Other, more toned down celebrations take the form of a fancy birthday dinner or a gathering with some of their closest friends and family members. They tend to avoid calling these ‘birthday parties’, a word which often evokes images of balloons, cone hats and bouncy castles. But today there is another, more generally practised birthday custom, which only requires a phone or a laptop.
It seems nowadays, everything has become digitised, even teenagers’ birthdays. Facebook will pop up its pink cake icon, reminding its users about an upcoming birthday of one of their friends. And by the time the birthday boy or girl logs in, their timelines have been flushed with birthday posts.
Sometimes from ‘closer’ friends, the post contains a collage of selfies that they took with the birthday teens along with lengthy paragraphs that explain how thankful and important he or she is. It even seems some of these trends have caught on with adults as well. Although some people might praise this marvelous development of technology that “makes the world more open and connected”, it also has another effect, one that actually trivialises birthdays.
Different Year, Same Thing
With daily Facebook birthday reminders, it’s become somewhat of a routine to post a simple, emotionless birthday wish like “hpbd, have a great one”. And with this routine comes an expectation of receiving one back on one’s birthday. Now, despite all the ‘interest’ that friends have shown them, these birthday posts become more a burden than anything — they might not even remember half their well-wishers. The whole process appears to be laborious and often quite meaningless.
This new birthday culture has also led teens’ attitudes to change. Birthdays used to be dates that close family and friends memorised, flowers and stars marking them on the calendar. They were special days not only because it was the date one was born on, but a date that was dedicated and associated with a particular person. But with Facebook and all those new apps shooting up notifications and reminders, people no longer memorise these dates. Actually, everyone remembers everyone’s birthday, which has drained the unique aspect that birthdays used to hold.
It is unlikely you will ever read those birthday posts again, which disappear into a special birthday wish grouping that may never be looked at. But it is much harder to throw away a birthday card, which you’ll keep with you much longer, not only in your drawer but in your memory as well.
This year, if you can’t be there for your friend’s birthday, you can still do something positive. Write them a card or give them a phone call, and give them one less repetitive post to ‘like’. — Tae Jun Park
Tae Jun Park is a high school senior at the United Nations International School of Hanoi, unishanoi.org