Celebrating birthdays in a networked world

This past Sunday was my birthday and I experienced part of it with my extended networks on places ranging from Facebook and Plaxo to Twitter (and now, my blog). I have to say, it was wonderful to get all of the well wishes. I absolutely enjoyed it, especially in the early morning hours before my husband and kids woke up.

First, a bit of explanation. I publish my birthday date to my friends and contacts on Facebook (yes, my full birthday, I’m secure about my age, which is now 43) as well as on Plaxo. That means that they get notices on their Facebook home page or via a Plaxo email reminder if there is a friend in their network with an upcoming birthday. It’s a great way to connect with people on their special day.

This year, it’s especially meaningful because so many of my personal friends and extended family are now on places like Facebook and Plaxo. It’s great to hear from them, reconnect, and carry their thoughts with me for the next year. Just this morning, a few days later, a walking buddy wished me a belated birthday because she had seen it on Plaxo.

But what’s very interesting have been the well wishes coming in from people that normally wouldn’t know that it was my birthday, but do because of these networks. This was particularly the case on Twitter. Jeremiah Owyang tweeted that it was my birthday to his 32,000 followers, and others retweeted that tweet to others, and so on and so on. The @charleneli replies came pouring in and it was as if I was attending a conference and people broke out in song, one tweet at a time.

It points out that something that is fairly personal — your birthday — is becoming more public, even if it’s just with people that you know. You wouldn’t normally go around saying to people, “It’s my birthday today – wish me “happy birthday!” But because it’s part of the overall experience within these social networks, it becomes a connection point.

So if you see someone you know with an upcoming birthday, see it as an opportunity to connect — your friend will appreciate it! Here are a few examples of how people reached out to me:

On Facebook: Write on the wall, send an instant message (got one from someone in New Zealand the minute it turned Feb 22nd there), send a gift, send a message.

On Plaxo: Send a message or ecard

On Twitter: Send an @reply, retweet a birthday wish.

To close, the most clever message I got was on Twitter from @limyh: “happy birthday, Charlene. have a (ground)swell one :-)”


  1. A belated happy birthday, Charlene!