Happy Social Media Birthday!

In honor of my twenty-first birthday, I’ve decided to post on behalf of all the Instagram birthday collages and Facebook posts that have changed birthdays for Generation Y/Z.

I read an interesting post by Grant Roth on birthday collages and what they mean to teens and young adults. In the article, he argues against the idea that we love posting on people’s walls simply because we want the publicity that a birthday post provides – not everyone can see a text between two people.

Roth says that while this may be true for some people, posting a birthday collage on Instagram is more about showing others why you love someone – an heartfelt expression of love for a technologically-savvy generation. We don’t simply want others to think of us as good people, we actually want to be good people.

I completely agree. As a generation, we communicate and express ourselves not through journaling in a notebook (although kudos to those who have the dedication to do this!) but rather posting on Twitter, sharing photos on Instagram and statusing on Facebook. Phone calls are now emails, and the internet allows us to think about someone, message them online, and refresh an old connection in a few clicks.

What about the birthday collages for people who aren’t on Instagram? On Fathers Day, I always see collages lovingly compiled for fathers everywhere – many of whom will never actually see the post. Do we post because we want others to think we’re thoughtful people? I revert back to Roth’s original idea – we express our love through what we know. We want others to know about the important aspects of our lives, such as how much we love our fathers. For this reason, I post collages without reservation.

So, to those that feel as though a birthday wish on Facebook once a year is a superficial notion of friendship, I’d like to argue that, at our different stages of life, we express who we are and how we love through these social media platforms – especially for myself as a communication student. This is the reason each individual posting deserves individual attention. When we consider that each posting is the expression of a heart, it brings much more meaning into our timelines.

One time, I attended a workshop with a career advisor who told me that communications professionals pay attention to whether or not you respond to every Facebook post you receive on your birthday. This shows if you are thoughtful and intentional with your communication skills. This is a quality valued specifically in the communication industry that’s stuck with me through the years. Professionals gauge whether or not we care based on how we respond – express ourselves – via social media.

Now don’t get me wrong – I very much appreciate those who I get to see in person on my birthday and who thoughtfully type out birthday text messages for me – I’m honored to be close enough (geographically) to receive these sorts of wishes. And, sometimes, we have the good fortune to thank someone for these wishes via phone, text or high-five.

However, social media platforms connect people over thousands of miles. For these Facebooking, Tweeting, and Instagramming individuals, I appreciate every post that I’ve gotten wishing me a happy birthday, and am working at getting better to respond to each and every individual expression of care.

Off to eat cake!

xo

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