My Virtual Valentine

Handwritten letters are the exception rather than the rule for modern romantics. But can an e-card or text satisfy your tweet-heart? Alice-Azania Jarvis on how to say 'i luv u'

So how was this morning for you? Did you rush downstairs and find the hallway overflowing with flowers?

The doormat scattered with love letters? Can you expect a delivery of chocolates and champagne at the office, perhaps accompanied by handwritten verse declaring the author's undying devotion?

Presumably, for some, the answer is yes. Valentines is big business in the UK. Today, an estimated £42.3m worth of greetings cards will exchange hands. Indeed, the combined value of the various bouquets, trinkets and foodstuffs sold in the run-up to the 14th is thought to be more that £1.3bn. And yet, things are a-changing. These days, say the experts, we're just as likely to express our affections through the medium of text message as we are to pop a note in the post. In fact, more so.

In 2009, the National Trust pronounced the death of the love letter when its survey of 2,558 people found that almost two-thirds had never put pen to paper to convey their love. Since then, the billet-doux has shown no sign of rallying. Only 9 per cent of those questioned this year had ever sent a love letter – and most of those were over the age of 50. Instead, text messages and emails have become the order of the day.

"The explosion of technology had totally changed the way we go about courtship," explains relationship psychologist Jo Hemmings. "There is a whole new range of options available that were inconceivable before." Services abound offering amorous couples the chance to demonstrate their affections digitally. At E-cards.co.uk, you can attach a photo of your head to a tumbling body and send your beau a film of your "falling for them". Using your iPhone, you can put your love into words, thanks to the handy Love Poem Generator. And for those planning to pop the question today, there's always the iPropose app to give you a hand.

It's tempting, of course, to brand technology the ruination of romance. You don't have to be John Keats to see that texting "I luv u" doesn't hold quite the same seductive quality as crafting a handwritten note. What, after all, is a smartphone-generated poem in comparison with the heart-stricken outpourings of prior generations? And when you're explaining to your grandchildren the story of your courtship, do you really want a mass-produced gizmo to hold a starring role? As Hemmings notes: "It's impersonal – there's not the sentimental value that you might have otherwise."

But hold on a sec. Before we get too caught up in a squall of nostalgia, let's examine a few facts. John Donne may have penned a rather fetching Valentine verse in 1613, but since then what have we had? Centuries of dross. Decades of roses-are-red-violets-are-blue. As anyone who has ever been on the receiving end of a self-composed bit of poetry can confirm, it isn't a skill that comes easily to many. Perhaps, rather than shunning the Love Poem Generator, we should be cheering its role in offering a lowest common denominator. Likewise those other Love 2.0 innovations: the iPickupLines and iFlirt apps. Anything – computer generated or otherwise – that encourages potential suitors to stray from the standard routine of come-here-often? / don't-I-know-you / hey-sexy can't really be a bad thing. Can it?

And that's before we even question how sacred an occasion Valentine's was anyway. Long before email, iPhones and online dating barged on to the scene, the 14th was being robbed of any romance by other forces. Even as the day's customs were evolving, in post-industrial Britain, the occasion was assuming all the trappings of a corporate profit fest. Our habit of sending anonymous cards is largely a function of the volume of so-called "mechanical valentines" being produced by Victorian printers. By the early 19th century "fancy valentines" – once a home-made symbol of affection – were being manufactured en masse. And as early as 1797, a publisher had issued The Young Man's Valentine Writer, complete with dozens of suggested verses to aid the tongue-tied lover. It was, in essence, the Love Poem Generator of its day.

Since then, Valentine's Day has only become less and less of an occasion. When everyone from Tesco to your local trattoria is trying to make a quick buck from your love life, celebrating that special someone can feel rather less, well, special. Adverts for the various Valentine products available – beauty products, mini-breaks, wine cases, even electricals and homewares – began popping up months ago. Was there ever a romantic occasion so lacking in spontaneity, so thoroughly unromantic in every way?

So this year, perhaps the most romantic thing you could do would be to refrain from tradition and embrace something new. Tired of greeting-card clichés and petrol-station bouquets, it may be time to start a new tradition. Send a text. Send an email. Hey, at least it's home-made.

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
News
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Fellows as John Shuttleworth
comedySean O'Grady joins Graham Fellows down his local Spar
News
people
News
Ross Burden pictured in 2002
people
News
Elisabeth Murdoch: The 44-year-old said she felt a responsibility to 'stand up and be counted’'
media... says Rupert Murdoch
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

    SAP BW BO

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

    Recruitment Resourcer

    £18000 - £22000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Recruitment Resour...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried