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How to Quickly Interpret Your Facebook Birthday Wishes

How to Quickly Interpret Your Facebook Birthday Wishes

happy happy!

You are my Aunt Phyllis, who lives in Arizona.


You are my Dad. You know perfectly well that all-caps denotes shouting. But you do it anyway because it’s easier to type in all-caps than to deal with the shift key, even on your giant Samsung phone. Then again, you enjoy inappropriate shouting in real-life social situations, too, so maybe it’s not a matter of keyboard preferences.

#birthdayshots #cakehasnocaloriesonyourbday #YOLO #SWAG

You are my older brother’s SoulCycle-instructor wife, making a sad attempt to co-opt the lingo of your twelve-year-old daughter (who wouldn’t be caught dead using hashtags) as you futilely cling to your rapidly vanishing youth.


You are my daughter’s softball coach. I marvel at the way you run your practices with both enthusiasm and efficiency. You clearly handle your Facebook birthday wishes with the same succinct aplomb. My pointy party hat is off to you, sir.


You are a sociopath.

happy birthday

You pour a second cup of coffee from your French press and allow a small, sad sigh to escape your lips as you gaze upon the long list of Facebook birthday wishes that will keep you shackled to your laptop until you have begrudgingly wished each and every one of your “friends” (industry contacts, former students, successful authors) a happy birthday instead of lounging in bed doing the crossword, which used to be your morning ritual. The lack of punctuation, personalization, and capitalization in your birthday wishes is intentional—a way for you to let your bitter resentment for this meaningless social obligation shine through. You pause to recall how inspired you felt back in college when you first encountered “Griffin & Sabine” and discovered how rich and meaningful correspondence could be. That is what motivated you to get into publishing in the first place. When you first joined Facebook, you were hopeful that it would usher in a renaissance in interpersonal communication, as you reconnected with long-lost friends and deepened connections to your closest companions. Instead, you feel like a prisoner in that best-selling dystopian novel that you dismissively passed on two year ago (the one now being made into a major motion picture) about a teen-age girl who is forced to interact with the outside world only by touch-screen. You were my boss when I worked at a temp agency that supplied administrative assistants to editors at publishing houses—the same agency for which you have been temping since you lost your job last year, when your publishing house was taken over by Cinemax.

Happy birthday to the best son a mother could have! And did you know he’s been published? Here’s a link to every article Eric’s ever written [posted as her own Facebook status update]

You are my mom.

From "What Your Facebook Birthday Says About You" by Eric Schulmiller for The New Yorker, 2016; Photo by Annie Spratt

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