Do Roses Sent By An App Smell As Sweet?

It's easy to make it look like you care these days with gift, reminder, and relationship-saving apps. But the automation of romance may undermine the very thing we desire--connection.

There are services that promise to make you look thoughtful and caring, apps that send flowers and birthday cards, and tools that go far beyond just adding important dates to your calendar. While you may not remember every birthday or holiday, it’s possible to remove your faulty memory from the equation entirely.

But remembering those dates has long been a symbol that someone cares enough to make the effort. As Valentine’s Day is upon us, I cannot help but think--will outsourcing the work change our personal relationships?

Keep Her Happy, for example, is a tools that promises to take care of remembering important dates. You pay a regular subscription fee and the site will send your special someone flowers on her birthday, your anniversary, and on Valentine’s Day. One of the selling points in Keep Her Happy’s sales materials is that there’s no branding on the flowers that are delivered--it’s for the subscription purchaser to pass the flowers off as something he specifically remembered to order. (Sorry, Valentine's Day truants--Keep Her Happy is currently only available in Canada.)

The tone of Keep Her Happy’s marketing may rub some people the wrong way. That’s due, in part, to treating the flowers they send out as an obligation--something that a guy has to do to keep his significant other happy. But on the other hand, the value of an action like buying flowers for a loved one is showing that person that you have thought of her. At a minimum, Keep Her Happy has to offer options to make sure that the recipients of their flowers don’t know that they come from a subscription service or those bouquets aren’t as valuable.

If it’s the thought that counts, we may very well see companies like Keep Her Happy getting negative press from people who want their loved ones to really think of them.

There’s little question in my mind that having a computer handle the little bits of maintaining a relationship for you will change your relationships. On certain levels, it may make personal relationships a bit easier to handle. But this approach may prove detrimental over the long run. There’s almost a stereotype of the busy businessman who farms out the task of getting holiday gifts for his loved ones; in movies, that behavior is a code to clue viewers in that the executive is disconnected from his family on some level. That sense isn’t going to change just because a computer is ordering flowers, rather than a secretary.

There are probably many people--men and women both--who will sign up for services to help them appear to remember every last date in the calendar. There are already tools in Facebook and other social networks that have moved in that direction. But the most effective options may very well prove to be those that offer a simple reminder and let you make the choice on how to mark the occasion, at least for those you truly care for.

This Valentine’s Day, I urge you to not automate your relationships, but make that extra effort to make this occasion special for your precious Valentine.

Are relationship and reminder apps a blessing or a curse? Have you found one that's helped you get closer? Tell us about it in the comments.

--Ekaterina Walter is a Global Social Innovation Strategist at Intel. You can connect with Ekaterina on Twitter @Ekaterina or through her blog Building Social Bridges.

[Image: Flickr user Jason Janelle]

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