birthday blues

Social media has negatively changed the meaning of birthdays

As a kid it felt like my birthday was the best day of the year. It was heaven, a day all about me where I got presents and cake. I was adored and spoiled, and I would count the days until I was another year older. However, as I got older it became a day that just happened. On the actual day itself I’d feel stressed out and sad. This sadness was a byproduct of many things. For one I had moved and didn’t know as many people to celebrate my birthday with, but as I made friends this general sadness around my birthday remained.

What I experienced is coined as “birthday blues”: a phenomenon where people feel a general sadness on or approaching their birthday. Birthday blues can happen for a multitude of reasons: feeling like you’re losing another year of your life or childhood, having tough childhood memories attached to the day, not being where you wanted to be in life, birthdays feeling less important the older you get or having high expectations for what your birthday might be. However, as I’ve aged in my experience the most stressful part of my birthday has become social media. From stories to posts, social media has transformed how birthdays are celebrated.

What once felt like a nice display of friendship on Instagram or Snapchat now feels obligatory. I worry that I will forget to reciprocate when their birthday comes up or even if I do if I will have photos to post of them for their birthday. Birthday parties have become performative as well, with dressed up photos and pretty cakes. Now not only do people who barely know you have to show their support but you must also have a perfect party. Birthdays have not just become a milestone but an event to be showcased. This brings an almost performative aspect into celebrating your birthday because you know others will be viewing it and you. Though the idea of these posts and stories is genuine and sweet, it has evolved into a social pressure that has made me, as well as many others, dread an already hectic day. While I concede that many other people enjoy their birthday and that it is an event that should be celebrated, for myself and others it can be stressful.

Fortunately, Snapchat has a setting that can hide your birthday and won’t signify others to congratulate you. For those who prefer to enjoy their birthday less or prefer to celebrate privately, this is a good option. While it’s nice to be celebrated, I as well as many just don’t prefer to be on their birthday and this allows us not to.