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Happy Faking Birthday!

Today is really my cousin's birthday. I went on fb and congratulated him.

At the same time, I noticed that it was also the birthday of a "friend" of mine.

(I say "friend" because we don't really know each other that well, and because our only association in the past was really professional. In real life, we are fb terms, everyone is your "friend.")

Though I wasn't really confident that I wanted to sat anything at all, it's been a while since this "friend" and I have been in touch, so I thought: hey, may as well say happy birthday and take a step towards reconnecting after a while.

I went to his page and wrote the following message: "happy birthday. you're looking quite dignified these days. also, you have the same birthday as my cousin S____, which automatically makes you one of the raddest people in the world."

I scrolled down a bit and noticed something rather odd. Most of the other "happy birthday" posts from his other connections were in a somewhat or entirely skeptical tone. And I thought to myself: You know, I thought R_____'s birthday was in the winter. Didn't I get an invite to a party or something?

And then I read one of his comments: Seems like I just had a birthday a few months ago. I will try to have another soon! Thank you for all the good wishes, it's really a joy to see them all. It's like the opposite of being at your own funeral! #internuts

And I realized that, of course, it was not really his birthday.

And I get the joke, from his point of view. fb is, of course, an indirect means of establishing and/or maintaining relationships. You don't really know all the people you're connected with, but our sense of politeness or internet connectedness has us doing things like wish each other happy birthdays or congratulations for life events that we are totally disconnected from. And I see your point. Touche.

BUT, from the perspective of the responder, the non "friend," all I can really think is: What a dick!

Congratulations. You've fooled people who don't know you, but do care for you in some way - even though it may be impersonal and indirect - into conveying good wishes. And then the joke is on us.

I would argue, though, that the joke is really on you, sir. YOU are the one who established and/or agreed to these connections. And if they are superficial, that is because YOU want them to be. And when these people take the time to sincerely convey their positive feelings towards you, you turn it into a joke on them. You've managed to reflect negativity and alienation when others are offering you positivity and connection.

So, to the inanity of conventions in virtual networks, I agree with your joke and offer you a sincere "ha!"

But to you, sir, I respectfully say: I will never consider us "friends" or friends from this point forward. Thanks for illustrating that truth so pointedly.

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