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Happy Birthday(s)! How many 'friends' fell for man's Facebook birth date prank?

Toby Talbot/Toby Talbot/AP

Happy Birthday to me, Happy Birthday to me…

Slate writer David Plotz found out who his real friends were after he created three Facebook birthdays – all of them fakes.

"I decided that if Facebook was going to bombard me with fake birthday wishes, I was going to bombard Facebook with fake birthdays," the journalist explained.

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A major hater of the FB birthday greeting – "The wishes have all the true sentiment of a Christmas card from your bank" – Mr. Plotz decided to cast a light on the impersonal setup.

Born on a wintry Jan. 31, he set his first fake Facebook birthday for July 11. After that came and went, he reset it for July 25, and again for July 28.

On his first fictional birthday, Mr. Plotz received 119 greetings, most of them the standard issue "Happy Birthday!!" The second counterfeit birthday yielded 105 wishes. Notably, 45 greetings came from people who had feted him just two weeks earlier.

Three days later, it was time for Mr. Plotz's third sham birthday: "My social network was clearly sick of me. I received only 71 birthday wishes," he lamented.

Like some social flypaper, the experiment ensnared the duds in his circle: 16 Face-friends sent Mr. Plotz greetings on all three days, including some guy named Ben S., who offered these sickening wishes:

"HBD DP! Hope this is your best new year evuh."

"HBD DP! Hope this is your best new year evuh."

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"HBD DP! Everybody down South is hopin' this is your best new year evuh."

Ultimately, Mr. Plotz hoped to expose Facebook's sacrifice of nostalgia for a few easy clicks: "Don't mistake my observation for derision. Mass electronic communication is destroying our memories, since we rely on devices to protect us from embarrassing ourselves."

Mr. Plotz accused Facebook users of sending out greetings to build "undeserved social capital." Jackie Cohen, an editor of, holds the same opinion.

"It fits into this bigger pattern within social media and blogging: 'I scratch your back, you scratch mine,' " Ms. Cohen told CNN.

"I wish you a happy birthday, and you're going to wish me a happy birthday. … the more 'happy birthday' wishes you have you on your wall, the more prestigious it is."

Many commenters on the Slate post confessed to pulling the prank themselves, albeit mostly on April Fool's Day. (Too obvious.)

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Others pointed out that publicly listing a birthday on Facebook is not mandatory; those obsessed with concealing their age will often opt out, as do folks concerned about identity theft.

Still others blasted Mr. Plotz for being a "pissy snob" who deserved to lose Face-friends for his Pavlovian experiment.

"I just feel like you should accept Facebook social niceties in the spirit with which they are given," wrote one sincere type. "Sure, most of these are people you haven't met. But, they are all people who took time out of their day(s) to send you a note."

And another: "We are long past the birthday party age, and it isn't something I pay attention to. However, when I get an electronic reminder, I do sincerely wish my 'real' friends a happy birthday. It's not a lack of caring, not a lack of sincerity, just allowing technology to handle a task it is better suited for than my mind is."

Do you send Facebook birthday greetings sincerely, or to get them yourself when the time comes? Do you relish a wall full of greetings or skip right over them?

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