The recent barrage of birthday-related requests for donations is an inadvertent reflection of the weakness of social networks as a philanthropy tool.

“Hi I am turning 42 today, please donate to my favorite charity.”

I get a lot of those.

Let’s put aside, for the moment, the breathless claims that social networks are changing EVERYTHING. Here’s what’s happening…

We have been stampeded one way or another into building our social networks. Bigger is better. We take great pride in having hundreds of people following us on Twitter. We have hundreds – in some cases thousands — of Facebook friends we’ve never actually met.

So there’s a good chance when you twitter that you’ve run 2.56 miles, or missed spin class, or don’t like the blend of the day at Starbucks or are making peach cobbler, or are turning 42, I don’t really care and neither does the vast majority of your network.

And let’s look at that birthday request – it’s fundamentally wrong from a best practices fundraising standpoint – it’s your charity, your timing, your moment.

Kind of like direct mail prospecting.

If you’re a friend – a real friend – of course I care. Especially if you save me some cobbler. But for the most part, by artificially inflating our social networks, we’ve turned great tools for communing with people with whom we have authentic connections into something a little bit, well, Spammy.