What I've learned from spending the last six Valentine's Days on Twitter.
On Valentine's Day in 2012, I had just published a blog post about eating a cake all by myself. I logged onto Twitter to promote it and saw a Tweet about an insane wait at Red Lobster — around two hours. I was intrigued. I opened a bottle of wine and started researching what people on dates were tweeting about. The results were weird, dark and entertaining enough that I’ve done (and refined) this ritual for the past six years.
Here's how to let food Twitter be your Valentine’s Day date.
1. See how long couples are waiting in line.
“Worth it,” the Red Lobster tweet had said. I didn’t believe them. I’d do a lot for endless shrimp — but not wait two hours. I Twitter-searched “Red Lobster wait worth it” then “one hour,” “two hours,” and — lord — one couple was actually waiting for three hours. I looked up other usual suburban suspects. Olive Garden and Cheesecake Factory had similar waits and complaints. Around the country, sweethearts were on restaurant sidewalks, in uncomfortable heels, starring at the square black buzzer, and tweeting that it was “worth it.”
My mouth rolled into a Grinch smile. I didn’t have a Valentine, but at least those who did were slowly starving to death in mall parking lots! It was a comforting, albeit deeply vindictive, fantasy.
2. Remember: You are very not alone.
I retweeted a few of the “2 hour wait” tweets, and other single folks started cackling along. I realized that the only people really scanning Twitter at 8 p.m. on Valentine’s Day were annoyed single folks. As couples were tweeting bright, let’s-just-have-a-good-time updates then sitting down to the Cheddar Bay Biscuits that their patience had earned, us uncoupled people were tweeting increasingly grim outlooks on life and love, paired with blurry pictures of takeout boxes and decimated Ben and Jerry’s containers. On Valentine’s Day, food Twitter is dark, uneven and upsetting. Yet I come back every year.
3. Search Twitter for a good laugh.
I use TweetDeck to watch Valentine’s Day food Twitter because it allows me to organize search terms into columns. I search the name of a chain restaurant or an addictive food. If enough people are Tweeting about it, I test different Valentine’s Day sentiments with it. Think: “mozzarella sticks lonely,” “Bloomin’ Onion true love,” “Ben and Jerry’s alone,” “Hot Pocket she’s the one,” “Cheddar Bay biscuits sex,” "Chicken in bed," "Applebees break up". Remember to search for misspelled versions and numerical values as well as the numbers typed out (“2 hrs wait” vs. “two hour wait”).
The more specific your combinations, the weirder it gets. “Texas Roadhouse” could be funny, but “Texas Roadhouse propose” is better and “Texas Roadhouse propose peanuts" is best. People have strong opinions about what kneeling into peanut dust communicates about commitment.
Adding “so I know it’s real” to a food name or “wait two hours” has been the most consistently funny combination every year. The good Tweets you find won’t all be from February 14, but Valentine’s Day stokes the best ones. And “pizza so I know it’s real” is entertaining every day of the year.
If doing this each year has taught me anything about love, it’s that every person secretly wants you to surprise them with pizza.
On Valentine's Day 2018, my tweet searches (so far) have offered glorious results.
"ass to Red Lobster”
"KFC she perfect"
"ben and jerry’s bed"
"pizza rolls crying"
"Tide pods so I know it’s real"
"Heart shaped pizza so I know it’s real"
Bacon romance isn’t dead
Valentine's Day pushes otherwise content single people to tweet at their rawest and most entertaining. And while I could turn my nose up at chain restaurants or bacon-wrapped hot dogs, these foods offer people a satisfying familiarity. All parties are seeking comfort, just through different mediums. It's everything all at once, and I can't look away. So, I encourage everyone to join me: Pull up your Twitter search bar and stare into the food-filled maw of Valentine’s Day Twitter.