Not everyone loves you

Social media has changed our lives.

It is, most definitely, a confusing mess of noise to wade through. Some people find it oppressive, being unable or unwilling to spend time filtering that noise. Other people have now found their identities in social media groups. More people rely on their chosen social media outlets for their news and source of all information that is up to date.

For me, social media has been a positive experience in many ways. Catching up with long lost friends has been a fabulous experience. Personal relationships with friends who I don’t get to see in person are continued in ways they could not have been, given the distance I live from my heritage and upbringing.

There have definitely been haters. I have discovered that in-person I get away with a lot more than online. In person, you can see my passion, hear my voice, and engage with me. Online, all you have is your own voice in your own head, reading my words in that voice – not mine. If you spoke what I wrote, you’d be a ___________ (fill in the blank with your favorite pejorative). In person, if my words poked you a little in your insecurities, you’d see if I was joking, hear if I was being sarcastic, and hear the entire conversation in context. But you only have your voice, and therefore, you project the pejorative (that you would be if you said those words), onto me. You are missing context and perspective, and I become the villain. I am ok with that, now I understand.

If most of your social media engagements are with people you know – friends, family, coworkers – they’ll be pleasant enough and you’ll want that to continue to be your world for as long as you can. And, you probably rely on social media for reminders of anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, and other celebrations. You might also find new events happening in your favorite towns – shows or artists you follow.

I decided I would conduct an experiment to see how many people rely on social media for reminders. On Facebook and LinkedIn, about a week before my 2022 birthday, I made that piece of information invisible to everyone, not quite sure of what I was trying to accomplish. It was a fascinating result.

Last year, I received about 40 “happy birthday” messages on LinkedIn. The majority were from people I did not know personally. When I opened the message from them, the last conversation I had with them was the previous year’s “happy birthday”. This year, I received absolutely zero messages.

Last year, I received 20 “happy birthday” messages on Facebook and almost 200 posts to my page for the wishes. This year, five. Two of them were in response to the first post from a friend who remembers my birthday because it is also his. The other two were from close friends who knew my birthday before social media.

One of the people who knew I did this asked me if I was bothered by the lack of response. For those who know the true me, I was not bothered in any way. Pre-social media, I did not promote my birthday and the people who would send me wishes were those who were close. That was always my preference, although of course, the ton of wishes on social media is heartwarming and I do love them.

Note: it is important that I reveal that I did celebrate my birthday well, and received many wishes outside social media. 2022 was a great year.

I usually don’t post public celebration messages on social media. I prefer to message my friend or colleague or connection directly to offer my wishes. I make sure I have appropriate calendar entries for those I consider those closest to me. I do realize that this experiment works both ways. I admit I am often nudged by social media when I am forgetful.

I believe the result of this experiment was that we, including me, have become lazy when we have the world at our fingertips. Along with forgetting phone numbers- including our own, and sometimes even names, we rely on technology far more than ever. It does not, as the title of this entry suggests, mean that nobody loves you. It just means they had other things to remember and relied on social media for my birthday – without the nudge, they missed it.

I promise to be proactive and learn the events that my friends are celebrating, without relying on social media to do the work for me. Although, I am sure I will just add another calendar entry so my phone will remind me.

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Trevor Perry