Happy Birthday

Facebook.

We all know it. Some of us love it. Some hate it. And some are unflinching in their indifference. But whatever the feelings its reach is inescapable.

Masquerading as the ever helpful connection between far flung friends, Facebook has managed to create not just a desire to stay connected but a dependence on social information. In scanning through my Newsfeed, I can’t help wondering: what is Facebook’s true motive here?

Studies have concluded that social interaction via Facebook can exacerbate feelings of inadequacy and depression (take a look at this and this). Whether or not these studies are conclusive really is not the point. The fact that we are all subject to the potential findings is enough to inspire feelings of uncertainty and suspicion.

Perhaps it’s not in the forefront of our minds, but that lingering hesitant feeling before posting a status update is proof positive that Facebook encourages us to second guess ourselves. For me, the uncertainty comes in the form of a weekly birthday reminder email.

Every Sunday I receive an email reminding me which of my Facebook friends is celebrating (or not, whatever) a birthday that week. Some weeks I am prompt with my good wishes, some weeks not so much. And it’s those weeks that I feel that Facebook has far too much hold over my sense of self-worth.

I have good intentions. Don’t we all? I receive the email, and I think to myself that this will be the week when I finally beat Facebook to the punch. This is the week when my birthday buddies will know that they’re special. And then I fail. The weeks scoots past me, and before I can log on, birthdays have come and gone, and I once again find myself feeling guilty. Not profoundly so, but dully, naggingly.

In an attempt to mitigate these feelings, I am sending out best birthday wishes to all of my Facebook, Twitter, and blogosphere friends. I wish each and every one of you the absolute best birthday of your life this year. May it be filled with hope, happiness, and celebration. May your wish come true when you blow out your candles. And may you be set free from any and all obligations imposed upon you by some arbitrary social network.

I’m sure there are those who feel the same way I do, whether you will admit it or not. But for those of you who don’t know these feelings, for those of you who find yourselves able to absolve yourseles of any feelings of virtual responsibility or duty inflicted by Facebook, this post, I’m sorry to say, is not for you.

A Place Called Home

Apartment complexes are the last remaining bastions of semi-communal living. Residents are bound to each other by proximity if nothing else. Anonymity is allowed only so long as the status quo is maintained.

No stage of the life cycle is turned away there. Some residents are newer, younger. They are college Freshmen forging ahead, idealistic and full of potential. They are just starting out. Other residents are a bit older. The idealism has faded and been replaced by cynicism and regret. They have been married, perhaps happily, perhaps not. They have seen their children grow into teenagers who resent them for things they never did. Yet there is still an element of hope. Better things are just over the horizon if they can just keep truckin’.

The ones who remain have seen both previous stages. They have been young and full of optimism. They have been married, perhaps divorced, widowed. They have seen children grow up and beget grandchildren. They still visit every once in awhile. They’ve had homes full of life, love, and happy holidays. And for whatever reason, they end up in an apartment, surrounded sometimes by people just like themselves but also by people in whose shoes they have walked.

In the same way that living in these apartment complexes fosters a sense of community, perhaps more tangible than anything outside them, they also present life in microcosm. A living timeline. Proof positive that not all obstacles are insurmountable.