Forget the custom airplane banner, the JumboTron at the game and the ring in a glass of bubbly -- that is so last decade. Today, the world got its first Groupon marriage proposal, or "Grouposal," as the popular deal-making site is calling it. A Cincinnati man by the name of Greg offered to marry his girlfriend, Dana, for the low price of $1. Well, marriage has historically been a financial transaction! But the text of his commercial offer adds a dash of traditional tenderness: "I have told you many times that I was the luckiest man ever," he writes. "I want the amazing times to continue by spending the rest of my life with you -- the sweetest, most beautiful, and smartest woman in the entire world."
This is just the latest in a string of high-tech marriage proposals. People have proposed via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Foursquare, Google Street View and iPhone apps (yes, there's an app for that). Of course, much to the jewelry industry's delight, most folks are still going the usual route and dropping to one knee (figuratively or otherwise) in real life, but techy proposals are becoming increasingly visible. At first it seems a shocking break in custom, perhaps a sign that our idea of romance is fundamentally changing. As one woman wrote incredulously in response to her beau's online proposal, "Facebook? Really!" (She also said "yes.") But our romantic culture has long been built around public displays of affection -- from the dramatic proposal to the flashy ring to the monumental ceremony. It's just that nowadays "public" means "online." In a sense, these virtual proposals are actually very traditional.
What isn't so traditional is that other people have become involved in the proposal process in a way that they weren't before. Sure, if you propose to your girlfriend in the middle of the ice skating rink -- as I witnessed one nervous feller do last winter -- complete strangers will become vicariously involved. It will cause hoots, hollers and tears (and, sadly, the inevitable fight between disparately committed lovers). These Webby proposals invite all sorts of uninhibited commentary, though. Not only does a YouTube proposal garner scores of comments from random viewers hiding behind handles, but it inspires yet more chatter when it's posted on Facebook and Twitter, and so on and so forth. You get remarks about the "hideous ring," wagers on whether the divorce will be tweeted and little gems like this one: "If you propose using technology, there's about an 80% chance the woman will cheat on you within the first year of marriage." Oh, people.
That's the thing about the public space of the Internet: The reach is infinitely larger (case in point: Hi, Greg and Dana!) and the response is unpredictable. The good news is that sometimes virtual bystanders can surprise you with their sweetness. So far, the "Grouposal" has been met with warm congratulations and plenty of unsolicited but well-meaning relationship advice. More important, though, Dana, a major Groupon fan (a Groupon-ie?), has officially clicked the "buy" button. Now the happy couple can walk the aisle on Second Life and livestream their honeymoon -- or whatever other new ways people are following tradition these days.