May 25, 2012 | 12:18 pm
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
On March 31st, I had an idea, which I found brilliant at the time, for an April fool’s day prank: on midnight, I changed my birthday on Facebook to April 1st, and quietly laughed to myself.
I went to sleep, waiting for the morning to read what those who are my friends on Facebook, and not in real life, will write on my wall. What happened in the morning really took me by surprise, and was a great social experiment on the way Facebook runs our lives and controls our minds. The first one to congratulate me was a childhood friend from home, whose birthday is a week before mine. She wrote on my wall: “I didn’t know I already had my birthday…Happy fake birthday!”. After she blew my cover, I thought my prank was ruined, but birthday wishes and congratulations didn’t stop flowing. Most of the congratulators were, as I expected, people who my relationship with them is primarily online. Some were distant friends from home, who could have easily been confused with the real date, which is in about two months from now.
I was pleased with my prank, until I read something a good friend from school posted on my Wall. He didn’t just say “happy birthday”, he wrote something from the heart, which I noticed took him a lot of time to come up with. This person, like the rest of my friends from school, only knows me for four months, and there is no reason for him to know when my birthday was. I was lucky enough to gain many good friends in this short period of time, and while this prank wasn’t meant for them, they fell for it, and it hit my conscious. I tried to change by birthday back to the original date, but being smarter than I am, Facebook informed me that I can’t change my birthday twice on the same day.
On 10:50 AM I posted the following on my wall, in English, for my American friends to see as well: “It is only 11am, but I feel bad already…This is April fools day. My birthday is May 24th.
Thank you for the wishes and kind words. You are all free from wishing on my wall on my real birthday. SORRY!!” I thought this would end this whole shenanigan, but, boy, was I wrong…People kept congratulating me on and off my wall. I even received text messages and phone calls and really wanted to hide someplace. Since people didn’t notice the first clarification, I published another one, and a third one, an hour later. About ten people noticed my apologies. Some wanted to kill me. Others thought it was pretty funny.
Throughout the day, three of my good friends posted clarifications of their own on my wall: “Happy regular day, since it is clearly not your birthday”…“Trying to squeeze compliments out of innocent people?”…“You sneaky fox…”, etc. At this point, I was really shocked: how come people haven’t noticed neither my three clarifications nor my friends’ posts? Do people automatically count on Facebook, more than humans? Or maybe they simply congratulate whoever Facebook tells them to, without actually entering their profile?
The moment where I nearly lost my pulse, was when one of my very best friends, who I’ve known for more than nine years now, and currently travel throughout south America, wrote me a message, saying this little prank of mine really got her confused. “I know your birthday is May 24th, but I saw all the blessings on your wall, and I started thinking maybe I forgot…”
It is amazing how we rely on Facebook to tell us people’s birthdays and anniversaries. We count on it so badly, that we feel free to not write important dates on a solid piece of paper, or even to remember them. This time, I got everybody, but I know that I would probably react the very same way if I saw this was somebody else’s birthday. Hell, I do it right now, every single day. I have no idea if today is really my Facebook friends’ birthday, but I still posted three congratulations on three walls. Simply because Facebook recommended me to do so.
We always joke about Facebook’s influence on our lives, but I just realized how profound it is. It defines us, who we are. It tells us who our friends are, what is their relationship status, when are their birthdays, where have they been and who are they spending time with. If you don’t post it- it never happened. We can protest. Kick our feet in the air and say this is not true, and unfair and ruins our lives. But it would be just like fighting windmills. Maybe this is a bad thing, maybe it’s good, but the bottom line is that it’s happening. So go and share this post, because otherwise- you’ve never read it
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