Five Facebook Birthday Etiquette Rules to Avoid Embarrassment

I forgot the birthday of one of my closest friends on Monday. I'll admit it. But do you know why? Because he does not have his birthday loaded in Facebook and, as a result, Facebook didn't remind me. Now, I have known him for almost 20 years and I've known that his birthday was June 3 for God knows how long. It is made easier by the fact that his wife's birthday is June 1 and her birthday reminder showed up on Facebook. Yet I still didn't remember. I used to store these things in calendars on my computer or in, God help poor old me, a Day Timer. Now I rely -- perhaps too much -- on Facebook.

Such is life in the era of social networking. With Facebook taking care of our birthday reminders for us, it allows us to wish happy birthday to people we barely know or to forget the birthdays of friends we know extremely well if they decide not to list it on their profile.

But what is the etiquette, the protocol if you will, for wishing someone a happy birthday when you don't know him or her that well or for leaving a belated note after the fact? Here are some rules.

How well do you know the person?

The guideline is pretty simple. Anyone you consider a friend, know in real life (IRL) as an acquaintance, an Internet friend you interact with routinely on Facebook, Twitter or other social networks, someone you work with, a person you are interested in romantically, family members and business associates are all on the list of people you need to wish a happy birthday. The line can get blurry with people you only know online, but...

Did he/she wish you a happy birthday?

If you get birthday wishes from people you don't know that well, do the right thing and reciprocate.

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