The Social Pressure of Valentine’s Day

For as long as I can remember, I’ve heard countless people complaining about the over-commercialized, heteronormative, depressing nature of Valentine’s day. Shockingly, people don’t seem to enjoy having the romantic affairs of others shoved down their throats for an entire month leading up to February 14th. It’s pretty clear from a consumerist point of view that our society heavily glorifies romantic relationships, even just by looking down the aisles of grocery stores, but what effect does the dramatization of Valentine’s day actually have on the collective psyche of our modern society?

After the Christmas season is over and the winter starts to fade into spring, there’s an intense social pressure to be in love, and for those Americans that aren’t ready for Valentine’s Day, the holiday can be detrimental for mental health. The condition Broken Heart Syndrome is a temporary ailment that mimics the symptoms of a heart attack and sees rises in cases around Valentine’s day. According to an article in the International Business Times, a Missouri suicide hotline receives roughly 200 more calls on Valentine’s Day than any other day. 

This statistic is more than just a correlation, it’s a window into the extremist, objectifying, and overly romanticized culture that is perpetuated by Valentine’s Day tradition. For those that don’t find themselves in love on February 14th, the pressure to be in a relationship is overwhelming, and it can feel as though their entire identity is defined by their relationship status. Not only is this concept demeaning, but it’s a hugely irrational portrayal of what love actually is. With all of the cultural, social and corporate attention being paid to romantic relationships, the importance of platonic love is swept under the rug and the bond of friendship is looked at as lesser than that of a romantic partnership. Going out on a date with a group of friends is moved to a separate day and labeled “Galentine’s” or “Palentine’s” Day, despite the fact that there’s nothing innate that makes platonic love any less important than romantic love.

Not only is our cultural perception of platonic love corrupted during Valentine’s Day, but the idea of self-love is completely forgotten. All of the commercialization and promotion of romance during Valentine’s season posits the toxic idea that being alone on Valentine’s Day is forbidden and pathetic. This leads to intense insecurity and a tragic sense of loneliness that results in so many people experiencing February with a violent hatred of Valentine’s Day and all things romantic. 

With so much uproar about the hyper-commercialization of Valentine’s Day paired with dismal loneliness, the true meaning of love is lost, and that, I think, is the primary reason for all of the disgust that’s harbored towards Valentine’s Day. By insinuating that romantic love is the most important form of love, Valentine’s Day has initiated a toxic form of social stratification that puts couples at the top and everyone else underneath, left to wallow in their romantic squalor and attempt to deflect the pity from well-meaning fairytale pairs.