My birthday was coming up in 4 days when it hit me. Every year, almost mechanically, people post on my Facebook page with some form of “happy birthday.” You can sense the life sucked out of them. They are cheap, passive and transactional. They feel like any other piece of the content on the web today. Facebook even has a feature that encourages these interactions — A tiny box on your newsfeed that barely lets you to squeeze in a sentence.
This year, I didn’t want to see this type of post on my wall. So, I posted this status on my Facebook two days before my birthday:
My birthday is on the 4th. Instead of saying, ‘Happy Birthday’ share your fondest memory of you and I.
Eleven people liked the status and two commented. The post was slightly more active than usual, but I figured it would end up lost and forget in the endless sea of wall posts.
Then, it was midnight, the day of my birthday…
My mother was the first person to post. Her post was a long response with memories spanning several years of my life. Over two decades of memories filled my head. Then came my friends and relatives posts. Some of them were funny, some serious, some inspiring. Some of these memories I still remembered, some I hadn’t thought about in forever, some I completely forget.
After reading the first 10 posts, I was nearly in tears.
For the first time in forever, I felt like people weren’t just tossing 14 characters over the fence and going about their day. Instead, they were stopping for a moment, to think about the person they were writing to and the impact they have had on their lives.
You could tell these weren’t the same passive messages typed into a tiny rectangle. They came from the heart.
By the end of the day, my wall was filled with some of the most beautiful, personal, heartwarming posts I’ve ever received on Facebook (or any social network for that matter). I was hearing from people who I spent countless hours of my life with and who mean so much to me.
I wanted to share this, because I think that very often social networks are treated as nothing more than a place to mindlessly explore content; To ‘like’ a funny meme or to read the latest article. My birthday proved that there is so much more waiting to be tapped into—and it starts with the heart.