Opinion | Columns

Saying happy birthday on Facebook

On Monday, my 21st birthday, I’d like you to post on my Facebook wall.

Well, that’s not totally true. What I’d really like on my birthday is a huge combination surprise in PrezBo’s mansion with Shake Shack catered, and the Spec front page headline wishing Tony Gong a happy birthday.

But for several reasons, this probably won’t happen. One is that I already tried proposing the front page headline to some Spec editors. They all said no, then asked me who Tony Gong was. Another is that I think PrezBo’s mad at me because he hasn’t been responding to my texts lately. And by lately, I mean the past three years.

So the next best thing that could possibly happen on my birthday is to get tons of Facebook wall posts. But unlike men, an equation, and those utterly ineffective Putties that Rita Repulsa used in every Power Rangers episode, not all birthday Facebook wall posts are created equal. A lot of wall posts are actually terrible. I know this for a fact because I probably write most of them.

So in an attempt to prepare all of you to write above average posts on Monday, I spent some time last night on Facebook compiling a highly prestigious best-of list from the birthday wall posts I got last year. During this time last night I also poked two people, liked seven status updates, and stalked three pages of wall-to-wall between a girl I dated for four months in ninth grade and some guy named “Dan” at her college. So Brenna, if you’re reading this, here are the top seven wall posts that made my 20th birthday worth remembering:

7. Joseph said: “happy birthday friend” Everyone who knows me knows that publicly admitting to be my friend is a very risky move. I still think this post will someday come back to damage Joe’s societal standing. Either way, his courage was inspirational.

6. Stacey said: “happy birthday tony gong! this will probably get lost in the plethora of happy birthdays…but I wanted to use the word plethora.” Self-deprecation is very, very cool. It’s the only joke I actually know how to use.

5. Sheila said: “happy birthday!!!” Three exclamation points is just a lot. I didn’t doubt that she really meant it. Two and I’ll start to wonder.

4. Randy said: “happy birthday!! toni kong still reminds me of your fantastic name every day, tony… hope you have a great day!” I felt two concurring emotions after reading Randy’s post: warm, fuzzy happiness because Randy implied that he thinks of me every day—and murderous, uncontrollable rage because I learned that there’s someone named “Toni Kong” whom I’ll eventually have to duel.

3. Michelle said: “hey tony gong! i don’t think I’ve ever talked to you in person.. but I remember seeing you around school back in the day. conclusion: happy birthday :)” Michelle and I exchanged a few wall posts back-and-forth after this. And when I visited my high school a few months later, we did in fact end up talking in person. Conclusion: Miracles happen!

2. Joffre said: “happy birthday! eat the cake! (its in the fridge) ^-^.” This post revealed and reinforced how comfortable we were as friends. One, Joffre confidently assumes that I understand which fridge he’s referring to. Two, Joffre confidently assumes that I understand which cake he’s referring to. And three, Joffre confidently assumes that I understand which birthday he’s referring to.

1. Neil said: “Tony, I miss talking to you. Happy Birthday. Neil” Short, sweet, honest, and emotionally stirring. Just like the cat in “Homeward Bound.” And his capitalization and punctuation told me it was definitely from the heart.

So now you should be all-but-perfectly ready to write an amazing wall post on Monday. There’s just one crucial problem I haven’t mentioned until now: Many of you think you’re too good for Facebook happy birthdays. Don’t try to hide it, I know you exist. One of my friends still avoids the practice entirely by removing her birthday from Facebook a few days before it. The belief that drives this kind of complete avoidance is that online communication is somehow categorically superficial and distinct to one’s real life.

This belief is wrong. There’s nothing intrinsic about online communication that makes it superficial—the messages we write and receive online are significant if and only if people decide to attribute significance. Moreover, there’s evidence everywhere that we do. People share engagements, births, and epiphanies in Facebook statuses. Celebrities make heartfelt, public apologies on Twitter. Neil tells me that he misses talking to me, and Sheila uses three exclamation points.

So say happy birthday to me on Facebook, because it’s just as easily genuine or fake as saying it in a letter, face-to-face, or in a phone call.

Though I’d still prefer if PrezBo responded to my texts.

Tony Gong is a junior in the School of Engineering and Applied Science majoring in applied mathematics with a minor in philosophy. Bears frighten him. Tony Gong Explains the Universe runs alternate Thursdays.


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Anonymous posted on

After reading this, I do sincerely wish that we had met in person. This is very well written, funny, and it makes me think that you might be an interesting individual. Granted, I could be entirely wrong, but that's just the impression this piece of writing gives me.

Anonymous posted on

You're wrong

Anonymous posted on

Ha! Ha! That was funny and moving at the same time. I'm one of those friends who wants to make up for never keeping in touch with a big Happy Birthday, so I usually go around looking for something flashy to post on my friends' wall on their birthday. To me, simply posting, "Happy Birthday" is not enough. It has to be something flashy so that they know I care, so I usually post up a video of Topo Gigo singing Happy Birthday in Spanish. Who can resist a singing mouse?