The Joys of a Birthday Morning on Facebook

When I booted my computer early on the morning of January 14th 2014, I went straight to my Facebook timeline. Sure enough, the birthday wishes had already begun to arrive. What a joy to be in touch with such a diverse group of people! I had long since lost touch with many of them before I started to use Facebook at the end of 2008. In a very real sense, the hundreds of people who are my Facebook friends give me the invaluable benefits of social support — the buzz phrase for having frequent contact with people you care about and who care about you. A number of studies have shown that this kind of interaction is one of the keys to health and happiness as we age, especially for those of us who are divorcées or widows and live alone after the nest is empty and the fledglings are far-flung.

In my case, although I definitely have friends and neighbors here in New York City, my Facebook friends are equally if not more important when it comes to keeping the emotional and physical ravages of loneliness at bay. A recent article in The New York Times Magazine by Mark Oppenheimer, entitled “Technology Is Not Driving Us Apart After All”, confirms my experience. The author reports that Rutgers researcher Keith Hampton found that “rather than isolating people, technology made them more connected.”

Consider this: The first person to wish me a happy birthday this year, albeit electronically, was Connie. She lived across the street from me when we were little girls. I haven’t seen her in person for decades but Facebook has rekindled our friendship and brought back memories of hopscotch, Double Dutch, jacks, trading cards, lemonade on summer afternoons, walking to school, chasing the ice cream truck, capturing fireflies, and staying out to play until the street lights came on. Because of Facebook, Connie and I have now shared images of our grown children and our grandchildren, cheered one another on during rough patches, and relished happy moments in each other’s lives.

The second person to post was a woman who was one of my ballet students from the time she was in pre-school. Now she’s a happily married young mother.  Then came a post from a high school friend, and one from a former boyfriend, and one from a longtime BFF who has retired overseas. I sipped my coffee, savored the messages, and set out to thank each poster separately. Yet as the day went on, so many posts appeared that I couldn’t keep up with them. I heard from people I had gone to camp with, journalists who had been colleagues of mine when I worked in print magazines, scores of my former ballet students and their parents, my daughter in Phoenix, and many more well-wishers spanning the years and the milestones of my life.

I waited until evening before I posted a joint thank you message for all of them. Then, as if to cap the celebration, I got yet another post from a childhood friend. Susan lived just a few doors down from me, on the same block as Connie.

I did have a “real life” birthday dinner with friends at a favorite neighborhood restaurant. Also, my son in Washington State (a Facebook holdout) and my daughter both called me. Yet my Facebook “birthday party” was a heartwarming testament to the power of technology to keep people connected in a way I could never have dreamed possible all those years ago when I was playing with Connie and Susan.Thank you, Facebook friends, for making my birthday truly happy.

Sondra Forsyth is Co-Editor-in-Chief of She is a National Magazine Award winner with scores of major magazine bylines and twelve books to her credit. Her most recent book is “Candida Cleanse: The 21-Day Diet to Beat Yeast and Feel Your Best”. Sondra was Executive Editor at “Ladies’ Home Journal,” Features Editor at “Cosmopolitan,” and Articles Editor at “Bride’s.” A former ballerina, she founded Ballet Ambassadors, an arts-in-education company in New York City, and served as Artistic Director for 16 years.

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