We’ve all heard it. We all say it. But, I think, few of us consider its constant misuse and overuse, and, more importantly, what it says about us when we use it.
The “it” here is the phrase “I love…”
There are readers who say, “I love a good mystery.” Some classical music lovers may have said, “I love opera. But I really love Puccini.” Pop music fanciers may state with adoration, “I love Beyoncé.” Or “I love love love Shawn Mendes.” Foodies probably have claimed favorite restaurants. “We love Chez Louis. We go there all the time.” And how many times have we heard someone say, “Oh, I love pizza.”
TV viewers might say they love “The Crown,” “60 Minutes,” or “Seinfeld.” Sports enthusiasts likely have said, “I love football,” or “I love the Yankees,” or “I love Serena Williams.”
Those certainly are valid ways to express admiration for favorites. But phrasing it that way makes the sentence about the speaker; the object “loved” becomes secondary. Isn’t the speaker trying to give the recipient of their adoration a five-star recommendation?
Besides, is “I love” what the speaker really wants to say? Love? Oh, I understand there are many forms of love, the love one has for a romantic partner is different than the love for a friend. The love for a pet is different than that for a parent or child. I also acknowledge one can have a love of God or a love for one’s country. But do people really mean “love” when they are talking about things?
English, apparently, doesn’t allow for or have words for the variations of love. Other languages do. In Spanish, one uses the verb “amarse” to love people and “encantar” to love objects or concepts that cannot reciprocate the feeling. That makes the love we feel for others special, different than that for our favorite pair of shoes or T-shirt.
I recently discovered an extreme source for the overuse of the phrase “I love.” It was on TV shows featuring couples shopping for a new home or inspecting their houses after a surprise makeover. Granted, program producers instruct individuals to verbalize thoughts to avoid “dead air” and to gush positivity. But I cringe when I hear effusive comments like “I love the front door.” Or “I love the tile in the entry.” And, really people, do you actually “love love love” the living room crown molding or bathroom faucets? By noting the “elegant molding” or “beautiful faucets” one would put the attention on the items, not the impulsive, exaggerated, sophomoric reactions.
Television, in general, is a primary breeding ground for the “I love” bug. TV hosts on programs like “Good Morning, America” and “The View” are regularly seen inching along a table promoting new products, “at fifty percent off for our viewers today.” “I love this beach bag,” one gushes. Another bubbles with gusto, “I love this eyelash curler.” “This is the best disinfectant spray ever. I love love love it,” exaggerates a third.
Competitors on reality shows like “Survivor” and “Big Brother” will claim to “love you all” to the other hopefuls as they are being “voted off the Island” or “evicted from the house,” even if they’ve only known each other a short time. Award winners tell the world they love “the entire cast and crew” or “the best team ever” as if we haven’t seen or read about the conflicts, tension, and disharmony on the set or in the locker room.
But the real issue, I think, isn’t that the phrase “I love” is overused. Rather, it is why people mindlessly use it. Perhaps it is connected to a bigger issue, the need to get attention.
I’m not sure when it began. Perhaps the 1980s. Teachers and coaches began rewarding and awarding children for minimal accomplishments in order to build self-esteem and confidence. It also was done to give the kids a sense of belonging and to feel equal to the more successful students or team members. Certainly, this was done with the best intent. However, awards, ribbons, and trophies no longer were given only for traditionally merited qualities, like Most Valuable or Improved Player, but for more mundane, often concocted, achievements, like “Cleanest Uniform,” “Best Penmanship,” “Perfect Attendance and Punctuality,” and “Best Attitude When Getting an ‘F’ or Losing a Game 37-2.” Everybody gets an award. Everybody is given a misdirected ego stroke.
Then came Facebook. The number of followers and “likes” one accumulated for a post became a method—the method—for users to measure popularity and success. The more you received, the cooler you were. These questionable measurements in turn impacted self-esteem, self-image, and confidence. Perhaps positively. Perhaps not. Other social media followed.
But nothing, I feel, says more about this growing condition, this need for attention and to be the center of it, than the advent of the selfie. Close-up photos of people with the Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, Mona Lisa, or New York City skyline as minor background filler became the norm. The photograph wasn’t taken to capture the beauty of the landmark, it seems, but rather to say, “See, I was there! I loved it.” It is, I think, a variation of the humble-brag.
Do I see an end to this self-centered madness? Have I come up with any suggestions to remedy it? No, not really. But I would like to say I love that you read this article. And I really love that you read it to its end. But more importantly, I love that the editor of El Ojo del Lago, which I love love love, chose to publish it.
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