Getting deep about dumb stuff
Why You Should Make Peace with People Who Forgot Your Birthday
Here’s what science says about a topic we’d rather leave to 12-year-olds
A friend’s birthday is January 1. At least, according to the Facebook notification I get every new year. And every new year, without fail, she laughs at those who don’t know that her birthday is actually February 17. She doesn’t care too much about her birthday.
Many, though, take their own birthday more seriously than they’d like to admit, so when you forget to wish your friends and lovers a happy birthday or anniversary, you’ll know about it one way or another. We’ve all been on the receiving end of a text saying, “Didn’t you forget anything today?”, a not-so-subtle subtweet, or a full-blown scene.
Disappointment, scorn, resentment, or some other negative feeling often coats how we show someone that they forgot an important day. Those who forget also beat themselves up for not remembering, because more often than not, they do care about the person celebrating. To stop this constant feedback loop of negative energy over an event meant for celebration, let’s take a look at the science behind forgetting.
Forgetting is a feature of memory, not a failure of it
We used to think that memories simply decay over time, but in the past decade, scientists have discovered that forgetting isn’t a failure of memory but a feature of it. Researchers like Dr. Ronald Davis and Dr. Akihiro Yamanaka realized that dopamine and M.C.H. neurons are responsible for the suppression of neurons in the hippocampus that contain memories the brain deems unnecessary to retain.
We could argue all day about the importance of birthdays altogether, but what we need to keep in mind is that someone’s date of birth on the Gregorian calendar is arbitrary. The date itself doesn’t obviously state: It is this person’s birthday. In short, the arbitrary nature of birthdays makes it very easy for your brain to forget about them.
Sure, you can overlearn any tidbit of information and commit it to memory, but new information can easily interfere with this process. Let’s take the case of…