I’ve had very little experience with love. But I have seen enough romantic comedies starring Ryan Gosling and have listened enough songs by Rex Orange County and Frank Ocean to at least know that Love is a complicated emotion. It’s not an emotion like happiness or anger, where most of the time, we know how and when to register these emotions. Love, on the other hand, is something that we’re still trying to figure out as young adults. But before I start trying to talk about something I am very unqualified to talk about, I’m going to take us back to a time when Love was nothing but a complete mess.
Middle school is an interesting time for love, and yes, in case you were wondering, I could hear everyone who’s reading this article groan as they start to recall their awkward middle school relationships. But here’s how I see it. In elementary school, girls and boys are constantly at war and trying to torture each other on playgrounds. But as soon as the sixth grade rolled around and Bruno Mars came out with “Just the way you are,” every 12-year-old guy was trying to find a girl to sing it to. And while every girl in middle school dreamed of serenade from Justin Bieber, the boy who had his haircut and wore too much Axe body spray in her Spanish class seemed to come in a close second.
When I was about to start middle school, my parents and I moved to Bangalore, India from Ann Arbor. Around the same time, my parents started to view themselves as the more “modern” and “cool” version of Asian parents. Therefore, when it came to girls, my mother made it explicitly known to me that girls who were “friends” were completely fine with her, but girlfriends were strictly off limits. And just like that, by allowing me to interact with people of the opposite gender, my mother had thought she had made some incredible progress to the Asian parenting model. Nevertheless, whenever my mother would see me hanging out with a girl from school, she continued to insist that I told her everything about her just so that she could go on Facebook a couple of hours later and continue her investigation.
Therefore, when I had finally gotten a Facebook account in order to “keep up with my friends from Ann Arbor,” it turned out to be a godsend for my middle school social life. Because whatever game I had lacked in class, I fully compensated for on Facebook messenger. As a somewhat shy and awkward kid in middle school, it was quite nerve-racking to talk to girls without some sort of third party judgement from my friends or my mother. Therefore, whatever I wanted to say to people of Facebook seemed to be limitless. In fact, whenever I go back and read those messages, I still blush a little bit at my attempts to flirt with girls in the most corny and tragic way possible. Therefore, it was an actual nightmare when one morning, my mother had conveniently found that I had forgot to log out of my Facebook account and decided to read every message I had. I came back from school that day and was forced to listen in horror as my mother analyzed every message I wrote and asked to me to explain what I meant by them.
To this day, I will never understand the motivation behind why of parents forbid middle school relationships. Like honestly, what’s the worst thing that could’ve happened? I don’t know a single person that looks back at their middle school relationships with anything but a grain of salt because of how cringe-worthy they were. Also, I will never understand my own mother’s motivation for trying to find as much information as possible about my peers through Facebook. You’re not going to learn anything about a girl in middle school by looking at her Facebook profile, beside the fact that she went to Disney World over the summer through her profile picture and maybe her Farmville score.
Despite this traumatic event, that wasn’t the last time I flirted with a girl on social media because social media has kept growing. A large number of our interactions with people are carried out through our phones. When I had gotten my first iPhone in high school, my limited use of social media started to grow as I joined other social media platforms such as Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter. At this point, I remember my mother feeling a little anxious because she just couldn’t keep up with all of these different mediums. Therefore, after a day of scouring the internet for information about these different apps, she aggressively started to preach against the use of social media. At the time, I would simply roll my eyes and came to the conclusion that my mother was insane.
But it wasn’t until I was in college that I really started to value interacting with people in person, and I started to realize that my mother’s frequent tirades against social media were for a good reason. There have been a countless number of recent studies that link social media with teenage anxiety and depression. People care too much about how many likes their Instagram photo gets or why their crush on Snapchat has left them on “opened” and the hourglass emoji has appeared (which signifies the end of a “streak”). All of these aspects of social media just add on an unnecessary amount of stress to one’s life.
But let’s unpack that. What does it mean when a person likes your photo on Instagram or Facebook? A “like” would probably be the equivalent of a person coming up to you in person and saying, “Hey, I like that photo you took,” or “Hey, you look really good in that photo,” and so on. But Instagram has replaced a meaningful human interaction with the simple and convenient tap of a finger on a screen. Snapchat isn’t any better. While one may argue that having a “streak” of 100 days shows dedication, it really doesn’t. Let’s be honest — out of the 100, 10 days might be actual substance and the rest are just Snapchats of your forehead, random out-of-context selfies or even better yet, Snapchats of the wall or the ceiling. One of my best friends has been Snapchatting a girl for almost a year now, went to high school with her and has a class with her now in college, but has still yet to have a single conversation with her in person.
And look, I can’t completely attack social media, because I do frequently scroll through my Facebook timeline and occasionally post photos on Instagram. And yes, there are good uses for it. I’ll probably be sharing this article on Facebook in order to get my friends to read it. However, what I do find disturbing is that our use of social media is giving us an excuse to not interact with each other in person and is trying to replace a very healthy social interaction.
So this Valentine’s Day, be bold and go take a risk. Go talk to that person that you’ve been crushing on from afar or have been Snapchatting for a year now. Don’t scroll through this person’s Instagram or enviously look at photos that your friends are posting with their significant others. If you’re watching a romantic comedy, don’t do it alone with a quart of ice cream. Instead, do it with friends and surround yourself with people who care about you. And last but not least, don’t be me from middle school and flirt with people on Facebook messenger. If anything, go out there and have these experiences first hand, in real time. I do realize that this does have the potential of going terribly wrong, but at least you’ll have a good story to tell at the end of it.