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Valentine’s Day on the Internet in 2018 Looked Like Valentine’s Day at Your Elementary School Circa 1992

A valentine's day card from Law and Order: SVU.
Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo/Slate. Images by NBC and Thinkstock.

Roses are red,

Violets are blue,

Have you noticed these Valentine’s Day messages in your feed too?

It’s Feb. 14 on the internet, which means there’s been a steady uptick of Valentine’s Day content floating around social media. Some of it takes the form of mimicking those classroom valentines from elementary school, the ones that featured a cartoon character with a cute saying and preprinted “To” and “From” labels.

Some enterprising companies and brands, in a bid for some social media buzz, even take it upon themselves to build generators that will pump out this style of valentine for you—this year Netflix has one, based around its anime TV show Neo Yokio, at youdontdeservethis.com. The website Decider made some TGIF-themed cards of its own.

These images are meant to deliver a charming throwback to grade school, but they also provide an occasion to reconsider the kinds of Valentine’s Day cards that weren’t made of pixels, the ones found in drug store seasonal aisles the world over and sold to elementary school students just learning about the strange holiday customs of their culture. Each kid would get a pack of cards, maybe perforated sheets of 32 of them with four to six repeating images and pictures, of cats, or dogs, or Star Wars characters. Hmm, mass-produced words and pictures that allow the user to express his or her feelings through them. Were elementary school valentines the original memes? Just for today, I choo-choo-choose to believe that it is so.

A valentine's day card from Slate writer Heather Schwedel