Opinion | PSAs for Valentine’s Day: Instagram is not your friend today


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Opinion | PSAs for Valentine's Day: Instagram is not your friend today

Opinion | PSAs for Valentine’s Day: Instagram is not your friend today

đź’•

NASHVILLE — By now, no matter what time of day you’re reading this, your Facebook and Instagram feeds are likely full of conservatory flowers and lovely hand-dipped chocolates, as well as stories about the funny way two people met , how lucky they were to find everyone and how grateful they were to be able to travel the world together, especially on this loving day. Stories like this can be pretty sweet, but their cumulative effect is… not.

There are worse crimes than loving your partner and writing about it. How can it be heartbreaking to tell a clichĂ© love story again, or share a photo of a new lover’s Valentine’s Day rose? With public discourse so muddled these days, beset by anger and despair, it certainly doesn’t hurt to share a little joy.

The problem is, it makes a lot of people feel bad. They’re already lonely, and they’re wiping their noses in there on Valentine’s Day. Or they’re perfectly happy in their relationship, but everyone else’s relationship suddenly seems happier. sweeter. bidder. Filled with better chocolate.

It doesn’t matter that the fiction behind every Happily Ever After story is universally understood. The truest love stories still include tons of pointless misunderstandings and nights spent back-to-back on either side of the bed. Even if they don’t miraculously, there is still no lasting happiness, as musician Jason Isbell so hauntingly writes in his song “If We Were Vampires”:

it knows it can’t go on forever

Most likely one of us will have to spend a few days alone

Maybe we’ll be together for forty years

But one day I will leave

or one day you will leave

Death is not something we talk about on Valentine’s Day.

Of course, none of this is new. People are always hurt, people are always lonely, and Valentine’s Day always makes those feelings worse. When I was in high school, the students would raise money by selling colorful carnations on Valentine’s Day. Red carnations represent love, white represents friendship, and another color, maybe pink, represents someone who wants to be friends. To send flowers anonymously, you can pay an additional “insurance” fee. The popular kids walked around with a big bunch of carnations all day, a clear reminder of their social currency in a life where social currency is everything.

Now Facebook and Instagram – and probably TikTok, although I’d be damned if I would add another possibility to my time-wasting options, so I can’t say for sure that TikTok – has turned the entire 21st century into a School was over and the popular kids held up their bouquets again, shouting, “Smell it; aren’t they gods?”

There are many reasons to hate Meta, the parent company of Facebook and Instagram: its predatory business model, its role in spreading false election information and false vaccine information, it fuels political polarization, it sucks in details of our personal lives and Turning to them became commodities.

But much of the unhappiness caused by “social” media does not come from its toxic effects on society. It comes from its poisonous effect on us. Other people’s curated Facebook and Instagram posts aren’t any closer to real life than reality shows, and maybe we even know that, but it still makes us sad. “I don’t know how many people are really happy with who they are after 30 minutes on Instagram,” designer and podcaster Debbie Millman told Kara Swisher in an interview with Sway last week.

No wonder loneliness is an epidemic now, and 21st century loneliness is not like 20th century loneliness. Now, no matter how many hundreds or thousands of “friends” we have online, the situation is exacerbated. Valentine’s Day is all about love letters, jewelry, and dizzying pyjamas. All day long, candlelight, candy and flowers are stuck under our noses. Don’t they smell divine?

Romantic love is a beautiful thing, but it’s not the only way to feel connected, to feel seen, and to feel loved. It’s not even the most important way to feel these things. The greatest happiness comes from a community—a real community of real people. Whether or not that community has partners, it definitely does not come from an online platform that sows discord and sadness, an algorithm that only deepens human despair.

That’s what I write on Facebook this time of year, although I don’t do it anymore because the less time I spend on Facebook, the happier I am. But if I’m still posting Valentine’s Day greetings on a site full of public declarations of love, I’ll be writing to anyone who’s lonely, heartbroken, or grieving that love leaves this gorgeous temporary world too soon of people:

No matter what the world seems determined to tell us on this day, because love keeps so many people out, no one is alone. We, all of us, were made for each other.

You were made for me, I was made for you, and we are all for grieving widows, orphaned children, old men sleeping on sunny library chairs, and exhausted people just barely leaning their hips on the counter of baristas. Teenagers smoking secretly in parking lots, women in high heels refueling, cyclists pedaling their bicycles with their heads bowed to the roar of passing vehicles, bored cashiers and annoyed mothers whose children don’t want to wear shoes and fog— Linemen breathing in buckets high above the branches, just on the verge of breaking buds.

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