Thursday, May 07, 2009

Birthday, or Lonesome No More!

To all those Neo-Luddites out there who decry that our ever evolving and expanding web of mediated communications, while ostensibly appearing to give us a myriad of options to communicate with each other, is actually further alienating us from meaningful human interaction; I must disagree. Sure email has completely extinguished the intimate art of the personal handwritten letter (you can forget about cursive) for this generation and beyond. Texting continues its unrelenting assault on all standards of grammar and spelling. Social networking groups like Facebook have completely diluted the meaning of "friend" to the point of irrelevance. However, to the defense of the modern age, I must point out that there are still some advantages to be gleamed.

Today just happened to be my birthday and while I was too busy with finals to barely acknowledge it, I received a surprising handful of completely unsolicited automated birthday wishes from random Internet sites that I apparently gave my birthday to in the past. They included:
  • A birthday greeting and an Internet coupon for a free order of some dessert item called "chocolate dunkers" from the Pizza Hut website I signed up for once to get a discount a few years back.
  • A happy birthday message from the TravelPUNK Backpacker College Student Budget Travel Message Board that I signed up for two years ago when I was preparing for my trip to Costa Rica.
  • An e-birthday card from the OkCupid dating site that I signed up to take a random personality test back in high school and haven't returned since.
  • A happy birthday greeting and a coupon for a free eyeglass case (valued up to $9.95) from the Eyeglass Outlet, a local glasses place I went to update my prescription in February.
  • A friendly happy birthday greeting from the Facebook site and all the random salutations from friends of varying degrees.
So yeah, the new technology may be dehumanizing us all but come on that's at least five Internet equivalents of a surprise birthday greeting. Even if you're the most friendless, reclusive individual around, if you've been around the web enough times you'll probably get a message on your birthday like clockwork. In addition, you know where an automated birthday wish stands when you get it (absolutely no sincerity). You can never quite tell with real people if they're just going through the motions or are actually wishing you a legitimate happy birthday. In that situation I'd rather have the unambiguous insincerity of the machine than the ambiguity of the person.

I still don't like texting though.

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