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What got me thinking about this topic was a recent “Instagram holiday” that we called “national sibling day”. In another effort to validate our self-worth we were motivated to publicly celebrate our siblings with old pictures of ourselves. I’ll end that topic right there.
On to birthdays. When it was an acquaintance’s or friend’s birthday, it used to be that we would post on their Facebook wall and call it a day. You didn’t have to know the person well or have spoken to them within the last year, they just posted “happy birthday” or “hbd” on your wall. So common was this trend that Facebook integrated this into its site, notifying you when it was a friend’s birthday and consolidating all the wishes in your timeline. It was a fairly strange tradition, some people even felt compelled to like each post on their wall, but it spoke to the public nature of doing what is otherwise a mundane social obligation. Why not just text the person, or better yet, give them a call! What a novel concept that is.
Then we arrive at the birthday Instagram post. This one gets me even more. Instead of sending a direct message to someone that others happen to be able to see, we now share posts to all of our followers and direct the recipient’s attention to the post. This is a next level social validation. In order to satisfy our need for Instagram likes, we’ll use a friend’s birthday as a means to get our fix. Maybe there is something to be said about a public declaration of caring for someone, but the cynic in me (read: all of me) says that its narcissistic.
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I can prove it too. If birthday Instagram posts were reserved exclusively for friends our same age, then perhaps it would speak to the public declaration of affection theory I posed earlier. But that is not the case. Frequently, we see people posting about their mother or father’s birthday’s on Instagram. “Happy birthday to the strongest woman I know. You’ve made me what I am today, and I’m so thankful for you. Love you Mom.” No shit. Of course your mother made you what you are, she birthed you for christ’s sake. In any case, this takes the narcissism one level higher.
The overwhelming majority of parents do not have an Instagram. That means short of showing them the post, they will never see your cute little picture of when you were a baby. Even if you did end up showing them, what’s the point? You might as well just wish them a happy birthday in person. It’s asinine. No one cares about your mother’s birthday and posting about it on a medium that she does not participate in does not show her that you care. I just hope, and like to assume that most people supplement their Instagram birthday posts with calls or texts as well. I would say a text is even too impersonal for the woman who birthed you.
You can imagine my outrage on Mother’s and Father’s day as well when my whole feed is littered with such posts. Even though it’s not a “real” holiday (are any of them really?) just give them a call if you wish to celebrate it.
The next time you think about posting that “cute” old picture of mommy or daddy on Instagram where they are sure to never see it, pick up the phone, hit yourself with it, and then call them and tell them how much they mean to you.
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