June 19, 2014

Can you really find true love on the internet?

When I spotted the topic for this month’s Skeptics in the Pub, I immediately started casting around for babysitters so that Pete and I could go. Not because I felt we were experts, or indeed because there was anything else for us to learn about internet romance, but just because it made me smile so broadly.

Despite having met in a comments box, looked into each others’ eyes at a blogmeet, and flirted for weeks by email, I’m not really sure you could ever have called this an internet romance. Sure, it was spawned on the internet and facilitated by the internet, and the internet was one of the main things we had and continue to have in common; but when you say “internet romance,” don’t you mean either a) online dating site or b) chatroom roleplay?

Ten years ago, if you asked us how we met, we might have glossed over the internet part and told you we met in the pub. Well, not you; you’re internetty enough to be cool with this. But Real Life people were less comfortable with the idea that you could pick up some stranger online, and meet them in real life. Much less go out for pizza, accidentally-on-purpose go to bed with them, and live happily ever after. Now we usually tell the truth, either because we know we’re talking to someone else who did the same, or because we like to shock where we still can. It’s quite possible that I still haven’t told the entire truth to either of my parents.

Then, and perhaps still a little bit now, online dating seemed a bit more seedy than the entirely wholesome thing we did. A bit more dodgy. People do both intentionally and unintentionally misrepresent themselves online, but that’s not restricted to dating or chatrooms, and not all weblogs tell you the unvarnished truth about a person. Pete’s probably did; it was mainly photographs of snails and posts about computer stuff. I love that he hasn’t changed one bit. But that wasn’t the whole Pete. It’s probably true of most bloggers that the part of yourself you put online isn’t your whole self; it’s your edited self, whether you want to make things look better, or worse, or you just don’t feel the need to share it all. In addition to that, the reader interprets within their own frame of reference, so my assumptions on reading Pete’s weblog before I met him were quite wrong.

However, my assumptions on first meeting him were also wrong (I thought he was sweet), and it was the lengthy emails that we both wrote while we were supposed to be working, in the weeks following our first date, where all the dark depths of his personality were revealed (I’m talking dark depths like chocolate with high cocoa solids, not marshland full of buried corpses). Yet email was still a medium in which we polished up our best sides, played to our strengths, and built a wonderful fantasy relationship that flourished both online and off precisely because there was very little mundane reality. Okay we had to eat sometimes but no-one ever had to put the bins out when we only had weekends and emails.

And then blah blah blah all that stuff in the middle & our son turns 8 next week, etc. Thanks for listening.


9 thoughts on “Can you really find true love on the internet?

  1. Andy and I met on OKCupid. I do wish a little that we had some mad romantic story to tell but as I would never had met him in real life I take meeting him over the romantic story. 😉

    Abby on June 19, 2014
  2. When Stuart and I fell in love and decided to get married pretty much immediately, I remember lying to my coworkers about how and when we’d met. They were all older than me, kindly paternal types, and I really didn’t know what they would do with “we knew each other from The Internet but we met in person as friends, not for romantic purposes, but then we fell in love and nine days later were engaged and planning our lives together, yeah no, I’m sane, why?”

    … is kind of how I assumed that conversation would go. So I just told them that we’d met months before at a party, and that he had been visiting for a while, and we’d just decided to go for it.

    Now I don’t trivialize the medium, or conventionalize the timing, when I tell our story (which I refer to as “Our Party Trick” because it never fails to drop some jaws at cocktail parties). It’s been ten years. I knew from day one that we were right, but a whole decade does add a certain respectability to the whole enterprise, doesn’t it?

  3. Yes Krissa I think that’s it, we are clearly not a flash in the pan. This is the healthiest and happiest relationship I’ve ever had. The internets rule, OK.

  4. Mr PWF and I met when he commented on my blog. Then we exchanged thousands of words via email over about 3 days, met for the first time IRL at a ceilidh, started going out the next day and got engaged about 5 months later.

    Sounds like our story is more typical (among internetty types at least) than you might think.

    I think love on the internet is probably similar to love in the non-virtual world. There have always been people who met because of shared interests, or being in the same place at the same time or a mutual friend, just as there have always been people who met via dating agencies or formal introductions or matchmakers. The internet world is just the same, but the online dating sites are the most visible part.

  5. Although Gammidgy (snr), and I didn’t meet online (although there was a single email on a forum before we meet in meatspace) it was, undoubtedly, facilitated by the internet. We met through an interest group neither of us would have found if it wasn’t online. For the first few months, whilst we were still just friends, we arranged meeting up entirely through twitter. Exchanging twitter handles seems to have less connotations than phone numbers.

    As for moving fast, I had moved in with him, and his 3 kids, within 6 months. Relationships have there own pace and it seems far easier to just go with it than worry too much about whether it’s appropriate. Although I’m fairly sure my Mum was a far bit less convinced by my plan than she let on.

    Ms Gammidgy on June 19, 2014
  6. Oh I feel so old. C and I barely had email when we met; we didn’t have mobile phones and online social networking was news groups. I can’t even remember if that is the right word for them? They had weird names with dots at the front. Help me!
    Anyway, is probably a good thing considering he has only this month signed up to Facebook and never to my knowledge leaves comments anywhere online. I’d have been waiting a long time.

  7. I find it remarkable that many of the 20-something girls I work with; clever beautiful girls with so much going for them, are almost all doing some form of online dating because they don’t seem to meet people “organically”. And OH MY GOD, I’ve learned a lot of things about people from looking at tinder profiles over their shoulders. I don’t know if it’s worse that those pictures (THOSE pictures) are what young men think that women want, or that they actually are what women want.
    Meeting through a blog is positively wholesome by comparison, isn’t it?
    That was a lovely story, by the way.

  8. This is all good stuff. H and I met online and deliberately. She told a blatant lie about herself which I initially fell for which made her seem more edgy and adventurous than telling the truth might have done – she said she lived in Brighton when, in fact, she lived in Royal Tunbridge Wells. One makes assumptions.

    Anyway, ten years married this year. Must have done something right.

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