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Happy birthda !!!

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Ever have that moment of panic?

Yesterday marked my sixth year of birthdays on Facebook. Dozens of friends, family members, and acquaintances saw my name in that little box in the right-hand column or were notified of my birthday and took the time to write me a birthday wish.

Some of them were eloquent paragraphs. Some were peppy, ended in multiple exclamation points, and included my name, which suggested more than just a copy and paste type of deal. (Admit it. You know you’ve done it before on those days when you have, like, six birthdays to acknowledge.)

Some didn’t even get the whole thing written: Happy birthda

But they were all appreciated. The entire day became a fun exercise of seeing who would be responsible for the next bright red box containing a white numeral 1 that appeared on my notifications icon. My dad would say it was like checking a rabbit trap.

This Facebook birthday thing is a phenomenon I’m still getting used to. Prior to Facebook, birthdays were celebrated with a nice dinner out with your family or, if you were a kid, going to the skate rink with your three best buds, having cake and ice cream, and opening a card from your Granny with a quarter taped inside. (The last part was also prior to cell phones, VCRs, microwaves, and perhaps even Pong.)

With Facebook, however, our birthdays are now shared with pretty much everybody we know, have ever known, and in some cases, don’t know at all. Many of my 139 well-wishes yesterday came from high-school buddies I haven’t seen in person in nearly 31 years. They remember me as I remember them — as a yearbook photo. No matter how many times I see their current status picture on Facebook, they will always be high school seniors to me, or as Rod Stewart says, forever young.

Other wishes came from people I’ve known only over the past year or two. They only know me as a bald, slightly left-of-center communications director with three kids.

And then, there’s the folks from college and with whom I was friends during my musician days, back when my only concerns were how quickly I could re-string my guitar before the next gig or if I could coax a few more miles out of my old $700 cargo van before breaking down on the side of the interstate.

Every March 26, these distinctly different segments of people come together on my computer screen for a common cause, if tiny and largely insignificant: to wish me happy birthday. To them, it’s a daily distraction they’ll repeat tomorrow, depending on whose name appears next. But to me, it’s MJ Day.

It’s easy to be cynical about the whole thing. Do all these people really and truly hope that I’ll have a happy day? I mean, what’s in it for them? Does taking part in this new ritual make them feel better about themselves, kind of like making a charitable donation or paying the bill for the person behind them in line at the drive-thru?

Could be, but I don’t think so. I think we give each other Facebook birthday wishes because it’s a quick, manageable way in this crazy world to make each other happy, if only incrementally. For those 24 hours, the celebrant gets to know that they are on the minds of a bunch of people for, maybe, 15 seconds each. In my case, that equaled some 34 combined minutes that I was thought of by people with whom I haven’t interacted face-to-face in possibly decades.

But you know what? I’ll take it. It’s nice to know that people remember you, if just for a moment.

So to all of you I’ve never met and who will soon celebrate another year of life, let me be the first to say it… 

Happy birthda !!!

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