Opinion: Valentine’s Day in the United States is Driven by Consumerism
Every Valentine’s day, Americans continue to create special ways to celebrate the holiday, whether it be with chocolates, flowers, or diamond rings. However, it seems that the actual act of love gets lost in the material gift-giving process. While Americans see Valentine’s day as a day of love with the act of giving gifts, business corporations view it as one of the most profitable days of the year.
Large corporations such as Hershey’s, American Greetings Corp., and Tiffany & Co. dedicate their overall substantial profits to Valentine’s Day. These companies target consumers by persuading them that the value of their endowment to their significant other directly correlates to the amount of love they have for that person. These business strategies allow them to exploit consumers in order to gain an audience for profit. These materialistic views on love, a simple yet complicated emotion, conceal the true meaning of Valentine’s Day.
Although consumers have the right to make their own purchasing choices, the intense persuasion by these corporations makes it difficult to reject their offers. A research study by The National Retail Federation in 2018 suggested that about 62% of couples feel obligated to make a Valentine purchase for their significant other. The primary reason for this feeling of obligation is usually done through advertising tactics, the study found. Along with advertising tactics, the ongoing culture of love during Valentine’s day revolves around making purchases creating money-oriented expectations for couples. Even some couples who are aware of these marketing strategies feel the need to make a purchase; a participant of an NRF study stated, “People get caught up in the drama, and I should not have to spend extra to show I care, and my girlfriend agrees. But we both still spent plenty!” This frustration is felt by thousands of consumers across the U.S. and demonstrates the significant effect that consumerism has had on a holiday meant to celebrate emotion and endearment.
Additionally, while these large companies gain customers and money, the standards for what love looks like is starting to cause conflicts in relationships. Many Valentine’s Day advertisements portray relationships that involve purchasing gifts from their company as the ideal display of affection for the ideal relationship. This can pressure many couples throughout America into letting these businesses profit off of their feelings in order to fit in with the glamorized “American couple” persona.
These aforementioned profits can add up to nearly $20 billion on average. Consumers in the U.S. are shown to spend an average of $175 (an increase from 2021 and many of the years before) for this one day to fulfill their attempts of showing love. This dependency is only benefiting corporations and strengthening the expectation of a perfect Valentine’s Day couple. As these desires for temporary gifts on Valentine’s Day start increasing, those in relationships can find themselves feeling underwhelmed by their partner as their partners may not fulfill them to the ideal standard or overwhelmed when it comes to bestowing a gift for their significant other.
Consumerism has established unneeded stress for many Americans, which may eventually lead to negative and depressive thoughts. 40% of Americans admitted to having depressive thoughts on this day mainly because of loneliness or even relationship problems they were facing. Due to the unrealistic standards, relationship issues can be generated and single Americans adapt to negative thoughts of loneliness when seeing themselves unable to not fit into these norms.
Single Americans may perceive the world around them as fitting into the norms of love created by this materialistic culture. Because they feel this type of love is unattainable, they are left feeling alone and undesirable. This justifies the overall increase in the rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and even suicide attempts during February and the springtime.
The original meaning behind Valentine’s Day was to be celebrated as a Christian feast day honoring Saint Valentine. This day was associated with love but not entirely with the romantic view of love that the holiday is closely connected with today. It was not until the late 1700s that corporations started making their way into Valentine’s Day by selling printed cards. Now, in the 21st century, the impact these corporations have on one singular day has rapidly increased and become the major force that carries it. Consumerism has altered the views of love for Valentine’s Day by benefiting corporations with profits while creating conflicts for people throughout America. The major question is: How expensive will the value for love get throughout the years from the effects of consumerism?