How To Deal With Facebook's 'Happy Birthday' Conundrum

Most Facebook users have at least a few "friends" who they aren't particularly chummy with. Perhaps it's a colleague you vaguely get along with, or a buddy you've slowly drifted away from. Then there are all those old high school acquaintances that you enthusiastically added immediately after joining. (Why does everyone do that?) The question is: now that they are on your friends list, should you write a happy birthday message on their wall? To do so could be seen as fake and condescending. But to refuse might be perceived as rude. It's the quintessential Gen Y conundrum.


Facebook alerts its users whenever one of their friends has a birthday. This is handy for forgetful types, but it also means that the person in question knows that you've been notified. This has led to a new and wholly unnecessary annoyance where you must gauge who to send happy birthday messages to and how much to write.

Doubtlessly some of your Facebook contacts are barely known to you: do you really want to send them a hollow platitude which will likely be the first and last thing you say to them all year? In a way, this kind of makes you fake and it's possible that people will notice.

Likewise, do you go with the minimum two word response or actually put some effort into your well-wishes? How much is too much? To make the wrong choice is to commit a Facebook faux pas.

Conversely, forgetting to leave a FB message on a close friend's wall can be tantamount to a slap in the face. If you don't believe me, ignore your significant other's Facebook on their next birthday and see what happens. You might not survive the fallout.

Our advice is to shut down your Facebook completely — who needs this kind of aggravation? Failing that, a Facebook cull can remove much of the annoyance and will make your friends list genuinely representative into the bargain.

Otherwise, we recommend an 'all or nothing' approach to this issue: either ignore everyone equally or always send a message as soon as you're notified. Tch. Modern technology, eh?

How much effort do you put into your Facebook happy birthday messages? Have you ever been chewed out for forgetting? Let us know in the comments section below.


    No problem for me, if I need facebook to remind me that it is their birthday they wouldn't care whether I remembered and neither would I, problem solved.

    I take the nothing approach, but not intentionally.

    It started with me just being forgetful, then later not posting happy birthday on purpose so that the people I forgot wouldn't get annoyed. Then I realized that I was over-thinking it & that it was just Facebook, so I just stopped altogether. If anyone in my life is important enough for me to wish a happy birthday, it will be in my calendar and I'll call them or send them a text.

      This approach doesn't always work. Some people prefer to receive their message on Facebook so that all their other friends can see it. I'm thinking specifically of needy girlfriends here.

        I don't think digital vanity is necessarily restricted to the young women, as your post seems to imply (probably unintentionally, I grant you, but people are likely to interpret "needy girlfriend" as a stereotype).

          On the contrary, girlfriends can usually be relied upon to leave heartfelt 'happy birthday' messages on their partner's wall. Boyfriends... not so much.

    I just don't wish people happy birthday on Facebook. If I know them well enough to warrant such a message, I'm more likely to give it to them in person.

    ...ignore your significant other’s Facebook on their next birthday and see what happens. You might not survive the fallout.
    I wish my girlfriend happy birthday in person. You know, the way you should. If anything, she'd be upset if I used Facebook to wish her a happy birthday.

      Not all girlfriends are the same. Refer to my comment above. :-P

        I think if your girlfriend's that needy and shallow it may be time to get a new girlfriend :S

          I never said it was MY girlfriend. But I have heard some frightening anecdotes.

    I think that if anything, I'd use Facebook to help me remember those people who I'd care enough to send a text message to, or wish happy birthday in person. I don't think I've wished anyone happy birthday on Facebook for the longest time, except as a joke.

    I intentionally don't acknowledge birthdays on Facebook, mostly out of laziness, but partially because I know that one day I'm going to be too busy, or forget to post one, and it's going to make somebody upset. Rather avoid that whole unpleasantness altogether.

    On my birthday, I post a public status update to serve as my universal reciprocal birthday greeting to all who see it. I also make the effort to "Like" every birthday post and comment others send to me as a gesture of acknowledgement and appreciation.

    If it's someone I interact with mainly online (friends from travels, old workmates, etc) then I might post them a quick happy birthday. But close friends I call... if I don't see them in person.

    The main thing I use Facebook's birthday reminds for is as a culling service. Look at them and delete as needed each day. One year later - clean Facebook!

    I this really a thing... ha ha some people have too much time to worry about things, talk about first world problems!

    I've got an awesome idea. Don't add people on Facebook if you don't care about them. If the only thing you are going to say to a person ALL year is happy birthday, what's the point?

    I'm surprised no one has devised a script to interact with fb by auto sending a happy birthday message as soon as you receive the notifications.

      It's been done. Google IFTTT and "facebook birthday"

    I couldn't care less about birthdays. Mine or others. As a result, I don't wish anyone else happy birthday, and haven't got my DOB on my profile. (And FB Purity hides those sorts of announcements from me anyway.)

    What is Facebook?

    How To Deal With Facebook's 'Happy Birthday' Conundrum: Do not use it.

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