Garfunkel and Oates’ “Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance” Perfectly Describes the Facebook Birthday Dilemma

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I’ll just go right out and say it: Facebook has made birthdays weird. Happily, though, I’m not the only one who feels this way; and even better, it’s comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates and their latest tune who are fighting in my corner. “Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance” perfectly captures the absurdity of the Facebook birthday conundrum, providing a hearty laugh at the same time. Bless you, Riki Lindhome and Kate Micucci. You are a national treasure.

Like many Garfunkel and Oates songs, this one calls out and mocks a supremely odd social standard (my introduction to them was “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” which is still one of my favorite things in the history of the Internet); “Happy Birthday to My Loose Acquaintance,” however, also points out exactly why this particular social standard is so bizarre. Although the tune is written from the point of view of the person doing the well-wishing, it encompasses both sides of the story: The “should I really wish you a happy birthday when I hardly know you?,” and the strange validation we feel when someone we pretty much never talk to does decide to wish us a happy birthday. On the one side, we can pat ourselves on the back for doing a good deed; on the other, we can feel smug about being “popular” enough to warrant some nice words. The key, of course, is the fact that the well-wishing happens in a place that’s visible to everyone, yet ultimately of little to no consequence.

Would any else be sort of interested in a study that looked at how certain situations affect whether or not Facebook birthday wishes occur? I mean, we’ve already spent boatloads of time looking at why people overshare, how they prefer to spread good and bad news, and whether Facebook can predict divorces; why not take a look at how birthdays play into the whole equation? Could be interesting, no?

Of course, I’m probably overthinking the whole thing; but even so, the song’s point still stands, and it’s hilarious, to boot. Have a lovely day, loose acquaintances!

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