In January, when my son celebrated his 16th birthday, my wife’s last words to me as we left the house that morning to go to work were, “Don’t forget to write something on Facebook for Andrew’s birthday.” Later that day I did, posting on his Wall a short message wishing him a happy birthday, saying that he had become a fine young man and expressing my pride in him. Not only did he receive several other birthday wishes from his Facebook friends, but my message to him received several “Likes” from my friends as well.
Like most parents, I am happy to brag about my kids and celebrate their accomplishments and special occasions. And while Facebook is a convenient way to share those milestones with their friends, and mine, lately I find myself wondering if this is something I am now expected – or supposed – to do.
Reading my friends’ Facebook news feeds, it is easy to think that in addition to cards and gifts, today we must acknowledge our loved ones’ accomplishments online as well as in person. Indeed, some people write extensively about their children, spouses, coworkers, friends and neighbors on Facebook. I’m not convinced all that is necessary.
This summer my wife and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary and I did not post anything about it on Facebook. No message to my wife even. If you find yourself thinking how crass I must be, someone clearly not deserving of 20 years with a wonderful woman, I think back to our 10th anniversary. I didn’t write anything about that one on Facebook either and no one thought I was a bad husband.
Of course, 10 years ago Facebook didn’t exist. Special occasions were celebrated among family members with dinner and gifts and wishes from friends who took the time to mail a card or call, much as they are today (and, for the record, much as my wife and I celebrated out 20th anniversary). The difference is now we can also acknowledge them on Facebook and, it seems, many of us have come to believe we are obligated to do just that.
But if you’re running short on time and find you don’t have a few minutes to wish your son or daughter or husband or wife or parent a happy birthday on Facebook, I promise I won’t think any less of you. In fact, I won’t even know. But be sure to wish them a happy birthday in person – because they will know. In the end, that still matters most.