From Kiss Map to status updates: Love declarations go digital
MATC nursing student Tonya Cox, outside the downtown Madison campus, holds heart-shaped balloons given to her by a friend and talks on her cell phone on Valentine's Day, Monday, Feb. 14, 2011, in Madison, Wis.
Published Sunday, February 12, 2012 11:17AM EST
TORONTO - Carving initials and arrow-pierced hearts into tree trunks isn't the only way to telegraph your romance to the world: some smitten singles and couples are going digital with their declarations of affection.
From relationship status updates on Facebook to sending flirts on Twitter, it's simply not enough for some to trumpet romantic feelings privately to a significant other: they're inviting those within and outside of their online circles to share the love.
With the upcoming launch of the Canada Kiss Map on Valentine's Day, individuals fond of puckering up in public can reveal an even more personal side to their romantic lives -- albeit anonymously.
The Google-powered map will allow people to post a short backstory and pinpoint locations of where they've enjoyed memorable smooches.
Creator Chris Kay Fraser is also behind the Toronto Kiss Map, which launched last summer. She said she came up with the concept after sitting grumpily on a streetcar on a rainy day, and looked out the window to see a place where she had enjoyed a memorable kiss.
"I felt my whole day turn around," Fraser recalled in an interview. "It just was such a lovely moment to remember that. And I thought: 'I wish there was some way I could see the city through those stories and through those eyes."'
Fraser, 32, sees the map as a storytelling project and a way for people to share their romantic tales with others. But the creative writing coach said she's often found topics around love, connection and intimacy are the hardest for people to write about.
"I will often have groups almost turn against me when I bring classes to those topics, so I didn't know how (the map) would work. I didn't know whether it would get picked up in the way that I thought it might when I first put it out," said Fraser, founder of Firefly Creative Writing.
"But again, because the stories have to be under 500 characters and because it's anonymous it makes that space safe and people have responded to it in incredible ways."
The Toronto map features hundreds of entries by love-struck individuals recounting brief tales and locales of kisses around the city.
"Beautifully (and slightly awkwardly) magical. It took an hour of me babbling away before I finally worked up the courage to lean in and kiss her. Now -- a year later -- it's still magical (and not at all awkward)! xoxo" reads one post.
"You kissed me while we waited for the train to pass. It was the beginning of something wonderful," says another.
"I think that there's an innate kind of human desire that we all have to be seen and heard and witnessed in our lives," said Fraser."I think that the Kiss Map allows for that in a really small, specific targeted way that feels doable and that feels exciting and feels safe."
Fraser said there will be "a few extra bells and whistles" on the Canada-wide map, including tips to writing a great kiss story as well as a list of the last three kisses mapped.
While the concept of the Kiss Map may appeal to those seeking intel on romantic hot spots in their neighbourhoods, some sites are pushing the envelope even further with respect to intimate revelations.
Visitors to ijustmadelove.com can not only identify on a map where they've done the deed, but can also compare love stats with the rest of the world.
So what is driving the need among people to share such private details publicly on the web?
"We have the idea that we have that anonymity, that magic cloak of invisibility online, and it encourages us to share or overshare," Sidneyeve Matrix, media professor at Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., said in an interview.
With the popularity of Facebook, individuals are becoming more comfortable with the idea of virtual friendship or virtual intimacy, Matrix noted.
"We're sharing these details of our everyday life, and it's just becoming increasingly normalized."
What's more, Matrix said mobile dating and location-based apps to help individuals find potential partners is putting digital love right in the palms of users.
"It's just a different app every day for us to share virtual love notes together. And it just seems that we have such an intimate relationship to our cellphones and smartphones already that this is a natural extension of that."