We are Losing our Personal Connections


I received over 200 greetings for my birthday on Facebook. I know, right? Wow!

Facebook makes it easy to send birthday greetings to those you are connected with by reminding you each day of a friend’s special day.

The thing is, the same thing that is making it easy to send greetings via a few clicks of the keyboard is also making it easy not to send greetings via the good old fashioned telephone. I suppose, for some people who are predisposed to withdrawing socially, it is also making it easier for them to become recluses.

Friends and family, the ones I maintain contact with in the real world, vs. my connections on social media, traditionally would call on my birthday.

One friend would always call and sing “Happy Birthday.” Another would always call me by 8 a.m. on my birthday, because she knew this was a tradition that my mother kept and she took up the baton after my mother died.

This year, Happy birthday was “sung” to me on my Facebook wall and the friend who used to call me texted a message to me via her cell phone (one of three texts I received – the others were  from my sister in law and a niece, who in years past, have also phoned).

The only actual call I received, was from our German daughter, who, ironically, hates Facebook and is rarely on it. I unfortunately, missed that call as I had already left for lunch and errands. Hopefully, we can catch up on Christmas.

I’m not complaining, there never has been a year where I received 200 birthday messages, even in elementary school when we had class parties each month. Social media gives us a chance to hear from colleagues and acquaintances that we normally would not.

I’m just pointing out that our methods of communicating are changing very rapidly and that the lines between “real world” relationships and social media ones are becoming very blurred.

Social media has given us a one-stop social experience much like our Super Wal-Marts have given us one-stop shopping. Instead of going into a building and having our prescriptions filled, visiting a bakery, picking up a few things for the home and garden and doing our grocery shopping in one place, we can go into one website that allows us to play games, share our photo albums, type our thoughts, chat it up live in real time with our friends and even send birthday, anniversary and holiday greetings.

Given that I’ve heard some schools aren’t even teaching children to write in cursive anymore, I envision a society that one of these days, will require nothing but our ability to type to communicate. We won’t even need our voices.

Maybe the next generation of Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg’s will even come up with a device that can be wired directly into the neurons in our brains and we’ll all wear computer screens around our necks. Instead of greeting someone with a friendly “hello” or a handshake, our screens will light up when we meet up with someone and display our thoughts automatically.

Pretty far out, right?

As far out as the idea “singing” to someone or sending a greeting via a computer instead of actually having to interact with our friends and loved ones.

What do you think of substituting special greetings via social media for calling or spending time with someone when you can?


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24 Responses

  1. I’m not a big phone talker, but I do send “real” cards. Not for Christmas so much, but just to say hello or thank you notes. I’m a stickler for handwritten thank you notes!

    • Kerri says:

      I didn’t send Christmas cards out this year, but mailed some Happy New Year cards instead. I like sending and receiving hand written notes.

  2. I thought texting was such a bad idea…until I tried it and now I’ll admit, I’m hooked. But I understand your point about all of our connectedness leading to, well, a lack of connectedness. And it’s true about cursive, my kids don’t have cursive classes anymore. Too bad.

  3. Merr says:

    For some reason this reminds me of an essay I read a number of years ago (can’t recall if it was in the NYTimes, WaPo or other larger outlet( about a buy on FB who “invited” all his local “friends” from FB to meet him at a local hangout…and how kind of surprised he was when barely a response came, and only one person showed up. He had, as I recall, hundreds of FB friends.

  4. Sheryl says:

    I agree with you on many points. I was hoping you’d say that at least you heard from your close friends the ” old fashioned”
    Way. Quasi-friends can leave bday wishes on Facebook, but there is no substitute for a personal call from close friends and family.

    • Kerri says:

      Nope, Sheryl. Wish I could say that. The only friends we’ve had contact with this week are the ones we met in Springfield for my B-Day and our Christmas celebration. Odd.

  5. NoPotCooking says:

    I don’t have my birthday visible on FB. Most of the people are on there are people I do not consider in-person friends who really know me. It also seems like people post bday greetings just because everyone else is and I just find it kind of false somehow.

    • Kerri says:

      I like giving B-Day wishes on FB, even to those I really don’t know. I don’t think it is false, at least in my mind. It would be like me going to the store, as I did the other day and having the woman tell me Happy Belated Birthday when she looked at my driver’s license. It’s nice, even with acquaintances. Still, I would like to continue the tradition of actually talking to my “real” friends! 😉

  6. sarah henry says:

    On vacation with friends and the kids were communicating at one point — sitting next to each other — on Facebook. Call me old fashioned but that bummed me out so I instituted some social media free time for my son.

  7. As someone who has always tried to avoid being the center of attention on her birthday, I’m happy that Facebook messages have replaced the old barrage of phone calls. (Actually, you won’t find my birthday on FB – thanks, privacy settings!)

    That said, there’s really no substitute for a phone call when you just want to catch up with someone for whatever reason. Facebook, texting, Twitter, etc. make it easy to get the shorthand on friends’ goings-on, so you can skip the basic “what have you been up to?” talk and get down to the REAL dirt. 🙂

    • Kerri says:

      I agree, Facebook, Twitter, texting all good for shorthand, a good way to view it – modern shorthand – on what is happening in someone’s life. But it’s the personal connections that make us care about one another on that deeper level. That’s what I’m afraid our culture is losing in the 140 character update.

  8. Teleia says:

    I wonder if perhaps this is a generational thing, although I should admit I didn’t have a computer until I was 25… Which was only 11 years ago.

    Whether birthday wishes are conveyed via text or Facebook or an actual, physical greeting card is immaterial to me. I just like knowing that people know that this is the anniversary of my birth. And while I expect lots of digital birthday wishes, I do expect my close friends and family to call. But they know that, and they know I’ll be upset if they forget. I don’t think that I’m asking for too much, and I don’t think they think so, either. But maybe the expectation just has to be made clear?

    Personally, I like that I now get wishes from people in several formats. And I know that without Facebook, I wouldn’t be back in touch with many of my old friends, or made several new very good ones. I think the responsibility is ultimately ours, and Facebook, like a gun, is only as dangerous as the person who wields it. Yep, I put Facebook and guns in the same pot! 🙂

    I feel like these kinds of choices just reflect who we already are. Though I do want to say, as someone with very strong hermit tendencies, that Facebook actually gives me considerably more contact with people than I’d have otherwise.

    • Kerri says:

      That was the point of my post, Teleia. I also like the fact that I get messages in different formats. I don’t think social media is all bad. It has allowed me to catch up with old friends from school (it is the reason I found two of my good friends and we now have annual get togethers) and allows me to stay involved in the lives of my friends and loved ones. But, it seems, the only friends I hear from on the phone anymore are those who are still not on FB or who do not text (or still aren’t comfortable with it). I miss hearing voices and actually interacting with people I care about. While it is convenient, as we’re all busy, sometimes a phone call, especially on special days, is warranted. I think my friends and loved ones know this. I typically remember to pick up the phone and call them. But maybe you’re right, I need to make it more clear. 🙂

  9. Laura N. says:

    I’m well aware of this new social media birthday greeting phenomenon and take the extra effort to text someone a birthday greeting or wait until I see them in person and tell them so. I refuse to write on people’s walls. I also close my wall on my birthday to prevent people from writing too many birthday messages (I think of it as digital clutter) and hope they take the effort to contact me directly. A couple days ago, I closed my account, so I guess people have to call me now, right? Glad I’m not alone in noticing this…

    • Kerri says:

      I think it depends on who you are connected to and why. I have over 1,200 connections. I refuse to call them ‘friends’ because many of them are work connections and I do not know them personally. Not knowing what I was doing when I first went on FB, I mixed my personal friends and loved ones with work colleagues and connections. I appreciate people who I may not know personally, but are connected to me by being a former classmate or a work colleague, sending me greetings there. What I would like to see, though, is the people I know in the “real” world maintaining that connection too. 🙂

      • Kerry Dexter says:

        this year, I am noticing this especially with Christmas cards (which is, I agree, another subject, but related). Business connections, sure, I can see and even understand and welcome e-cards or greetings and good wishes through social media. friends and loved ones, though, I’d prefer a card in the post, or a call. I still send out cards to friends and loved ones because I enjoy doing so. I receive very few, though, so perhaps it is something do not enjoy doing.

        • Kerri says:

          I agree, Kerry. Although this year, I’m guilty. I typically send out Christmas cards, but did not make it this year. Perhaps I will send out Happy New Year cards in the coming week instead.

          • Kerry Dexter says:

            I hope you will, Kerri. I have done that on occasion instead of Christmas cards (Epiphany cards too, 6 Jan), and find personal greetings — something you can hold in your hand and save, if you wish — are well received at this time of year. I know I enjoy receiving them, and sending them.

          • Kerri says:

            I bought some on Saturday!

  10. Annette says:

    Social media has changed how we communicate with each other. My daughters have difficulty communicating with their friends when face to face yet can text up a storm without a second though. I spent two decades as a CSR for Blue Cross Blue Shield and have since, avoided phone conversations when possible. Email has become my preferred mode of communication, with hand written letters a close second. *sighs* My preference would be to write/phone more and email less. Sounds like a good New Years goal, eh?

    • Kerri says:

      My fear, Annette, is that we’re raising a bunch of people who will have no idea how to interact personally with their fellow humans. I email a lot as well. I also keep in contact with my own friends via Facebook much more than I should. I personally like hearing the voices of my friends and loved ones and would at least, like to hear them on our special days. 🙂