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Your Facebook Friends Couldn't Care Less About Your Real Birthday

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Facebook birthday wishes are merely a perfunctory affair. If users happen to catch the notification in the right-hand margin, they just click on the name, write "Happy Birthday!!" on the the user's Wall, and move on. In the end, the recipient tallies up the number of messages, adjusts his self-worth to the appropriate numerical level, and tries to ignore the fact that the majority of well-wishes were given as little thought or regard as possible.

And to think: With a quick date change, this could've taken place on any day of the year.

Slate editor David Plotz proved this social disregard throughout July where he "celebrated" three phony birthdays. Proving that even some of your closest friends are still a little fuzzy on the actual anniversary of your birth, he collected three separate sessions of birthday wishes -- many from the same people!

Out of Plotz's 1,557 friends, 119 wished him a happy birthday on his first fake birthday. Only four of his close friends were skeptical, and one, Plotz writes, sensed something was amiss: "Is this some Slate experiment about the Pavlovian response of people to Facebook birthday notifications?" he posted.

Two weeks later, Plotz celebrated his second fake birthday and 105 people gave him the same ol' birthday wishes. Further proving his point, 45 of those 105 had wished him a happy birthday just two weeks prior. One friend, however, caught on and wrote, "It must be pretty nice having multiple birthdays each year, let alone in the same month!"

It was only three days later that his third birthday occurred, and yet 71 people wished him well in his new year. This time, 30 people were repeaters from a previous fake birthday, and 16 went three for three. One friend barely made an attempt to vary up his wishes. Plotz writes:

On July 11, he wrote: "Wishing you a very happy birthday David & a wonderful year!"
On July 25, he upped it: "Wishing you a very happy birthday David & your best year ever!"
On July 28, the superlative was gone: "Wishing you a very happy birthday David & a terrific year!"

The enthusiasm is only slightly undercut by the mindless repetition.

So, feeling down? Self-esteem hitting rock bottom? Need a quick pick-me-up? Switch your birthday to tomorrow and let the empty gestures wash over you like lukewarm bathwater.

And just wait. Once Google+ starts sending out birthday notices, the hollow acknowledgements increase twofold!

(See also: Newt Gingrich Accused of Buying Twitter Fans and Facebook Enacts Most Senseless Censorship Yet)

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