How I Survived My Birthday This Year WITHOUT a Facebook Account
Am I actually a year older if nobody posted about it on my wall?
139 days ago, I deleted my Facebook forever.
Technically speaking it was 125 days ago, since it takes 14 days for Facebook to actually delete your account (just in case the targeted ads to rejoin actually change your mind 🙄).
I deleted Twitter in high school (very brave in the early 2010's) so I was semi-prepared for the vast underwhelm that accompanies a severed connection with social media. I hadn’t been quite as attached to Twitter as I was to Facebook, though, so the digital detox hangover was a little more nauseating the second time around.
I suffered through the re-adjustment period of ghost-checking, or going through the muscle memory of opening an app only to find an empty little square of space where that app used to reside (or, worse, accidentally opening the new app that took its place).
I can also honestly say that I missed having notifications.
Is it a rebuttal comment to a heated debate?
Did someone send me a friend request?
How many likes does my newest photo have so far?
Am I invited to an upcoming event?
It’s human nature to enjoy the feeling of having something important waiting for your attention;
Social media feeds the drama queen in all of us.
Especially on the one day where every single person you’ve ever known from every corner of the world comes together to collectively wish you a 14-point font “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!” on your Facebook wall.
Birthdays are the one day that makes an entire year of building virtual friendships worth 364 days of accumulated screen time.
Hundreds of positive affirmations, recalled memories, and “miss you!”s blowing up your phone throughout the day confirm that all of your scrolling finally paid off: “Today,” the ego cheers, “I am a viral sensation.”
People remember me (yes, ME!).
People like me. They wished me a happy birthday!
And… wait for it… I actually do have friends! HUNDREDS of friends, thankyouverymuch.
Birthdays are a time of restored faith in our social circles; old friends, family members, co-workers, even people we haven’t talked to in years take time out of their day to post a little something on our page. We feel popular; noticed; included; loved; recognized; accepted; celebrated.
But what happens when your ‘friends’ don’t get a notification that it’s your birthday?
In my case, not too much.
Aside from immediate family (parents/sibling), an aunt, my grandma, a friend from college, and my boyfriend, nobody wished me a happy birthday.
No texts, no cards, no calls.
By removing the Facebook-generated broadcast of my birthday, the number of messages I received dropped from literally hundreds to… somewhere around 10.
Instead of spending the day figuring out the right combination of exclamation points, emojis, and number of u’s to slightly vary each “thank youu!” reply, I spent the day enjoying delicious food, drinking a free birthday coffee from Starbucks, opening heart-felt gifts my parents mailed across the country, and laughing with my boyfriend.
Nobody told me to have a great birthday on my Facebook wall — I just did it anyway.
Instead of taking thousands of photos to prove to the internet that I was having a great time, I turned my phone off and actually had a great time.
My first birthday without Facebook made me realize that “staying connected to friends and family” didn’t happen over the internet; it happened in the moment, in real life.
Creating memories with a handful of people who love you is infinitely more rewarding than posting photos for hundreds of people who “like” you.
It’s easy to justify time spending time on social media to “stay connected” and “further your reach” for business purposes, but both of those justifications are simply excuses for avoiding the real work. Real connection and recognition come from real interaction with real people in the real world.
I don’t blame anybody for not reaching out on my birthday. It was actually a good reminder that relationships in real life don’t work if you don’t put in the work in real life — something I had forgotten while trying to “build my personal brand” (whatever that means).
Social media is a great way to update your friends, family, fans, and clients, but it’s not indicative of your social worth. That, my dear internet friends, can only be calculated by the algorithm inside of YOU.
Written by Rachel Clements, creative writer at rachelclementsmedia.com