Can't take credit for the following but loved...liked it a lot. With teenagers around the house I have often wondered how to voice this when I know that they believe their feelings are real in the moment.
In the "Good Ol' Days", the greatest thing you could say to someone was "I love you". When in middle school and high school, it was an elusive phrase. Typically, a boy and girl would have to "go out" for several months...then one day one of the lovebirds would whisper "I love you" to the other one. The biggest nightmare would be if the other person in the relationship did not say "I love you" back! As a result, couples would be in love for quite a while without verbalizing their feelings.
A trend developed a few years ago, and people started using the phrase "I love you" more. I think in the beginning it was started for good reasons (like to spread more love and happy feelings among people, maybe to help people get along). However, some people took the trend and ran with it -- saying "I love you" to everyone they know...and even random people they didn't know. Have you ever been around a group of young people lately and heard one of them yell "I love you, Nicole!" What really would be more appropriate is to say "I like you, Nicole!"
What happened when people began saying "I love you" more was not more love between people...instead, the phrase lost its meaning. Not only did the phrase lose its meaning, the phrase started to become annoying. When you hear a young person yell "I love you, Nicole!" do you say to yourself "That's awesome, these kids really love each other" -- no, you think to yourself "Wow, that's really annoying." Even more annoying is the hand gesture popularized by actors and music artists where the person forms their hands into the shape of a heart. When will this end? Can we ever get the meaning back?
Are we experiencing an "I Love You" backlash? We are using the phrase more now than at any other time in our history, yet there is less love between people than any time in recent memory. Educators report an increase in bullying, assaults, formation of cliques, name-calling, rumor-spreading, cyber-bullying, and general nastiness among students. I thought saying "I love you" was supposed to help us all get along! It may have had the opposite effect because there are now fewer ways to express our love towards one another.
The ramifications of this "I love you" phenomenon are grim for our young people. In the olden days, girls would withhold saying the phrase until they were really "in love" with a boy. The relationship grew very slowly -- starting with friendship, then growing into a loving partnership. The evolution of the relationship into a "physical" one was slow, and rarely took place without the prerequisite "I love you" that was difficult to obtain.
In the 21st Century, no one cares about obtaining an "I love you" from their girlfriend because the phrase is meaningless. In fact, most youngsters would rather have a "friends with benefits" arrangement. How sad. The level of respect between the sexes is at an all-time low, and it doesn't figure to rise anytime soon.
This is the part of the article where I give you advice about how to "fix" the problem you are facing. Unfortunately, I do not have any answers to help you with the "I Love You" phenomenon. In fact, many people believe that the overuse of the phrase isn't a problem at all. My only advice is to have students discuss how silly it is to use "I love you" indiscriminately, and possible consequences for this behavior.