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Don’t Let Consumerism Determine Your Valentine’s Day

I am not a fan of Valentines’ Day. Not only have countless disappointments led me to despise this “holiday,” but I’ve also witnessed how most of the love that is celebrated exists under a hypocritical shadow. Couples near and far splurge on gifts for their significant others, while maintaining an affair on the side; so-called friends celebrate with people they regularly gossip about; and large corporate businesses exploit love for profit. And as the years go by, I am even more convinced that this day is a hoax. Nevertheless, I do comprehend why hopeless romantics’ see February 14 as THE day of love. 

I cannot deny that there is a gleeful feel to the air on Valentine’s Day, and while many (and in my experience VERY MANY) take advantage of this day to fit into a social script, others cherish the day to wholeheartedly celebrate the people they love. Yet, in a society where Valentine’s Day is continually advertised for the sake of profit, I question if people celebrate because they truly want to, or because they feel the need to prove themselves to others. I can respect if you want to buy your partner some flowers and chocolates, or even that expensive jewelry they’ve had their eye on. However, before you dip into your savings to buy that gift, contemplate why you want to buy it in the first place. 

Gifts don’t fix relationships

Boy hiding flowers for girl
Pexels / vjapratama

Society is accustomed to the normalization of toxic relationships. We see it in movies and television shows all the time, and I think a lot of us have wished to find a love like those seen in Hollywood screenplays. But that’s all they are: scripts. In reality, verbal, mental, and physical abuse take tolls on relationships, and no amount of candy, flowers, or jewelry will magically fix a problem that requires honest communication and introspection. Gifts shouldn’t be used as band-aids for damaged relationships. And if you feel your relationship is on a precipice, reevaluate if spending money on a Valentine’s gift is even worth it. 

Wasteful consumerism

Hands counting dollar bills with woman using calculator in background
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Consumerism sometimes leads us to buy unnecessary things (you don’t need a banana slicer; use a knife). Sure, it has its advantages, like creating jobs and fulfilling basic needs, but it can also come at an expense to our happiness. We need to work to pay for what we want. And the more we want, the more we need to work. This leads to less time spent with family, friends, or doing the things we love. So, if the purpose of this day is to show our love to the people we care about, why is it so important to show it materialistically? Not only are we missing out on having genuine experiences with our loved ones, but we are also leaving a negative environmental impact when we buy gifts (like boxes of chocolates, flowers, or champagne) that will end up in the trash the very next day.

High expectations and comparisons

Gif of Charlie Brown saying he'll never get a valentine

Valentine’s Day also gets people’s hopes up; and when their expectations aren’t met, disappointment sits just around the corner. These expectations can be exacerbated with social media posts that praise expensive gifts and elaborate expressions of love. And when we start to compare how others celebrate, we might even feel dissatisfied with how we choose to celebrate. 

It’s important to remember that while some people enjoy Valentines’ Day and all that it entails, others see it as a corporate holiday and have no interest in participating in these festivities. This is why it’s important to communicate your expectations with your partner. While you may be a hopeless romantic waiting for an intricate surprise, they may not be interested or expecting anything on the 14th. 

High expectations can also be avoided when we understand that what our partners or friends can spend on gifts is not necessarily the same amount that that Instagram influencer spent on their loved ones. We should not allow consumerism and social media to dictate what to expect on Valentine’s Day. Again, it shouldn’t be about the material gains anyway.

I don’t think we should keep pretending that Valentine’s Day is not all about consumerism when $27.4 billion was spent on this Hallmark holiday back in 2019. However, people should spend the day as they please. And if you decide to celebrate it with those you love, assess if you’re doing it because you feel the need to fit the norm, or if you honestly and truly enjoy the holiday.

Andrea is currently majoring in Journalism with a minor in Public Relations and Advertising at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus. She’s an introverted empath who enjoys long drives while listening to good music. When it’s time to sit down and write, coffee and Led Zeppelin serve as her inspiration.
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