Valentine’s Day is coming up, meaning plenty of roses and kisses for all us single people to pretend we don’t notice.
But while a good old-fashioned box of See’s and an awkward first grope will be in the cards for many come Feb. 14, there exist some smaller, everyday means of showing affection — all made possible by the same computers and smartphones so often charged with robbing us of our ability to create new forms of intimacy.
Ignore the obvious ones like online dating or “liking” someone’s Facebook status — there are some a tad less blatant than that, and a little more personal. Revealing the person behind the online profile can be more intimate than any make-out session (do people actually use the term “make-out session,” or is that just something I read once in Seventeen?).
The modern-day Holy Trinity of Netflix, Gmail and smartphones is a good place to start.
More than movies
“It’s what you like, not what you are like, that counts,” writes prolific critic and novelist Nick Hornby in “High Fidelity.”
Bearing that in mind, there are few symbols of trust better than letting a significant other (be they platonic or romantic) use your Netflix account on his or her computer. It means you don’t care if they know you’re currently at an enthralling part in “Gossip Girl” and gave up on “Breaking Bad” midway through the second season. It means you wouldn’t mind seeing their own tastes reflected in whatever the Netflix robots recommend to you. It even comes down to something purely monetary, because it means you want them enjoying what you’re paying for.
Let’s face it: Friends and lovers can get by on chemistry and consideration for only so long. After the honeymoon phase has come and gone, if you aren’t Netflix-compatible, then it’s best to stop wasting your damn time.
Like email, only more annoying
Intimacy can also be built on Gchat, Gmail’s instant messaging service. Imagine yourself in an office or library, trying to finish an important essay. You check your email because you sent yourself some useful links, and all of a sudden a text box pops up at the bottom right corner of your screen.
“ugh, worst party ever last nite! are you busy? wanna get burritos???”
Whether or not you respond depends entirely on how much you like the person, or at least on how much you like burritos. Think about it — chances are, there are only a handful of friends you’d bother when they could ostensibly be replying to some crucial email, and whom you’d let do the same to you. Facebook is where people go to goof off and procrastinate, but talking to someone when they’re logged into email implies a higher comfort level.
Texting without the text
One of the most gratifying feelings of all is when you know you’re close enough with a friend or a more-than-friend that you can be nonsensical around the person. The pretense of logic is no longer needed, and you can relax into your subconscious. Emoticons are that feeling on a screen. Whether through texting or on the Internet, there’s no doubt that “:0” or “=P” aren’t the sort of things you just give out to any old creep. And if you do, shame on you, you emotional slut.
At the risk of getting into elitist territory, smartphones have the best emoticons. There are downloadable apps with hundreds of different intricate and ridiculous symbols you can send to people, turning many into Dadaists. What does a picture of Santa Claus next to a picture of a bomb mean? Probably nothing, except that you don’t mind someone else knowing what a freak you are.
And when you get down to it, isn’t that what Valentine’s Day is all about? What’s weirder than spontaneously turning into a lovesick fool because of what the calendar says? The joy of having loved ones isn’t in the exclusivity, but in the confirmation that you aren’t alone, no matter how strange. Anything that reminds us of that — technology included — is worth celebrating.