Chris Johnson: Does 'happy birthday' mean anything anymore?

December 1, 2013 

I log onto Facebook at least five days a week. It's the only place I can go to find out what my Aunt Gladys cooked for dinner last night in Toledo. Otherwise, I'd have to call Aunt Gladys and ask her what she had for dinner, which would be awkward since we haven't spoken since, well, ever. In fact, I'm not 100 percent certain we're related, especially since she keeps asking me when I'm getting out of the Coast Guard.

Facebook is great in that you can keep in touch with family and old friends that in past eras would have disappeared into unreachable parts of your brain, like behind the Hippopotamus Campus. We don't even really need high school reunions anymore, because we already know who got fat, who found Jesus and who lost their hair. What would be the point of actually getting together?

Once I see what Aunt Gladys cooked for dinner, I see what my right-wing uncles are saying about Obama and what creepy animal my left-wing friends want me to save. Then I make sure no one tagged me in an unflattering photo, which would pretty much be any photo of me. I've yet to see a pic of me and think, "Dang, I look good!" If I did, I would be a selfie-snapping machine.

And, lastly, I look at the right-hand column to see whose birthday it is so I can put one of 395 obligatory "happy birthday" messages on someone's wall, or page, or timeline, or whatever the heck you call them these days.

On my birthday, I only got a few "happy birthdays." It's not that most folks don't care. Well, it's not just that most folks don't care. The main reason I get so few is that I've hidden my birthdate from my page. It's not because I don't want folks to know my age -- 29, by the way -- but more that I don't want 400 "happy birthdays" from the Aunt Gladyses of the world.

Then, you either have to respond to each one with a "Thanks, Aunt Gladys!" or post the now standard next-day status: "Thanks for all the birthday wishes yesterday! I feel so special!"

Do you really feel special? Well, it depends on the happy birthday message:

If it merely says, "Happy birthday," then they probably don't remember who you are, and you never should have friended those folks in the first place.

If it says, "Happy birthday!" with an exclamation point, that means they know who you are and felt obligated to say something.

If it says, "Happy birthday, Frank!" that means they kinda, sorta like you OK and definitely know who you are -- unless, of course, your name's not Frank.

If it says, "Happy birthday! I hope your day is special and full of love," it means that the person posting it is a girl.

If it says, "Happy birthday, Chris! Hey, remember that time we went streaking through the flea market, and you tripped over that wagon and busted that smelly lady's shark fetus in a jar? Cost us six bucks but totally worth it!" then you're probably my Cousin Hank. And if the post is a picture of a camel wearing a party hat with the accompanying words "Guess what day it is," then you should poke them. With a sharp stick.

-- Connect with Chris Johnson at

Ledger-Enquirer is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service