A few days ago I celebrated my birthday. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that a few days ago the calendar marked the anniversary of my birth.
I am no longer sentimental about birthdays. This one was neither a day I had eagerly anticipated nor a day I faced with dread. I do not consider it a milestone, and my current age is definitely not “the new” anything. It is, simply, a point in time.
I don’t remember ever wishing to be older, no more than I would want to return to the days of my youth now that I have achieved a certain “status.”
Birthdays are in many ways totally forgettable, although I admit to a childish thrill that other people remember mine and celebrate it. I like receiving the good wishes, the phone calls, the hugs and the occasional gifts. I have been surprised several times with parties that were absolutely unexpected and great fun.
I have also, at least a couple of times, been ill and ill-tempered because I could not party. On occasion, I have spent a birthday alone and indulged in a solitary pity party.
Why am I writing this?
Because, as someone who is not entirely comfortable (yes, I am of that generation) with digital communication and with computers in general, I have to admit that having birthday good wishes pop up on my screen as I work is as fun as it is distracting. I smile at each one, and take the time to appreciate my good fortune in having the friends I have.
On my birthday morning, however, I received a totally unexpected surprise. A Google greeting. Really! I am on a first-name basis with Google? And they changed their logo for me? REALLY? Noooooooooooo.
I am not ready for that. I was incredulous. I was perplexed. Oh, yes, I know about algorithms and such. I know that there is no human in charge of birthday wishes. But, how do they know? And why do they care? It’s not as if I am an important cog in their business plan.
Then I received a birthday greeting from Facebook. Really? Why?
As I stared at my computer screen, I had to smile with the memory of receiving my first birthday card from Southwest Airlines. Do they still do that for frequent flyers? Or has the modern company stopped spreading “LUV” in that particular way?
I also remembered days long past when my dogs received birthday greetings from their veterinarians, and those years when I really did look forward to receiving cards in the mailbox from far-flung family and friends.
Those days are definitely gone, replaced by text messages, virtual images and — yes, by algorithms.
It’s all right, if a bit disconcerting. So I’ll consider my birthday this year properly marked in time. I just wonder what will happen next year . . . .
But, I’m sorry Google and Facebook – I don’t remember your birth dates. And I wouldn’t know how to send you greetings even if I did!