, and songs. I also appreciated the old-fashioned snail mail cards sent by people who don’t do email, or whose computers are not functioning properly. And finally, there are the voice mail messages, akin in my family to a singing telegram as my brother and sisters sing the “Happy Birthday” song into the recording on my phone to be recovered later at my convenience. This practice has spread to my friends and work colleagues who got together this year and left a version of a Happy Birthday song, which stumped me for a few minutes as I struggled to identify the voices of their four-part chorus.

All in all, for someone who’s had enough birthdays to not take having another one for granted, I appreciate hearing from folks around the country in all these myriad ways, both new and old, that folks can say, “we’re glad you’re still here.”

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