A Short Meditation on the Social Obligations of Valentine’s Day
Valentine’s Day generates more than 25 billion dollars of revenue in North America alone. To give some context to that amount, both Twitter and Snapchat combined currently have a market value of only 23 billion. It’s a massive holiday for businesses, where corporations compete for the money of couples and, more recently, target and prey on the increased loneliness of single individuals. To that end, Valentine’s Day has morphed, from its traditional roots, into a Hallmark Holiday designed to commercialize and commoditize love.
However, underlying all that blatant consumerism is an innate social obligation, aptly demonstrated in the xkcd comic above. Even if we are aware that Valentine’s Day is a corporate construct, there is still immense social pressure to conform to the traditions and expectations of the holiday, which manifest themselves in different ways. Couples are expected to spend, often lavishly, on their significant other, and, in turn, expect to be spent on, or otherwise feel rebuffed or undervalued. Meanwhile, single individuals expect to feel, at best, indifferent, or at worst, miserable, on the days preceding and including Feb. 14th; they attempt to resolve that misery by either searching for a partner in desperation, or by secluding themselves from society.
Granted, this is not always true. In its purest form, I believe Valentines Day aims to celebrate love and romance, which it should be commended for. It can force us to take stock of our relationships and our personal emotions, and can positively affect us, if we choose to be open with ourselves, and in the case of couples, with our partners. However, the corporate act of commoditizing love has shifted the day from reflection and celebration, to expectation and obligation, where the value of relationships is now gauged on the amount of money spent, and the self worth of an individual is eroded, because they are not materially valued. And so, I encourage you all to take a step back, and reflect what you think your obligations and expectations are this holiday. I think you will find, deep down, regardless of however imperfect life may be, that you are loved.