If you aren’t a crazy-in-love teenager, perhaps you don’t know about the latest trend for declaring undying devotion in a tangible – some would say unbreakable – way. In cities from New York to Paris, couples are demonstrating their everlasting love by affixing padlocks to public bridges. And since you aren’t a true trend until you have a Wikipedia page, it says the locks are called “love locks,” and that, according to the site, “typically the sweethearts’ names or initials are inscribed on the padlock, and its key is thrown away to symbolize unbreakable love.” The trend started as long as 15 years ago, but has gained momentum lately, thanks to millions of Instagram and Tumblr posts.
Sound romantic? Not to public officials, including the New York Department of Transportation, which has removed 5,600 locks from the Brooklyn Bridge in just the past few months. The locks’ weight has even required parts of the iconic bridge to be replaced.
These locks make an excellent example of the power of tangible recognition and rewards. Think about all those happy couples going to the hardware store, scratching on their initials, and heading over to the closest bridge to lock on this symbol of their together-forever-ness. These millenials, after all, are part of a totally digital generation, one that lives most of its life on the web and social media. So why don’t they just slap some emojis in a text, or write a “LUV YA!!” on their beloved’s Facebook page and leave it at that?
Because, when something really matters to a people, they turn to the tangible items, and they want an actual object to which they can point and say, “This represents something that’s important to me.” In the same way that a padlock has become a lasting symbol of love, the award you give them will be a tangible symbol of that achievement, one they can look to time and again.
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