Why I got only 21 wishes this year

Updated: Jun 04, 2019, 08:59 IST | C Y Gopinath

Last year, I received 232 wishes on my birthday. This year, there were only a fraction of that number. Here's why

Why I got only 21 wishes this year
In the old days, you had to throw a party to let people know it was time to think of you and show up wearing smiles and bearing gifts. REPRESENTATION PIC/Getty Images

C Y GopinathOn May 30 this year, I turned another year older. You've been there. You've turned a year older from time to time. Usually once in a year (but I know some party animals who think being a month older deserves a minor celebration).

You'd think that after a time, a person would get bored, but no. People look forward to their birthdays right till they're hitting a century. There is a time in the middle, between say 40 and 55, when some go into denial, saying things like 'It's not about how old you are but how old you feel'. But they generally get over that by their mid-50s and start acting their age and liking it.

Then when it comes to 75, then 80, then — whoa! — 90, it starts becoming like a horse race. Will she reach the Big 100? My mother swore when she was 70 that she would have her 80th, and by God, she did.

One of the reasons we love our own birthdays is that people wish us. Unlike the rest of the year, when you might wonder if your friends even remember you, on a birthday you know for sure that you were in their thoughts. Not only that, they spend time composing a message to you, wishing you well and praying for your prosperity and long life.

In the old days, you had to throw a whole party to let people know it was time to think of you and show up wearing smiles and bearing gifts. But now, thanks to Facebook and others, showing you care is easy as pie. Just type two words on their timeline: Happy birthday! Auto-complete might even type the rest of the words once you reach the first p of Happy.

To make things easier for the well-wisher, Facebook (or other social media) will let you know a day ahead, and then on the day itself, that so-and-so's birthday is nigh. One click will let you start typing your fond wishes.

When my own birthday comes along, I have to admit, I wait for the wishes. It's like Christmas. First to wish are the banks and telecom providers, whose computers kick in exactly at midnight with the glad tidings.

Last year, it was a jackpot. I received 232 wishes. They came in all through the day, so many that I began falling behind in my work and stopped checking. But I looked again at midnight and there were 232. Including one from my daughter and one from my son.

This year, I received only 21.

It can be crushing not to be wished on your birthday. You feel like an outcast. An untouchable. Your mind swims with thoughts. Have you been forgotten, passed over? Are you no fun anymore? Are you too old to be friends with? A sense of being sidelined and worthless could wash over you. No one but I knew that mortifying number, 21, but I knew I simply had not been in the thoughts of 211 people who had wished me last year.

The reason I did not slash my wrists was because I noticed a small but interesting statistic. I received 13 wishes on LinkedIn this year. Last year, it had been two. On Facebook, I had been wished by 219 last year, but only eight this year.

So I did a deep dive into the world of birthday wishing and happy returns and here's what I learned:

1. Of the 219 people who wished me on Facebook, 93 would not have recognized me on the street, and were friends only because we had mutual friends. Facebook made it absurdly simple for them to look as though they cared a hoot about me. Facebook made instant insincerity that easy.

2. Of friends who wished me, nearly the same number, over 90, weren't the kind who remembered birthdays. They cared, just not that much. Facebook had badgered them into wishing me.

3. The truly joyous discovery was — I was wished less this year because people are using Facebook less this year. Thanks to the egregious, self-serving practices of Zuckerberg and his greedy, predatory, privacy-invading corporation, people actually are using Facebook less (while some are clearly switching to LinkedIn.)

4. Facebook might have made it look like the whole planet was excited about your birthday but frankly, no one really gives a damn.

5. The 21 who did wish me are people who did not need reminders. They loved me and would have remembered. Why would I want anyone else's wishes?

6. Finally, the two people who matter the most to me, my darling son and daughter, did not just wish me. They picked up their phones from different continents and called me.

Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at cygopi@gmail.com
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