Valentine’s Day is one of the many celebrations slammed as a “Hallmark holiday” by those just not in the mood. It’s hard to believe there was a time, long, long ago, when people actually sent cards to each other, declaring their love.
Now, refusniks can thank social media for making heartfelt sentiment even harder to find amid the cinnamon hearts and rose petals. In a piece for CNN, Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University in Atlanta, says social media may even be changing the nature of love itself.
Sure, he may be pining for the pre-Hallmark days of Jane Austen and her achingly slow-paced plots:
“The medium of love -- the letter, the quiet walks, the rose, the kiss -- remained between you and your interest, and you didn't reproduce it for others. When you were apart, solitude hurt, but it made the time together all the more precious.”
Now, he says, not only is the “pain of separation” over, so is “the exclusivity of love,” in our rush to embrace a hyper-social world.
The urge to share waters down love itself, he seems to suggest.
“Genuine love is anti-social. If you write a love letter and leave it for her, but post it on Facebook, too, your feelings disperse. The sentiments in the letter spread too thinly, and if she sees them elsewhere she wonders, ‘Hey, I thought your love was meant for me.’ If she posts your letter on Facebook, you think the same thing. If both of you post the letter on Facebook, well, love itself wastes away, just as any noble, feeling-full statement does when it turns into an advertising jingle.”
Sure, he sounds like a literature professor, but he does open up a fair debate:
“Think of it this way: what great lover of the past, real or fictional -- Gatsby, Dante, Mark Antony, Penelope in Ithaca, Queen Victoria -- spotted the beloved for the first time and thought one second later, ‘I can't wait to tell all my friends’?”
When was the last time you wrote a love letter? Or held off sharing news of your love life?