100 roses, a box full of chocolates and hearts, classic love music, and perhaps even the big surprise of a diamond ring—who doesn’t sigh contently at this thought when it comes to Valentine’s? However, what would you feel when you receive a lovely bouquet of flowers and a gilded ballotin box of Godiva chocolates virtually, along with an e-card (or text with emojis) that has an embedded YouTube video of Whitney Houston’s I Will Always Love You? Not quite the same, huh?
Social media has changed the way people ‘celebrate’ Valentine’s Day—both happily and bitterly. Couples express a higher degree of flexibility (do it anytime on V-Day), convenience (no need to buy Hallmark cards in advance), instantaneity (you get to thank your other half the moment you get the text, despite the distance apart), and creativity (the options one has to send the message, i.e. Twitter, text, Instagram, etc.), as well as the ‘zero-cost’ factor (send as much love as you want using different sites because they are all free), whereas the single ladies and gents complain and cringe when scrolling through the endless love posts on their feed.
Social Media Manager Amy Johnson pointed out that while social media helps bridge the gap of time and distance, it tends to cast the opposite effect on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, when more people share romantic photos captioned with amorous words, quotes and hashtags like #4ever, #bemine and #vday. “You can look at all the flowers and chocolate posts on Facebook and it can really heighten the feeling of loneliness and jealousy,” she said. Of course, there also is the awkward situation of handling your past with your exes. Luckily, social media sites like Facebook and Twitter provide features to help users escape from that awkward situation (by unfollowing or muting someone’s account).
The feeling of annoyance and desperation is well understood and shared by many. News articles started publishing articles—i.e. “Here are 18 Romantic AF Movies & Shows to Stream on Valentine’s Day” and “The 5 Valentine’s Day Social Media Posts You Will Inevitably See”—to help prep people for the day (mainly to give either comfort or a good laugh).
Yet the impact of social media has on V-Day goes beyond that.
While those without a Valentine can simply turn away from social media, there are other ways to spend the special day. A survey done by SOASTA revealed that Snapchat, Facebook, and Twitter are becoming important tools for the singles: 79% of youths (under 18s) and 71% of adults in the US said that they would be wishing someone a happy Valentine’s Day.
When I opened my Facebook on Sunday, I was not surprised to find tons of love quotes and images posted on the News Feed. What was striking, though, is that most were shared by people who were dedicating them to their friends and families, rather than their other half. It was as if Galentine’s (Girls’ Valentine’s) was taking over Valentine’s—at least among my friends on Facebook. In this sense, has social media redefined traditional Valentine’s, and made it a more welcoming special holiday for everyone to celebrate? Or is it the case that there are still a good proportion of low-key, traditional couples, wishing each other Happy Valentine’s under a candlelight dinner that perhaps only they knew about and cherish?
While it is hard to claim what Valentine’s mean to everyone and what is the ‘better’ way to celebrate it, social media is certainly a key variable in shaping this holiday, sprinkling new flavors of bitter-sweetness.
Featured Image Courtesy of Flickr User Kris Olin
Image Courtesy of Vivien Li Screenshot
Image Courtesy of Flickr User Carol