Uninvited: How social media ruined my birthday
The marketer in me loves social media tools and their ability to find segments of consumers ripe for the picking, er, for "targeted product messaging". As a blogger, I use Twitter, Facebook and associated techniques to publicize the crap I write to those most likely to care or laugh (i.e. my friends and family). But all methods of technology-based communication and community-building building have repeatedly confounded me in a particular area: my personal life. Witness the social media induced debacle that was my birthday party.
There's a regrets RSVP option for a reason
First, I'm getting on in years and also pre-menstrual, so I have a tendency to be inappropriately cranky right now. I also need to get back into therapy and cease with authoring my recovery into pithy buts of humor. Nevertheless I'm pretty sure I should be annoyed that only 3 of my friends and family showed up to my birthday party on Monday. You should know that I share a birthday with one of my oldest and dearest friends, Tanya. Since we have many of the same friends and also want to celebrate with each other we sometimes throw a joint party. This year, I sent out our invitation utilizing the first line of defense in party planning - I sent an evite. As per usual, I was pithy and witty in the invitation text, as you can see:
We're pushing 40 but not too old to party on a school night! Come out to the rooftop bar at La Quinta Inn (we keep it classy) and buy us a few celebratory drinks - and a few for yourself - while we bask in the glow of the Empire State Building (kinda) and the neighboring water towers. Fancy digs it ain't, but your presence and the terrace-y atmosphere will create more than enough charm to last past sundown and into the night! Happy Hour drink specials run from 5:30PM - 8:00PM, so come early if you love us but you're thrifty with your ducats. And if you bring cute, single hetero boys for the traditional birthday smooch, both of us will be forever in your debt! Hope y'all can make it.
Cute, yes? If you know me or Tanya well, you'll take the message in the snarky yet earnest manner it was intended. I was feeling saucy, so I set up the invitation and mailed it to my guest list, then Tanya forwarded it to hers because she was in Alaska for a week and not so much with the planning. At any rate, I was situated at the bar at 5:45PM - the first to arrive - followed by 10-15 of Tanya's coworkers. Fortunately I know most of them, so I had something to do while waiting ANOTHER HOUR FOR MY FIRST GUEST TO ARRIVE!!!!! To those of you who contacted me directly about not coming: you're forgiven. If you said you were coming and didn't show (and you know who you are), you're dead to me for the moment but we may speak again someday if you buy me gifts and 'fess up to your mistake. But to the rest of you...there are not words to express my disappointment. Yes there are: you suck.
I thought I followed the accepted protocol: after the evite, I posted the party on Facebook. I also dispatched individual invitations to select Twitterati that actually know my real name and have met me in person. Still, radio silence coupled with collective no-show activity. Not to be a total asstard, I did get many a birthday wish on Facebook, and on Twitter, and I'm really glad to know that so many people remembered me yesterday. However I'm not exactly sure if it counts as remembrance when I create a hashtag for my birthday (#HappyBirthdayIGuess) and some social media application automatically tells everyone I know what day I was born. I did everything I could to portray myself as The Birthday Girl and, later, as Rejected and Not Drunk Enough. If I'd gone to happy hour right after work, and gotten liquored up at some sports bar, I could have partied with more people than bothered to show up for me last night. Not that I'm not grateful for what I have, I just thought I was going to get a little bit more.
Social networking: Neither social nor networking. Discuss.
In our rush to use digital means to manage our personal lives, we've gotten away from the whole in-person aspect to socializing. Yes, I get a certain kind of pleasure from gaining Twitter followers or from seeing the growth in my blog subscriptions. But it’s not the same as having actual contact and actual relationships with living people. Yes, behind (almost) every Twitter account is a real person, or at least there's a human behind the ‘bot or the Google Reader service that sifts through the ether to find relevant content. Still when life is just as easily lived behind a digital wall, and its sometimes preferable to send an e-mail than (gasp!) have a phone conversation, a request for a face-to-face meeting is a rarity even when that invitation is in the form of 1'a and 0's. So if I actually want to see you then you must mean more to me than the hundreds of people I type at every day. Remember that I work in marketing, so technically I have a one-way relationship with the entire population of New York City and Nassau and Westchester where my company advertises. Those public eyeballs don't mean that much to me, personally, but I'm pretty invested the flesh and blood peepers swirling in the lobes of my friends and family. Still, I got more feedback and attention from people who barely know me than from folks who have been varying parts of my life for years. No amount of RTs can erase the feeling that somehow I wasn't worth spending even a few moments with, or the time it would take to say "sorry, can't make it, have fun." Humph.
Just so you know, I'm never throwing another party for myself. Or if I do, it will involve engraved invitations and a paid assistant to dispatch with follow-up calls to the guest list. If you don't find out about that future soiree, consider it a non-vitation and keep it moving.