Love in the Age of Social Media

It used to be that Valentine’s Day required a bit of planning. You had to pick – and mail – the card in advance, shop for the chocolates, arrange for the florist to send the roses.

But how we handle Valentine’s Day is changing in the age of the social network. Even the candy hearts have changed – and now include such messages and “text me” and “tweet me.”

While Valentine’s Day is the second largest seller for Hallmark Cards – 144 million cards – the giant greeting card seller is suffering. A Los Angles Times report quotes Kathleen Ripley, industry analyst at IBISWorld Inc., as saying, “The industry’s been really, really suffering from social media and email and the whole ability of their customers to connect with people they typically connect with by sending greeting cards.”

Our old standby, the US postal service, no longer enjoys the rush of Valentine’s Cards it used to have. The USPS suffered a $3.3 billion net loss during October, November, and December of 2011, according to a report, and while holidays do increase postal traffic, no one ever expects it to ever again reach the levels of just a few years ago. The report interviewed college students at Michigan State University to get a read on how the approach to the holiday was changing:

During the Valentine’s Day rush and other holiday seasons, many MSU students don’t send cards or packages through the USPS system, media information sophomore Juliette Fennell said.  “That sucks, because that’s how it all started,” Fennell said. “There wouldn’t be email without mail.”

But in the age of the social network? The following video shows how social media can “save” a relationship:

Note how the guy in the video heads over to an online dating site to find his next relationship. According to a study jointly authored by researchers at the University of Rochester, Northwestern University, Texas A&M University, University of California at Los Angeles and Illinois State University, which PC World reports will be published in the February edition of the Psychological Science in the Public Interest journal, any stigma that was once attached to online dating has mostly disappeared:

By 2005, 37 percent of American single adults had dated someone they connected with online. And by 2009, 22 percent of heterosexual couples and 61 percent of same-sex couples found their partners through the Web.

It’s clear why the guy in the video would enjoy “the convenience — and fun — of being able to peruse a list of potential mates, scanning dozens in a few minutes. But this approach has a number of limitations, researchers warn. People become conditioned to a shopping mentality, where they can just pick the desired features from a list.”  In addition, the researchers point out that the most popular dating sites – such as eHarmony – make claims to scientific matching instruments which can’t be substantiated.

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