To all of you perving on your fellow lecture goers without having the balls to approach them afterwards, hearken unto me – online dating may be the way to go.
Sarah and James are proof that web-based lovin’ can work. She’s studying architecture at UniSA; he’s an IT worker from Geelong. She wanted to build up her confidence with guys after a lengthy relationship; he hated clubbing and was keen to try something different.
“We’d been talking online (using a dating site) for a few days, then on Facebook, then we exchanged numbers and called and texted for a month,” Sarah said.
“We visited each other (interstate) for about eight months after that. We’d travel every fortnight, take it in turns,” James added.
“Sometimes it was $600 return, it was ridiculous,” Sarah explained.
“Pretty sure she found me because I was a looker,” James countered.
Effortless back-and-forth banter made it clear their affection for one another was obvious. I wasn’t surprised when James told me he decided to leave his hometown.
“I moved everything. My life, my car, my clothes, everything. I knew it was love when we first met.”
Sarah shook her head and laughed: “It took me about the third or fourth time we met each other to know. But it was worth it.”
Parents, however, were initially unaware of their shenanigans.
“I told my parents I was going to a fashion parade in Melbourne. I don’t think they would have been very happy about me going interstate by myself. I was on the plane and was like, ‘Oh my god, I’m going to meet some random. This could be bad’,” Sarah said.
“I could’ve been a creep. Come in my car…I’ve got a BMW…I’ll show you some crazy things,” James joked.
“I told my parents eventually. I said I met James at a party in Adelaide. They don’t care now, though; they love James,” Sarah said.
While Sarah admitted most of her friends won’t go online – “they reckon there are too many creeps out there” – she emphasised the strong privacy settings available to users.
“I had my pictures on private, so James was talking to me without knowing what I looked like.”
James agreed: “It’s all confidential unless you want to give your name out and you feel comfortable with that.”
For those of you sick of drunk yobbos in town, digital matchmaking offers an ideal alternative.
“If you go to a club and there’s some creepy guy following you around, some of them just don’t get it. On the internet you can just block them. They’re gone,” Sarah said.
James continued: “There will be heaps of people there but they’re not going to have the same intentions as you. They’re out there for a good time or whatever. But if you’re on a dating site then everyone’s looking for one thing.”
Yet online dating’s purpose is nothing new, according to UniSA communications and media expert Dr Collette Snowden.
“People have always tried to find partners by using means other than random accidental meetings,” she said. “That’s why people have had arranged marriages, or met through friends, but before online sites there were introduction agencies (as well).”
While Dr Snowden acknowledged Sarah and James are a “success story”, she warned that going online might affect your ability to form relationships in the real world.
“You might be missing out on the person in your tute group who’s looking at you with longing. I’m sure that’s happening to you, you’re probably just not aware of it.”
Jokes at my eligible bachelor/forever alone tag aside, Dr Snowden thinks ‘love at first sight’ still exists and chemistry is a must.
“The terrible thing would be if you got on really well with someone online, saw their photos and thought they’re not bad looking, and then when you actually met them there was no chemistry.
“One of my concerns is the amount of time that people spend online stops them from developing mature, real relationships. You have to fumble and you have to fail and you have to try things out, and online you don’t get to do that.”
Dr Snowden argued internet dating’s stigma has disappeared, though realised why people like Sarah are hesitant to tell others.
“You go, ‘Oh well, I wasn’t good enough to just meet someone’ and it doesn’t seem very romantic. It seems kind of mercenary, when in fact, it’s not.”
If you’re willing to give cyberspace courtship a go, Sarah and James have some final words of advice.
“I went on there for confidence – I didn’t go on there to find someone – and it just happened,” Sarah said.
“I just took a punt. You gotta be open-minded. You gotta fail before you succeed,” James said, before telling me they could be the next online dating poster couple.
I don’t doubt them for a second.