A Far-From-Anonymous Birthday
So, today is/was my birthday, and as usual I celebrated it with my close family.
What was interesting this year is that this may have been my first “Social Networking” birthday.
Normally, I’d expect to get 10-20 notes, email and cards, from the subset of close friends and family who decided to take the time to do something. This year was different, however. I think I got over 100 messages, at least.
While I’d love to say it’s because I’m getting more popular, I think that there is something else at work: the social networking effect.
Let’s say you have about 50 close friends. If about 25% of them remember your birthday, then you get about 10-12 messages.
Social networking, however, has changed that. Skype knows my birthday. Geni knows my birthday. Facebook knows my birthday. Even InCircle knows my birthday! (LinkedIn does not know my birthday… yet.)
If these sites let people keep track of 100, 200, even 1000 friends, then even a 10% sampling from these groups can lead to over 100 messages. What’s more, these sites and applications make it incredibly simple to send a note, post on a wall, etc.
The strange effect is this: On the one hand, you get more messages than ever before. On the other hand, the notes from your really good friends are obscured somewhat by the avalanche of notes from more distant friends who now can more easily keep up on these things.
So, overall, I’m feeling pretty good today. It was quite a few notes to go through, and my apologies to everyone if I didn’t respond to them all yet. But there is a little part of me that misses the implicit intimacy of knowing who actually took extra time to remember my birthday, the old-fashioned way.
I guess that nostalgia is a sign that I am getting old.