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07 August 2010

Technology and Sentiment

So, I just celebrated a birthday, and while I have been on Facebook for a few years, this was the first time that my "wall" really blew up with birthday wishes. In one sense, it felt great. It's tough to argue with that many people reaching out to say something nice. In another sense, however, it's part of a larger trend that I've noticed over the last few years that is less positive. Because Facebook reminds everyone when their friends' birthdays are coming, it eliminates the effort (i.e. cost) that was once required to remember those special dates and pass on well-wishes (i.e. reward). I used to pride myself on keeping a calendar of such dates and sending cards--yes, the old-fashioned snail mail kind. Granted, it doesn't take much effort to put a reminder in a calendar (especially when that calendar is electronic), but it is certainly qualitatively different from being told by a website automatically. Because of this, and even though I still do keep an independent calendar, it's just a little less special when I wish a friend a happy birthday, and while nice, many of the Facebook wall postings seemed insincere, especially the ones from "friends" who were only marginal acquaintances in the real world.

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