To Post Or Not To Post: What’s The Correct Online Etiquette When It Comes To Birthdays?

The Royal Family came under fire when they posted to celebrate Prince Andrew's birthday yesterday.

Woman on phone

by Georgia Aspinall |
Updated on

Last night, the Royal Family came under fire when they posted on Twitter to wish Prince Andrew happy birthday. The royal, who stepped back from royal duties in November last year following the Jeffrey Epstein sex trafficking scandal, turned 60 yesterday.

‘I am not a PR expert (clearly neither is Prince Andrew) but I‘m pretty sure I wouldn’t have bothered tweeting this today,’ one social media user commented. While another, journalist Otegha K. Uwagba, added ‘whispers read the room’ and received near 5,000 likes.

The Royal Family choosing to tweet made headlines, but no doubt choosing NOT to would have had the same effect. Because, in the current age of social media, there is a lot of weight in wishing someone happy birthday online. Admittedly, this circumstance is a lot more nuanced than when the rest of us feel obliged to do it for our friends – but it does make you think: why does it say so much when we DON'T wish someone happy birthday online?

I experienced it myself this year when I resolved, after years of 10-page stories rehashing the same exact same memories I share each birthday, that I would stop doing the happy birthday post.

Why? Well, first of all, because all of your followers likely hate it. Nobody wants to see the private jokes you share with that one school friend that’s just turned 29, or the selfies where you both had terrible fringes, or the video of you both lip-syncing that only you find funny. You see it for yourself when you go through your own story and the viewers go down and down with each page.

Now, I have to admit – I don’t really care what my followers want to see, no offence guys. Frankly, I watch my story archives more than anyone looks at my entire profile – who doesn’t?! – so I post more in creation of a personal picture book than for my followers. But the fact no one actually likes seeing other people’s birthday wishes – and your own, just FYI – has to be taken into account here.

Because it sends a message about you, what kind of birthday poster you are. If you never post, are you a bad friend? Will said birthday person take offence? If you over-post, are you the desperate friend – too keen and shouting to the world, ‘Guys, I know I post pictures watching Netflix every night but I do actually have friends!?' If you post more for one friend than another, are you going to cause an issue in the WhatsApp group?

The birthday post forces you to qualify your friendships into the postable and non-postable

That’s the most poignant reason that I pledged to stop posting: the politics of it all. The birthday post forces you to qualify your friendships into the postable and non-postable. Do I wish happy birthday to that one person I actually can’t stand but is in the group because she’s someone’s best-mate from university? How about the childhood best friend that you only see at Christmas? Where, on the spectrum of best friend to acquaintance, do the birthday wishes stop?

It used to come naturally, but as our friendships evolve and change, as our colleagues become closer to us than the people we went to school with, the birthday post seems to become increasingly complicated with age. Plus the fact that there are only a finite number of acceptable pictures you can post – many of which you’ve probably used in the age of collage-birthdays, when you would literally spend an entire day piecing together selfies to post onsomeone’s wall on Facebook.

There is a lot more to the birthday post than it seems. As is typical with social media’s impact, everything is more complicated when you involve posting for public consumption – the performative nature of it has changed the birthday post from an innocent celebration to a complex commentary on modern friendships.

But you’ll notice my use of past tense when I say I planned to stop posting. Because, despite all the reasons NOT to, I still do. Why? Well, everyone did it for me on my birthday. And so the cycle continues...

Read More:

A Woman Accusing Jeffrey Epstein Of Abuse Has Urged Prince Andrew To 'Come Clean'

Prince Andrew Has Given A 'No Holds Barred' Interview About The Epstein Allegations

What's With All The Uber-Public Birthday Greetings On Social Media?

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