The Loh Life

A Very Facebook Birthday

Sandra Tsing Loh on getting virtual birthday wishes.

My birthday this year was a non-event.  It fell on a MONDAY, in the middle of my attending THREE funerals in four days, on a week when my 12-year-old was immersed in an endless middle-school play schedule.  It was very sandwich generation, the only treat being the sandwich I allowed myself, with TWO pieces of bread.  Not one, per usual.  Woohoo.

But there was a bright spot.  Birthday morning, Facebook alerts started filling my email in-box.  Happy birthday!  Happy birthday!  I won’t lie.  I’d been feeling kind of gloomy and this deluge of simple greetings—however cursory—felt good.

It inspired me to actually VISIT my Facebook page, where I hadn’t been in months.  That’s because it takes two hours to review what my 950 friends have posted JUST in the last five minutes.  It’s like that commercial where a woman opens a kitchen cabinet and is buried under an avalanche of Tupperware.

But hey, on my page, ANOTHER happy surprise was waiting!  My number of SUBSCRIBERS—which used to be 60, had in my absence shot up to 177!  That’s how popular I am, even when I’m not around!  And I had been wished happy birthday by 153 people!

Feeling the love, I decided to “play it forward” by personally thanking every Facebook friend who’d wished me happy birthday.  Never mind that this would include many people I don’t know, as I’m the sort of neighborly person who friends everyone.

For instance, Steve.  Who’s Steve?  He’s from Boulder.  We have mutual friends from the University of Houston, where I’ve never been.  They look like pretty fun people though—they hike, they bike, they laugh with their dogs.  I gather we’re somehow related by writing.  To be safe, what I do is type just two words: “Thanks, Steve!” and for emphasis ILIKE Steve’s Happy Birthday! wish on my timeline.

And I kid you not, the very second I post this two-word comment—“Thanks, Steve!”—something terrifying happens.  My number of subscribers plummets like a stone from 177 to 155.  Oh my God!  It was like people had forgotten they had subscribed to me, and as soon as I broke my silence and actually posted something, they woke up and thought: “Jesus!  I have WAY too many friends on Facebook!”  De-friend!  De-friend!

But I couldn’t stop now—all my well-wishers would be wondering “Why did Sandra thank only Steve”?—so, all I could do was keep grimly thanking my Facebook friends and driving them all away.  But it took so long that I only got halfway through.  What a smoking mess!

So, I apologize to anyone I may have dissed.  Thank God I won’t have another birthday until next year—at which point, I’ll be totally “Linked In.”  That’ll go great, I’m sure!


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