Facebook birthdays are now a thing. Birthdays once consisted of small gatherings of family and a few friends, Facebook users now enjoy birthdays full of greetings from friends far and wide, present and past, old and new, close and acquaintance.
Today’s my birthday. This morning, I opened my Facebook page to many warm birthday greetings and exhaled a sigh of relief.
Facebook birthdays make me neurotic. Throughout the year, I observe friends receive what seems like hundreds of birthday greetings while an introvert like me never get hundreds of greetings. As my birthday approaches, I wonder if my birthday greetings will dwindle this year–if they do, what does that mean? I tally up the times I missed sending Facebook birthday greetings to friends in the last year and fear Facebook birthday revenge; if I missed them, will they purposely withhold my greeting? Have I tip-toed the magic line between being on Facebook enough so people remember me, but not so much that they hate me?
It’s too much. Each year as my birthday approaches, I vow to quit Facebook to relieve myself of the Facebook birthday anxiety.
I believe studies that show Facebook causes temporary feelings of depression and low self-esteem. Facebook is comparing everybody else’s best moments to our worst, their formatted Instagram pictures to our blurry iPhone snaps, or–as I’ve read–their sizzle reel to our blooper reel.
Doesn’t everyone have Facebook neuroses? My biggest birthday terror is being forgotten, or realizing what I’ve always wondered is true–I’m an imposter, my friends are pretending to like me (or worse, are friends with me only because they’ve forgotten to unfriend me, I’m so forgettable), that once the real me surfaces they’ll march off and take their Facebook birthday greetings with them. What if this is the birthday when my Facebook page is finally silent? Rationally, I know this isn’t true–yet I’m human.
Our human need for connection makes being forgotten a painful fear. We need to recognize we matter, we mean something, we’re remembered. Not only do we crave connection–we need to connect authentically, to reveal our pain and imperfections and understand we’re still accepted and loved and matter, that our experiences are shared and understood, to know our broken places aren’t cracks that weaken us, but places where light is allowed to shine through.
To know we as a church community gather not to share our sizzle reels, but to engage in the blooper reel of worship week after week–the hard, imperfect, vulnerable work of God–a God who meets us in those very vulnerable places. And one Sunday in worship, as the service is about the end, a congregation beautifully sings Happy Birthday to their pastor, delightfully flubbing over whether they should sing “Jen” or “Pastor Jen,” and I return home, tired, to squirrel-y kids ready to plan my party and I almost forget about Facebook.