Denise Neil

Social media makes events more special

Say what you will about Facebook and Twitter and how social media is ruining our attention spans and destroying our society, 140 characters at a time.

But even the most stubborn social media skeptics (and I know more of them than I should) cannot argue one simple fact: Facebook and Twitter rock when it's your birthday.

Take my friend Katie, whose birthday was on Thursday. I already knew that Katie, a cute and bubbly PR girl with an edge, was popular.

But by the end of the day on Thursday, Katie had about 150 birthday greetings on her Facebook wall. I didn't even bother counting her Twitter salutations.

That's a whole lot of birthday love for a person over 30, who in the dark ages before Facebook would wake up on a not-so-significant birthday and reasonably be able to expect a call from her mom, flowers from her husband and — if she was lucky — lunch paid for by a co-worker.

With social media, though, the Celebration of You usually starts the night before your birthday, when all of your followers get an electronic notification that the next day is your big day.

Someone comments on your wall. Then someone else does. And pretty soon, the fact that it's your birthday is the "Top News" of the day, and everyone you've ever known is joining in the chorus of congrats.

It's not just birthdays that are made more meaningful by social media.

A co-worker of mine whose brother recently died was overwhelmed, touched and comforted by the outpouring of sympathy that flooded her Facebook page.

Other friends going through life events happy and sad — illnesses, job losses, marriages, new babies — often find their Facebook pages filled with congratulations or sympathy.

I recently went back and checked out my Facebook wall from my birthday last November.

I received about 70 wishes (clearly not as popular as Katie), and the people I heard from spanned my entire life: Two cousins from other states, a former co-worker from my high school Brass Buckle days, a bunch of high school classmates I haven't seen since we graduated, a few college classmates, a sampling of co-workers present and past, Brett Harris and several people I don't even know.

Without social media, I wouldn't hear from many of these people more than once a year, and many more of them I likely never would have heard from again.

But with it, I end my birthday with a fuzzy feeling. Even though I know that everybody gets The Treatment on Facebook on their big day, the flood of well wishes is still good for the soul.

"There is nothing like social media to make you feel like a million bucks on your birthday," Katie wrote on her wall at the end of her day. "Thanks, friends. Thirty-three is nothing to really celebrate, but you sure know how to make this girl smile."