If, as Nikki Giovanni, once said, “We love because it’s the only true adventure,” the vahicle on this trip sure has changed.
Couples are still locking eyes in college and the office, but according to Reuters, of the 54 million singles in the country, 40 million of them have tried meeting Mr. or Ms. Right online.
The love train now travels on the tracks of the Internet.
An unconventional first encounter
Love at first byte came to Jen and Jim Hanke of Batavia through a guy named Craig Newmark — at least, through his list.
Craigslist.com helps users find housing, jobs, cars and, apparently, love, though the Hankes didn’t meet through the “personals” section of the site.
“We met in the music discussion forum on Craigslist,” Jen says. “Jim just moved here and was in a band, and we were both looking for people to go to concerts with. We were chatting on the forum and began emailing back and forth. We were both just out of other relationships and were a little new to the idea of meeting someone through the Internet.”
After a month and more than 100 email messages, the two decided to get “real” and meet in person.
Jen’s friend of five years, Brittany Pawlowski, was duly concerned when Jen was going to meet Jim.
“Yes, [I was concerned] because she met him on Craigslist,” the Aurora resident says. “But I think this concern was in part due to my personal unease with online-based relationships. At the time, I felt like meeting someone online meant that they were jumping into something before it could build organically.”
Tips for online dating success
Online dating has altered the organic nature of relationships in a fundamental way, from “meet you, get to know you” to “get to know you, then meet you.”
The different process leaves a lot of wiggle room when it comes to being honest about actual physical characteristics and age or whether a paramour-to-be may need a bail bondsman more than a date.
Jeannie Assimos, managing editor of eHarmony.com’s dating advice forum at www.eharmony.com/dating-advice, says of the half million couples who met through the popular online dating service and eventually married, most shared one characteristic.
“The common thing our success couples say is, ‘I was painfully honest with the questionnaire and profile,’” Assimos says. “For the uninitiated, eHarmory.com is different from other dating services in that users fill out an extensive relationship questionnaire and personality profile in an effort to match them with those who are compatible on a level deeper than ‘blonde hair, blue eyes and likes long walks on the beach.’ The site claims that the ‘29 Dimensions of Compatibility’ are scientifically proven to predict happier, healthier long-term relationships.”
Assimos says since more effort goes into the process — as opposed to just scrolling through hundreds of photos on other sites — users are more likely to find compatibility in many areas like energy level and temperament, too.
“One woman realized she was having a bad day the day she filled it out, called us so she could take it again and soon after got matched with the man who became her husband,” Assimos laughs.
According to the Harris Poll, Assimos says, an average of 542 people from eHarmony.com are married every day.
Happily ever after
Jen, who works in Batavia as a marketing director for a supportive living facility, says that her first face-to-face encounter with Jim went so well because they were honest online.
“I liked that I could get to know him through email because you answer all those initial questions you have about each other, and the pressure for small talk was off when we finally met,” she says.
It’s no surprise that Jim, who owns an independent public relations company called Forest Bride PR specializing in press for musicians and bands, concurs.
“It gave us a launching pad to get to the next part of the conversation,” he says. “We met at a bar — [called Scotland Yard in St. Charles, which has since closed] — had a drink, watched a band that was awful and had laughs about that, went through my iPod and talked about music. I think we cleared out negatives before we even met.”
The couple realized that they lived just a few minutes from each other and shared more than a few acquaintances.
“It was eerie in the best possible way,” Jen says.
Pawlowski, a producer at New Slate Films in Chicago, was not surprised at the romantic turn of events in her friend’s life.
“It didn’t take very long for everyone to see that marriage was definitely in their future, so that wasn’t much of a surprise,” she says.
Jen and Jim, who met online in August 2007, married in August 2009.
Can there be a happily ever after in the online dating lives of others?
“You’re in control,“ Jim says, “and you can do things to be safe like background checks. I think nowadays, meeting online is pretty commonplace. If someone sets you up, you feel an obligation to go with them once or twice. This way, you don’t have to if you feel you’re not that compatible.”
Jen notes that if you’re shy, it may be easier to meet someone online first.
“It’s literally changed everything as far as dating is concerned,” she says. “We just have to go along for the ride.” kc