My 75th birthday was this week. On the day before I officially turned three-quarters of a century old, I received one card in the mail. I showed it to Evelyn and joked, “Wait until the landslide of cards arrives tomorrow.”
On my actual birthday, I got one (count ’em) one card.
The next day I got two more. So that, with the card that was hand-delivered by neighbors, I got a total of six cards. Six cards for this milestone birthday. Where have all the greetings gone?
I’ll tell you where they’ve gone: they went online. As of this writing I can account for three places on Facebook where birthday wishes were posted (including those sent directly to my Facebook page): my two daughters sent greetings that garnered dozens upon dozens of comments. Total messages of one kind or another (likes and/or comments) total nearly 300! (Two hundred ninety-eight, to be exact.)
Now, I’ll admit. I do enjoy receiving actual cards printed on actual card stock and placed in the care of our U. S. postal system to complete their journey from their point of origin to my mailbox. Most are fun cards because people who know me know that I enjoy humor. A lot. But others bring spiritual messages with Scripture quotes, and still lothers are from family so that they reference our relationship. One card was even created especially for me, with my name and age on the front. I can take these cards and display them up on the hutch so I can enjoy them again every time I walk thru the living room.
But receiving such cards has become a thing of the past. These days a simple online “Happy Birthday” suffices because the name of the sender is part of the message, making it unnecessary to type one’s name in the message box. From that terse greeting, we can now glean the fact that we were remembered on our special day. (Well, that’s not exactly true – it’s the computer that “remembers” and sends us advance alerts that such-and-such a person’s birthday is coming up, should we want to take the 15 seconds to send “Happy Birthday” to their Facebook page.) I will admit, however, that I send many times more greetings to people via Facebook than I ever would have if I were sending only cards. That’s because the majority of people whose birthdays I recognize with a greeting are people that I don’t otherwise keep in touch with the rest of the year!
By learning that a certain person’s birthday is coming up in a day or so is beneficial in another way: it reminds me of where we met and perhaps any special memories we made way back when: high school friends, college classmates, professional colleagues, neighbors, extended family, etc., all have impacted me in some way if they’re taking the time to send a birthday greeting.
The first time I got a Facebook birthday wish, it confused the heck out of me. It was from a ministerial colleague with whom I had had no prior communication whatsoever! “Why in the world is Jim wishing me a happy birthday?” I wondered. Then more and more messages started showing up. I didn’t know at the time that Facebook informed subscribers of their friends’ birthdays for that very reason. I’m happy to say that Jim still sends me a birthday wish even though we have absolutely no communication the rest of the year (not even Christmas cards). There’s something almost sweet about that.
In addition to the omnipresent Facebook birthday greetings, there are the Jacquie Lawson electronic cards. There’s no envelope to open. I can’t sit them up on my hutch. I can’t pack them away in the attic for future reminiscing. However, I get a couple of those from overseas friends, which, understandably, saves on postage from a foreign country. Electronic cards also take a little more effort than plunking “Happy Birthday” in a message box on Facebook, so there’s something to be said for that as well. Although I’ve never sent one, preferring to cling to the good old-fashioned card-stock-thru-the-USPS method, I imagine that there’s a little bit of “shopping” involved with electronic greetings, selecting the right message and animation. Ah, yes, animation – another advantage that electronic cards have over the static greeting-card cards.
Am I sold on electronic greetings? Not totally, but I can see some benefits that they offer which paper cards can’t provide simply by the nature of the beast, so to speak. I’m sold enough to be a birthday-greeting sender, but I almost never send a simple “Happy Birthday.” For one thing, mine usually begin, “Slightly early birthday wishes ….” or “Here I come, late again!” But I do try to write one or two literate sentences as part of the greeting, in an attempt to convey a moment or two of forethought.
“The times they are a-changing.”