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When is a birthday cake not a birthday cake?

Do you rely on Facebook to remember your friends' birthdays?

Emblematic incident for our age in the WebCom team recently.

Since most of us are Facebook friends, it had come to general notice that one of our number was celebrating his birthday a short while ago. Naturally, he was the recipient of the usual cascade of best wishes from his Facebook friends, though, as he was in one of his intense project moments, earphones on, hunched over a steaming keyboard, he had not yet, as lunchtime came round, registered the goodwill of the world at large towards him. He did however register the fact later when a delegation of smiling colleagues, bearing a homemade birthday cake, entered his office.

A look of puzzlement all round. But we saw it on Facebook…

His immediate and gratifying look of pleasure however swiftly gave way to one of some embarrassment as he clocked the fact that was not a simple social call, but birthday-related business. “Um, you know, it’s not actually my birthday,” he explained, “I was born in December…”

A look of puzzlement all round. But we saw it on Facebook…

Our friend and colleague is of course a true digital native, also one (I wonder whether this has a bearing on the case) who spent the early formative years of his life in the tender embrace of the German Democratic Republic. Suffice it to say that, like many others from his part of the world and others, his data-protection instincts had induced him to specify a Facebook birthday different from that recorded in his home municipality. Elementary, sensible, but we fell for it and took him a cake.

Miffed? Well, no. For this was a bona fide WebCom moment, a Facebook non-birthday cake. The tail of the virtual world wagging the real world dog. How appropriate. And the cake was excellent too.

Trouble is, they’ll all want Facebook non-birthdays now too.



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