Virtual Love: St Valentine on the Web

The legend goes that in Imperial Rome, professional soldiers were prohibited from marrying. Nevertheless, a priest called Valentine wed the soldiers that guarded the borders in secret. Emperor Claudius II of Rome, seeing the refusal of those recently married to separate, decreed the prohibition of marriage under pain of death and sentenced Valentine to be whipped, stoned and beheaded. The sentence was carried out on 14 February, 270 AD.

Neither Claudius nor Valentine could have imagined that many years later, love, the sentiment that led them to confront each other to the death, would be celebrated in Valentine’s name and with Internet as an ally.

Giving presents

According to a study carried out by the National Retail Federation and eMarketer, it is predicted that this Valentine’s Day, $17 million will be spent in the United States alone.

Of this sum, 20% will be spent on buying presents online. The truth is that, believe it or not, it is men who spend more on Valentine’s Day, more than double the amount that women spend on their partners. The investigation also discovered that those who spend more time celebrating the day are those aged between 25 and 34, closely followed by teenagers. As people get older the amount of time spent celebrating the festivity decreases.

But, it seems that it isn’t necessary to buy things online for our present to be linked to web technology. Numerous greetings cards have been creatively designed so as not to forget the 2.0 world:

From the famous “Like” on Facebook to the declaration of love on the social network of the 140 characters, or the extreme attention lavished on our mobile phones these days, these are just some of the many ideas to link Valentine’s Day with the online world.

All these applications have become an important part of our lives and they can’t be forgotten during the St Valentine’s Day celebrations.

Valentine v Claudius II: The Virtual Battle

The truth is, if we are interested in finding out about the impact of St Valentine on the web, we have to take a look at the repercussions that those in love give it (or not) on the social networks. That’s why in 2011, Vipnet360 carried out a study on the impact that the day of love generates on the different platforms. Being in love is incredibly popular and we are engulfed by a wave of cupids, hearts, adverts and news all over the place. But the social networks, with their democratizing profile, allow us to see the two sides of the story.

According to the study, of the 246 pages dedicated to St Valentine on Facebook, 77 are against the celebrations. Are they just a minority? No. Taking into account the number of followers, we can see that there are approximately 135,000 sceptics as regards the festivity against 44,000 fans of Valentine’s Day. Among the principal motives, those who put themselves in the place of Emperor Claudius II state they are tired of the wave of advertising referring to Valentine’s Day, as is the case of the group called “Less St Valentine and more St Ballantines”. But, it seems there aren’t only people against the day on the biggest social network. Groups such as “I’m single and I still celebrate Valentine’s Day” come accompanied with tips for alternative plans for those who don’t have a valentine, and have attracted a great number of followers, which converts Valentine’s Day into the day of love above all things.

On Twitter, there’s no doubt about it: love wins. The Vipnet study affirms that during 2011, two tweets per minute were made during the days after St Valentine’s Day, generating five comments in favour for each one against the festivity. YouTube isn’t going to be left out, in the past year, 34 Valentine’s Day craft-making tutorials have been uploaded, which have been seen 382,000 times. The content is varied and the number of visits rises as the great day draws nearer.

For now, in the fight between Valentine and Claudius, it appears that love is still winning, in spite of the resistance of the sceptics. And now the patron saint of lovers has an ideal ally: the online sociability tools, that have become the fastest messenger of our time.