If you are in your twenties, verbose, and afflicted with subclinical OCD, chances are you've played Word Twist. You know Word Twist: the stubborn, brilliant little Facebook anagram game that guzzles your time and refuses to apologize for repeated use of the word "rhea." And if you've played Word Twist, chances are you've seen that banner ad, the one that says:
1 (ONE) OF YOUR FRIENDS HAS A SECRET CRUSH ON YOU. CLICK TO FIND OUT WHO.
O sneaky banner ad! O sly, sordid bit of internet business! To what sorry electronic rabbit hole does a click really take you, and how many people have fallen down it? I picture the banner ad as a will-o-the-wisp, luring fascinated followers into the fens.
The idea that someone you know has a crush on you! And furthermore, that it's secret! It's a warm, trembling, luminescent thought, just the kind of thing to traipse after into the swamp. We all crave notice, acceptance, and love, and what's more tempting than being informed you don't have to look for it anymore? Someone thinks you're the best thing since sliced bread and that person is IS UNDER YOUR VERY NOSE.
So it's a cynical enterprise. Yet, the more I goggle at the bobbing blue letters, the more I'm convinced that it's also an innocent enterprise, a fumbling forward from a place of profound naivete, where "crush" means hearts and flowers and fade to black.
What does "crush" really mean? Like "love," it's one of those words which looks unitary but fractures, upon closer inspection, into a million shiny pieces. Our emotions are fickle, feckless things: liking may flare into obsession, obsession may die back down to indifference, indifference may kindle into lust in the course of a year or a month or a day. Sustained, frustrated desire is rare, and is very seldom undiluted by anger. A person may want nothing from his crush, or only a little, or everything, or too much. Or maybe the crush will turn out to be vampiric, too pallid to bear exposure to the light of day.
And what if you did click through? What if the banner ad were magically genuine, revealing the name and face of a person who had whatever a "crush" is on you? What would you do with that information? Are you single, married, divorced, dating? Is your friend single, married, divorced, dating? Whoever the person was, your relationship would undergo reshuffling. You'd have to make a decision, to weigh the options, to speak up or shut up, kiss or duck or walk a fine line. The result could be good, bad, or indifferent -but in all cases it would be effortful.
Knowledge is power. Power is responsibility. Responsibility is a pain in the butt.