Birthdays are special. Some people are low key about them, while others are always extremely excited when they come around. As much as many hate to admit it, those random ” Happy birthday!” messages from everyone on Facebook and other social media sites make us feel good. Regardless of whether people actually remember your birthday, or just get the annoying notifications from the online calendar, it still kinda feels good to know that people took the time to post a message on your special day. We all like to feel like we have the juice from time to time, right?
Sometimes I take it a step further by making a longer post dedicated to my loved ones, while adding a collage of pictures that include moments shared by birthday girl/boy and myself. It adds a more personal, thoughtful touch, and I think it’s a pretty cool way to celebrate having that person in your life. Some call it mushy, I call it showing appreciation. I believe in engaging in nice gestures whenever you can.
Somewhere down the line that nice gesture became a stressful duty and a fire starter.
Here I was thinking that my occasional birthday collages were just little shows of appreciation that made said birthday boy/girl feel all warm inside, but all along these birthday collages were actually affecting way more than just the person they were dedicated to..and not in a good way.
I began to realize (and be told) that many of my other friends and family members that I didn’t do collages for on their birthday felt left out, and made them feel not as important to me as those that received those detailed birthday posts. The first time anyone let me know that’s how they felt, it made me feel terrible.
It wasn’t that they didn’t deserve the same kind of attention and appreciation. It wasn’t that I loved anyone more. I simply was making birthday collages based on these factors:
- I actually had the time to look for old pictures of us and create at the moment I thought about their birthday.
- The pictures weren’t extremely time consuming to go back and find.
- I actually have pictures of myself and the birthday girl/boy that are appropriate enough to post.
- I was in a good mood, and not burned out from running myself ragged between work and home life.
Posting birthday collages was spontaneous for me… it wasn’t something I woke up planning to do for anyone’s special day. It’s just something I’d do if it crossed my mind and I had the time and desire to be extra. If I didn’t , a simple, loving message or call would suffice. I thought that was okay, until others made me aware that it wasn’t.
But things didn’t stop at people feeling not so special. I realized how harmful this birthday collage business could be when the lack of creating one caused the beginning to the end of a close friendship of mine. That year, I made it a point to call that friend on my work break at midnight to wish her a happy birthday, and even put a very nice message on her Facebook wall, because I knew that she takes Facebook love super serious. However, I wasn’t home to dig up pictures of us, and when I got home from work that evening it was no longer on my mind to do so, due to the stress I endured at work. Surely I had done enough by calling her on her special day at midnight, and doing a Facebook post, right? Wrong.
I didn’t find out until months later, after realizing that friend had been acting differently with me, that not posting a birthday collage was a source of the issue. Although the friend never really brought that specific issue to me, I noticed that she began going overboard shouting out and showing love to all her friends and acquaintances except me, a common tactic with this friend when she’s not happy with someone. She began making random comments to me about my levels of friendships that I had never even created. I loved all my friends for different reasons, but definitely on the same level. Eventually things got so out of hand that it became very obvious that this friend was extremely bothered by the fact that she wasn’t receiving a birthday collage, even though I had created a few earlier that year for others. I tried to correct that the next year,but the damage to the friendship had already started to spiral into much worse.
I found myself wondering why showing social media love was serious enough to cause problems in a friendship at all, and even wrote it off as an underlying issue for that friend. However, as time went on I noticed that this was more of a problem than I originally thought. That friend wasn’t the only one feeling some type of way. There were others that felt left out and unloved. Some just don’t admit it, but this social media love and acknowledgement apparently holds a lot of weight.
This birthday collage stuff began to be a duty for me that year. I didn’t want to piss anyone off or make anyone feel like they weren’t as important as other loved ones. I found myself rushing to Facebook and Instagram on people’s birthdays to spend time scrolling and finding pictures, to make sure I have pics ready to create their collages. Even when I was tired from work, or dealing with my own issues, I still devoted time to making sure this happened, because I didn’t want anymore drama caused by not doing it. And I didn’t want people I loved walking around secretly feeling some way about me, while I continue on thinking everything is alright and normal.
Once I started making this a habit to keep everyone happy, more people began to expect them on their special day. This nice gesture had officially become an obligation. I would reach out and tell people happy birthday, and I’d get “joking” responses like ” you better still go tell me on Facebook”, or ” I’ll be waiting on my collage”. Even one of my best friends who doesn’t even like Facebook or cheesy stuff like that began to expect it. I can recall a text from her last year that stated ” I better see a collage on Facebook soon, or we’re not friends anymore”. Were they joking for the most part? Sure. But all this still made a few things very clear for me:
- Once you start something really nice, it is expected of you to always continue doing it.
- When you care about and have a lot of people close to you, they will all expect you to show love accordingly. And whether they admit it or not, it may bother them a little bit (or a lot) when you show love differently to others.
- People will always pretend not to care about social media and the activity related to it, but those people are paying closer attention than you think. Sometimes they are even overthinking what they are paying attention to.
- Acknowledgement and public shows of appreciation hold a lot of weight for many people. People want to feel special and be put on a pedestal, even if it’s a temporary, birthday-based one.
So I’ve made the decision to just stop doing birthday collages altogether, in order to not ruffle any feathers, or make those I don’t have many pictures of feel less important to me than those I have a billion pics of. I’m sure I will forget at some point and repost one randomly, but I will do my best not to, in order to keep things fair. I will instead take it back to the good old days where you simply call someone on their birthday, and/or try to spend time with them on the special day (if my schedule allows). Relationships with others were a lot less complicated before all this social networking business came around.