MindBullets 20 Years


Enjoy the revenge of the digital cupids

Today, I reflected on a New York Times article I’d read back in February 2006. I looked back in my files and found the exact statement I was looking for:

“In pursuing love, electronic communication allows us to be more reckless, fake, distracted and isolated than ever before”.

Thank you Daniel Jones for that irritating bit of nostalgia.

Perhaps I’m just ageing, but it does seem that love is the one thing that has disappeared in the digital commercialization of the 14th of February.

Now, I receive email spams from everybody I don’t want to know, reminding me that this is the time of the year for “Love!”. There are new computer viruses masquerading as love-sick Romeos. Even those messages that are surely heart-felt look suspiciously like someone rushed them across the keyboard, in between the tick-tock business emails.

Where are the caring messages of love scribbled (in real handwriting) onto scented pieces of paper and slipped into someone’s pocket or purse?

What of the considered words of kindness spoken on the phone? Why have they turned into an abbreviated text message from some ten-digit number claiming to be ‘my love’?

Why is it that even the people who write to agony columns seem to be leading more interesting lives than me? I know I can’t aspire to the barnstorming ‘romantic’ lives of the gods of the silver screen, but this is ridiculous.

Whatever happened to the romantic love of yesteryear?

ANALYSIS >> SYNTHESIS: How this scenario came to be

1995: Cards dominate the day
Stores sell 20 million Valentine’s Day cards. Two thousand email messages are sent to celebrate Valentine’s Day on this auspicious day. Text messages are not yet available as a service on mobile phones.

2005: The internet muscles in
Stores sell 30 million cards and an estimated 40 million Valentine’s Day emails are sent. One billion text messages are sent via mobile phones in a single day.

2006: Sick of love?
Daniel Jones’ article is published in the New York Times on Sunday 12 February. Here are a few of the lessons that emerge from her experience in handling the agony column:

  • “Nearly everyone cyberstalks”.
  • “In pursuing love, electronic communication allows us to be more reckless, fake, distracted and isolated than ever before”.
  • “Online dating is found by many to be scary, fun, miraculous, hollow”.
  • “Whether from test tube, a surrogate, an agency, or a friend, a baby is still a baby”.
  • “Among the lovelorn and childless, many seem resigned that pets are better at forging successful relationships … than people”.

Read the full article “You’re not sick, you’re just in love” in the New York Times.

2010: Digital Cupid wins the day
Valentine’s Day cards are only for those few unconnected individuals (those who could have afforded the cards but can’t be bothered). One billion people are connected to the Internet and they send 300 million Valentine’s day messages. Two billion people have mobile phones and send three billion text messages on one day.

It is no longer considered cool by the under-35s to send anything but electronic messages. The Chinese set the trend for ‘love as a pragmatic act’ that might cause children (or in their case one child). They have never really believed in romantic love and this approach has caught on with two billion NBBs (the New Baby Boomers, the young 20-somethings who are now at the centre of the new economic revolution in China, India and Russia).

One million relationships are ended by text messages in February.

The numbers above are not necessarily verified to be accurate, but you get the point!

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

Despite appearances to the contrary, Futureworld cannot and does not predict the future. Our Mindbullets scenarios are fictitious and designed purely to explore possible futures, challenge and stimulate strategic thinking. Use these at your own risk. Any reference to actual people, entities or events is entirely allegorical. Copyright Futureworld International Limited. Reproduction or distribution permitted only with recognition of Copyright and the inclusion of this disclaimer.