The Problem With Facebook Birthday Greetings

It happens every year whether you want it to or not: your Facebook wall is assaulted by people you haven't heard from in six years with birthday greetings. The one-line exclamations tend to be the generic type of happy birthday wishes that used to hide behind the five dollar bills in greeting cards from distant family members. In a neatly packaged metaphor, Facebook birthday greetings represent the problem that the social network has become. Always billed as a place to connect with your real friends, Facebook is now crowded with shallow or even fake relationships. And with new combatants like Google+ engaging in the battle over the social internet, Facebook's increasingly crappy signal-to-noise ratio is chasing people away.

In the latest in her Sunday New York Times column, Virginia Heffernan defends Facebook birthday greetings. Heffernan think this is why Facebook birthday greetings are benign. "The Facebook greeting still carries something like eye contact, recognition and a smile--humanness," she writes. "So far, bots and spammers don't seem to be among the well-wishers on a Facebook birthday. Real humans send the greetings. And they're customized."

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