Saturday 29 January 2011

On-line Birthday Greeting - dehumanizing the business of saying something nice to people

Happy Birthday John - An emailed Birthday Greeting
(but I bet Plaxo, Facebook, LinkedIn,Starbucks and Boston Pizza beat me to it!)

Social media has made wishing relatives, friends, associates and clients Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas and Happy Groundhog Day pointless. Noting someone's birthday used to be a real sign of friendship, especially if you are memory challenged about names and dates, but not anymore.
John Mulvihill is a former rock and roll keyboardist from Renfrew, Ontario - he now lives and works in California. His sister Mary and I were friends back in the '60s. I didn't see John much back then (he was already on tour) but I am now in contact with him through Face Book, LinkedIn and Plaxo.
In the 60's I didn't know or care when his birthday was. Didn't know when any of my cousins, neighbours and classmates were marking birthdays, except of course for those born on February 29th. Now I know that John was born in January. How can I forget, 3 different social media sites have sent me reminders that John's birthday is approaching. Another website has offered to send him a birthday card and flowers on my behalf. Wonder if any of them are going to send me a scolding e-mail for neglecting to send John a dozen virtual roses.
Depending on the size of John's contact list, there are probably many more people around the world aware that Mr. Muhvill has turned 61 then currently live in Renfrew.
I bet that his inbox was filled with emails that graphically thrown confetti, popped on-line champagne corks and played kitchy happy birthday Elvis tunes. He may be touched by all that on-line attention, or maybe he is like me, and won't be impressed by computer generated signs of love.
When I had a birthday in April (I am way younger than John) I got a dozen emailed notes from people who have been alerted to my birthday by Plaxo and Facebook. My wife and two sons gave me cards as did my mother-in-law and brother-in-law. By the end of my big day the on-line greetings outnumbered the real cards (with handwritten notes), and phone calls four to one.
At Christmas I received computer delivered cards with melting snowmen, drunken reindeer, happy clappy Santas and night skies with travelling Christmas Stars. Because of my involvement with large auidence events I got almost a hundred season's greetings email during December many from people I don't think I know. In terms of greetings that arrived by mail we received about 10. My wife and I sent a dozen handwritten, most of them were very sincere.
Email is free. Many of the cards are come-ons for corporations who think they are embracing Social Media. How much heart does Starbucks or Boston Pizza really have? If you can remember a birthday or a holiday and do it without prodding from a website, that means something about your relationship with that person. But, simply clicking a mouse when prompted by a robotic programme, and sending off an email greeting "has virtually" no meaning at all.


Cutline: John Mulvihill's picture scooped from Linked In. His website is:

SIDEBAR: Interesting Factoids Found While Researching This Blog Entry

* Typical Plaxo reminder: "A friendly reminder from Plaxo David Scanlan's Birthday is in 7 days. Schedule an eCard for delivery on David's birthday"
Send David flowers from Grower Flowers, Plaxo, Inc. • 203 Ravendale Drive, Mountain View, CA 94043 USA
* I have also recieved Starbucks Card Rewards on my big day -- a free beverage. This is what their email said: "All registered Starbucks Card get a birthday beverage of their choice. A Starbucks Card can make you feel special all year long, but for that one day you’re extra-special."
* Boston Pizza sent me a coupon for a free slice (or some other food/drink gift) on my birthday. Guess I am not that special after all - the on-line birthday coupon wasn't honoured when I tried to use it!