Why I Don’t Wish Friends Happy Birthday on Facebook

Another year has begun, and with it another round of birthdays. And another round of deciding which birthdays will I acknowledge, and which will I ignore.

Kids get recognized—that’s a given. (Or it should be.) My younger nieces and nephews will get a card and a gift. The recognition may come late, but until they’re in their teens somewhere, they’ll receive some form of acknowledgment from me that they are growing up. One group of youngsters has a cluster of birthdays—they’ll all get their presents in the same mailing. Another niece has a birthday right after Christmas. She’s the only one guaranteed to get an early gift—I put in it the Christmas box. But they all get something.

And until they’re of the age of reason, they’ll probably get a token gift when their siblings have birthdays also. If only to minimize the squabbles their parents have to deal with.

Adults are another matter. I have a list of family birthdays, and my siblings and their spouses get cards. Ditto on my husband’s side of the family. Grown-up nieces and nephews probably get cards. Most years. When I remember. I do get laxer as people age and family ties weaken.

But what do I do about friends?

My mother was very good about sending all her friends birthday cards. She was a more regular customer of Hallmark than I was—and I worked for the greeting card company and got my cards at a discount. She shopped at least once a month for cards for the next few weeks, wrote a long newsy letter to each person, and got the cards to her friends and relations on time.

One of the worst symptoms of her Alzheimer’s for me was when she started forgetting to send cards. My father tried to take over for family birthdays, but among my saddest birthdays was the year neither of them remembered the occasion.

Weeks later, my father said to me, “I forgot your birthday, didn’t I?”

Yes, he had.

And then a year or two later, he wasn’t there to remember it at all. A sadder birthday yet.

When I worked in Human Resources at Hallmark, I sent many, many birthday cards. And company anniversary cards.

I hadn’t realized that recognizing such occasions was one of the obligations of Human Resources managers, but I quickly embraced the habit. My administrative assistants kept lists of employees with upcoming celebrations, and I sent cards to the people I knew. They deserved that recognition—an opportunity to say congratulations and to thank them for the work they did. I enjoyed writing those cards.

Now I am retired. No more lists of colleagues’ birthdays and anniversaries. No more stock of note cards in the supply cabinet.

But there is Facebook. Facebook tells me when many of my friends have birthdays.

What should I do?

Somehow, it feels disloyal to Hallmark to simply type “Happy Birthday” on someone’s social media wall. If I don’t go to the effort of finding an appropriate card, writing a personal message, addressing the card and mailing it, does it really count?

So I usually choose to ignore the reminder from Facebook. And to ignore all the other birthday wishes my friends are receiving. I don’t post my own birthday, so my friends won’t be placed in a similar quandary.

If Facebook is the only way I have of contacting someone, then I might chime in. I rationalize that if that is the only method I have of recognizing the occasion, the convenience and minimal thought it takes is acceptable. But otherwise, it feels too trite.

So don’t take it personally if I ignore you. In my own way, I am preserving tradition.

Yet many of my Hallmark friends appear to disagree with me. I see them commenting on birthdays left and right, regardless of the impact to Hallmark’s bottom line when they do not send cards. Or maybe they’re sending cards also.

Of course, my position is somewhat silly. I’m not sending cards or writing on Facebook walls—I’m ignoring the occasion altogether. Right or wrong, that’s the position I’ve taken. At least I recognize my hypocrisy.

What do you think? Would you rather have me type Happy Birthday so you know I’m thinking of you? Or shall I continue to ignore Facebook and preserve a tradition I generally do not follow?

Posted in Family, Philosophy and tagged , , , , , .


  1. There’s nothing better than receiving a beautiful card in the mail. As long as I’m able to remember special dates, I’ll continue the tradition. Personally, Facebook is getting very old…or perhaps I am…LOL!

    • Jill, Facebook is great for introverts who like to lurk. I enjoy seeing my friends with their kids and grandkids, and I only have to comment if I want to. But it doesn’t feel right for acknowledging birthdays, weddings, and particularly not deaths.
      Thanks for the comment. Theresa

  2. Getting cards and even cards with letters in the mail is a wonderful experience, but cards bought individually are very expensive and postage is a half a buck, so it’s nice to be able to wish someone a happy birthday. However, to have to respond to each person who types those two words is overkill, I think hahaha.

  3. Hallmark, as you probably know, has a fabulous e-card site. I use it a lot. I can choose an individual greeting, send an individual message, which sometimes almost turns into a letter, and post. I recommend it highly. Much more personal than FB posts, and much less costly (I forget exactly how much but a low yearly fee) than cards and stamps. And most important, I get it done!

  4. I do the FB thing and to be honest, I enjoy it. I come from a huge family. I have nearly 100 first cousins! I love hearing from them on my birthday and vise versa. I still send a lot of cards through snail mail, too, especially to family and to shut ins or the elderly. I will always send cards and I will always send Hallmark. It is a small gift that I can give someone. Of course, Theresa, I know when you celebrate your birthday, too! The same day as my granddaughter!😊

  5. I am glad that Facebook reminds me of birthdays I would have otherwise forgotten. And I always post a Happy birthday, usually accompanied by a nice e-card or gif. Happy Birthday! (or Happy Name’s day , on saint days) is, for me, like… Good morning. It’s “given from God”, therefore worth acknowledging even for people you aren’t very close, but acquainted. It’s an opportunity to remember even people with whom the ties are weakened and you wouldn’t remember in most days of the year.

    • Marina, good for you. I know people like their occasions acknowledged, but I can’t get past my association with Hallmark and the disloyalty I feel using social media instead of sending a card.

  6. I acknowledge friend’s birthdays on Facebook simply because I want them to have the pleasure of seeing a large number of good wishes that day. I also keep close friends and family birthdays on my calendar, and the first of each month go to Hallmark to schedule e-cards for the dates that month. I know an e-card is not the same as getting something in the mail but it is better than I used to do. And I still send a few real cards.
    Over the years, some have said as they grew older they did not like to be reminded, but I have never thought of birthday wishes in terms of numbers; they are just a statement that the person is important to me.

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