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Don't Be One of Facebook's 'Happy Birthday' Robots

I never thought anyone would ever have to say this, but don’t write “Happy birthday! Have a great day!” on the Facebook wall of someone who is dead.

If social media has a time-honored tradition, it's the Facebook birthday wall post.

Even if you don't use your Facebook, you can count on getting a bunch of posts on your birthday from people who don't know you anymore. I'm not even anti-birthday wall post—it can be a useful means of reestablishing a connection with someone you accidentally went too long without talking to, or a chance to flirt, or a chance to at least say hey, I remember you still exist!


But don't be a Facebook birthday robot.

My best friend died two and a half years ago. Today would have been her 28th birthday. I checked her wall and there were plenty of posts from her best friends letting her (and everyone else) know they missed her. This is a totally sensible way to grieve or remember someone. But alongside these posts were much more innocuous but much more insane run-of-the-mill birthday well wishes from people who clearly didn't know she is dead.

Surely your page has been frequented by a person who indiscriminately writes "Happy Birthday!" on each and every one of their friends' walls, regardless of circumstance. I never thought anyone would ever have to say this, but don't write "Happy birthday! Have a great day!" on the Facebook wall of someone who is dead. If you are unsure if the person is living or dead, maybe it's not so important that you give them a digital birthday greeting.

I sometimes wonder about the life of a Facebook birthday robot. Because if they are writing on your dead friends' walls, surely they are writing on everyone's walls. Do they have an alarm set for midnight to remind them to wish people happy birthday? Do they type each individual greeting or is it more of a copy + paste situation? Do they do it directly from the news feed or do they go to the individual profile? Did Facebook robot posts increase after Facebook started notifying you about your friends' birthdays? How does writing happy birthday on near-strangers' walls make them feel?

The great social media migration to Snapchat and Instagram has largely destroyed the importance of the birthday wall post, but if this blog can snap one person out of their robotic haze, it'll have been worth it.