Instead of going on about what society says and how I think it is all ridiculous, I'll just say exactly what I think and let you make your own decision. I do not treat love as a spectrum. Many maintain there is a difference between (l)ove (loving family, friends, your job) and (L)ove (your significant other). I do not treat these two spellings any different, except to prevent an uncomfortable conversation. I want you to picture me going up to you and saying "I love you...". If you are a family member, you will probably react as normal, as in loving someone in my family isn't against the norm. If you were my girlfriend, you would probably react more positively, my love meaning something more to you than what you would consider my love for others. If you were a male friend, and you were not weirded out, you would "know" that I meant in a totally "platonic" way. If you were a female friend you would probably become defensive and wonder I was professing my love to you.
But with these separate types of people I love, do I love them any differently? The answer is a resounding: No! Love is a degree of invested caring, of which there is often a sort of co-dependence. Now you may be outraged that I love my friends and family the exact amount that I do my significant other (especially if you are her, haha). However I assure you, there is something more powerful at work here, which I will explain later.
When I think about loving someone or something, I think about the sacrifices I would make for that person or perhaps to be able to do something I love. I think about the way that person or thing makes me feel fulfilled, and gives me something to live for. I wonder what I would do without, and how depressing that would be. Love does not have to be two-sided either. Obviously my job isn't going to love me back. And I don't see why I can't have the capacity to love someone even if they don't love me back.
Now for the most controversial part of all this: significant others. I feel that we have taken the meaning of "love" and "commitment" and lumped it all together. Instead of coming up with a new word we just recycled the concept back into the word "love". Now this makes things very confusing so for some reason we signed off on the idea of "(L)ove" being this dual meaning, as in something more important than just regular "(l)ove". This works fine on literal paper, but talking about love has now become this tricky, somewhat taboo, concept. Maybe I'm insane or maybe I'm a revolutionary, I'm not the one to say. I just treat love for what it is, that raw emotion and that drive to do great things, untainted by attached meaning and between-the-lines. Quite frankly, if I talk to you on a regular basis, I probably love you, not matter male or female or status. However the way society is set up I cannot properly express those emotions.
So now there is only one loose end: that feeling you get when you fall in love. The butterflies, the giggling, the smile that never ends. That, dear reader, is romantic attraction. Love is of course a subset of that, Wikipedia uses the word "affection" to describe this state of mind, but that doesn't give it enough justice. The physiological response is too great to be ignored or lumped into the word "love". Doing some research on different cultural words for this feeling come up short. I don't think we have the capacity to really describe the overwhelming sense of "falling in love", albeit the word "falling" sure does help get the point across.
Hopefully you think I have done the word "love" justice in this post. Love today is used to mean a full spectrum of emotions, even when the definition probably doesn't fit or could use some qualifiers. I am apt to go against the norm and just use the word somewhat liberally. However, when I am holding your hand and looking int your eyes and I say "I love you" and you see a single tear rolling down my cheek you know I don't mean "love" but really mean "have an overwhelming attraction to you physically, emotionally, and mentally of which there are no words to decribe the way I feel when I'm with you". After that sentence, maybe I'm starting to understand why people just use the word "love" after all, hah.