In Social Networks…You’ve Got Birthday

by Marianne Richmond on November 22, 2006

OK, so my birthday was a few days ago and although that fact seems to have escaped the minds of my children (I think they must have also forgotten who the real Santa Claus is and how close my birthday is to Christmas) it did not go unnoticed in SocialNetwork World, a very friendly place where the meaning of friends is perhaps under revision. This one from Faces may have been my favorite…..

There were others in email: Hello Marianne Richmond,

We at PMB – Pimp My Blog would like to wish you a happy birthday today!

Others came from MySpace friends, in MySpace email and Comments….Some with offers for a free drink:

I also got an email from Plaxo, telling me that Frank Barnako was having a birthday the same day as mine. I am more than willing to wish Frank a happy birthday inasmuch as we have "met" via the blogosphere, just not sure why Plaxo was emailing me the birthday news.

Frank Barnako‘s birthday is tomorrow (Nov. 22)

 picture Birthday: November 22nd
Columnist, MarketWatch Inc.

I guess I thought that there were other reasons that social network sites asked for birthday information….I had no idea it was all about saying, "Happy Birthday."

This started me thinking about the evolution of "Happy Birthday" in a social network world. Although e-cards and email have more or less replaced paper birthday cards, this year, for the first time, I got text messaged "Happy Birthdays." Now if my kids were reading this blog post, which I can say for sure that they would rather be reading anything else, they would no doubt be rolling their eyes over the statement "first time….text messaged" and the thought bubble would be "Mom is sucha loser." But, if you need help texting happy birthday, try lingo2word.

So, what does it mean? Well, let’s look at some of the underlying concepts that drives all of this…..the foundation of Web 2.0 is sharing, collaboration, generosity and, well, isn’t that what friendship is all about? That and remembering birthdays and sending and receiving lots of Christmas cards (Ok, well I am a little preoccupied right now with the spirit of the Season and the annual Christmas card photo).

Web 2.0 is about business, but of course this is the personal web. We collaborate and share, use and produce. And we have lots more friends than we used to. We meet them in so many places and have so many identities that there is a new service available, FindMeOn, and a similar one, Profilactic in beta, that will help create a single social network identity to either simplify the process, keep us honest, or "cure multiple web personality disorder" depending upon how you look at it.

As an aside, I think they might be missing an important point, context; we have "multiple personalities" in real life, too. Tristan Louis expands upon this in a post about why social networks fail. And, as Stowe Boyd writes, "If social networks provide a value, it has to be contextual. An SNA cannot provide some sort of blanket support for all sorts of people doing all sorts of things."

We don’t necessarily want a single identity; we are on Dogster because of our dog owning identity while on LinkedIn that is mostly irrelevant. Fred Stutzman discusses this as part of his post on Why They Are Leaving MySpace.

And if you thought TV was dead, maybe it will live as the missing link to document life meeting art (or art meeting life). Mike Yamamoto notes that MySpace meets reality TV on ProjectMyWorld, as three young women embark on a journey to meet their virtual friends face-to-face. It’s on DirecTV and of course DirecTV’s majority owner is News Corp which also owns MySpace.com…which I think makes it art imitating life.

So, what DOES it mean? Well, for one thing, if you enter your birth year as "1906" on a social network site, be prepared to be wished a happy 100th birthday. On Flickr there are 341 photos tagged 100th and birthday. My photo is not there. My social network identities are not quite in alignment…. yet.

 From a marketing standpoint, I will note that I did not receive a happy birthday email from Vocal Point, the P&G mom’s network.

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