At New York Magazine, Chloe Angyal has a piece about Facebook photos of engagement rings. She doesn’t like them, but I don’t think she goes far enough in her disdain for the whole thing:
I’m almost four years out of college, and around me, the dominoes are starting to fall. Of course, they aren’t all going to get engaged, and certainly not all at once. But it can feel that way thanks to Facebook’s relationship updates, and to an in-your-face trend those updates enable: the stand-alone engagement ring photo op. Because, as daunting as seeing my acquaintances getting hitched left and right can be (this adulthood thing is not really going away!), I’m thrilled, delighted, tickled pink, and other adjectives, for all of them. But the subset for whom I’m slightly less tickled are those who insist on posting pictures of their newly bedazzled left hands — just the hands — on Facebook to announce the changes in their relationship statuses. Call it the context-free diamond; even if the stones are ethically sourced, the status update is irksome.
It’s funny that she cites a third-world problem in this piece about a first-world problem.
A picture and Facebook – and doubly so for a Facebook picture – is about jamming as many “words” as possible into one image. The problem is that the ring has become so symbolic of the engagement in the first place that all pixels have gravitated to the small area of the body which is now known as the ring finger. Like a book jacket or an abstract or the Facebook profile pic or a cover letter to a resume, that image tells you all you need to know about the piece of information that, according to Angyal, deserves delight. But if you want to avoid this symbolism, you should get rid of the entire concept of the engagement ring, or rail against the pressure men face in purchasing them. But Angyal is a feminist so she doesn’t think along those lines. She’s forever looking for ways in which women are made to feel bad, and in this case the in-your-face bling causes her Sunday morning nausea:
Of course, the engagement ring is symbolic of more than just wealth. Once, it was virginity insurance; now, most couples would say, it’s a mark of commitment and a metaphor for the happy brilliance of love. Symbols are powerful things; the average American couple spends $5200 on the bride’s engagement ring, and then another $1126 for her wedding band. On one (expensively adorned) hand, that’s an investment you might want to flaunt. On the other hand, it’s probably plenty potent even without its own Facebook photo album.
And by “the average American couple” she means the “average American man” because it’s not like women are buying engagement rings for themselves or for their husbands-to-be. The outfit sourced by Angyal also indicated that “couples” are purchasing these rings and also shows us that the so-called End of Men – or, precisely, the relative economic rise of women – has not really hindered the engagement ring biz:
Other data reveals that just 14 percent of grooms claimed to have scaled down the size and cost of engagement rings purchased due to the economy, while 1 in 4 grooms spent more than he originally budgeted. Buyers are, however, still spending less than they did a few years ago; today, couples are spending just under $5,200 on the ring, compared with $5,800 for engaged couples in 2008.