Years ago, getting involved in a relationship with someone you met online was a bit of a taboo. Not only was it supposedly for weirdos, but it was also seen as a bit dangerous, since you couldn't tell who was on the other end. These days, however, online dating is not just mainstream; it's almost expected. Young professionals are often too busy to go to singles clubs and bars (not to mention these venues aren't for everyone) and it's just easier to use an app like Tinder than whip up pickup lines.
It turns out that many of the staff at Engadget have quite a bit of experience in the online dating world. From those who met their significant other on the internet well over a decade ago to those who are still exploring this brave new world of digital courtship, we've selected a few stories to share with you. Check out our video above and read on below for more.
Matt Brian, Managing Editor, Engadget UK
I always chuckle when someone asks me how I met my wife. I begin by saying we found each other online and then drop in the fact it was via MySpace. Not Facebook. Not a dating site. MySpace. Yeah, the site with garish glitter GIFs and a "Top 8 friends" box was where I met my best friend ten years ago. And it wasn't me who initiated, either.
It happened like this: Just hours after I had returned to my parents' house from celebrating my 22nd birthday over a few beers, I checked my PC (which was normally always left on downloading something) and noticed there was a message in my MySpace inbox.
Matt and his wife, nine years ago
"You're hot," read the message. "Thanks!" I replied, adding: "Are you sure you've got the right person?" I'm not good at handling compliments.
We exchanged pleasantries and decided to ramp things up a bit: We took it to MSN Messenger. Back then, my future wife was studying to be a nurse, so we would chat whenever she had a spare minute. Smartphones were only just becoming a thing, so we'd either text each other on our Sony Ericssons (I like to think we had good taste in phones) or catch each other online.
I moved quickly and we were engaged 18 months later. Exactly one year after we got engaged, we wed. Our two boys came consecutive years after that.
We celebrate eight years in July, and it may never have happened if MySpace hadn't let people search for "Men Within 20 Miles of Southend [England]."
Nicole Lee, Senior Editor
In December 2001, I joined Kiss.com, a now-defunct competitor to Match. A friend had invited me to log onto the site to check out a potential suitor and, seeing as I was single at the time, I decided to give it a shot too. From what I can recall, Kiss.com worked by figuring out your potential mate based on interests and location.
After I entered in a few pertinent details, I was immediately matched to several people in San Francisco, and they were listed from "most compatible" to least. I contacted the guy who was ranked number one through the Kiss website interface. It's worth nothing here that this was the only way to make first contact with someone on Kiss. Not only that, but in order to respond to that initial contact, you had to pay $5, and if you wanted to respond to that response, you'd have to pay another five bucks.
Nicole and her husband on their wedding day
I didn't hear a response from guy number one after several days. So I then sent a message to the guy who was ranked second. His name was Brandon, he was interested in comics and geek stuff just like I was, and he looked pretty attractive in his profile photo. This time, I got a response.
After a few back-and-forth messages, the conversation escalated to email, IM and then phone (much cheaper than constantly having to pay $5). We then suggested a meeting in person, and our first date took place at a sushi restaurant in downtown San Francisco. After dinner, we took a walk in Yerba Buena Park and strolled underneath a man-made waterfall. It was then that I grabbed him and kissed him, which took him by surprise. For several months after, we met every day, and he moved in with me six months later. In July 2003, he proposed to me at a beach that was only miles away from San Diego Comic-Con.
As of February 12th, 2016, we've been married 11 years. As it turned out, that $5 was the best investment either of us has ever made.
Timothy Seppala, Associate Editor
Grand Rapids, Michigan, is a town where "only after the wedding" is a fairly common sight on a lady's OKCupid profile. So when I downloaded Tinder two years ago, I'd never have expected the app to live up to its lascivious reputation.
I've since learned that my city likes sex more than I thought. Perhaps that's why there are so many delivery room photos used as the main picture that I've swiped (left) past in these two years, despite the majority of profiles saying they weren't looking for a hookup. The other day, I ran across a profile that simply read: "I have kids, so basically you know I go all the way."
But it's just a part of the app in my town. Same goes for ladies shooting firearms, participating in color runs, touching the Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park (or sitting on the Willis Tower skydeck) or posing in front of Detroit's Comerica Park.
What's surprised me most, however, is how unique a tool it is for getting a read on a given city's population of singles. LA is all about rooftop pool parties. The Windy City? Standing on one of the many bridges crossing a Chicago River dyed green for St. Patrick's Day. A few women in New York liked showing off their "Sleep No More" masks. Funny enough, after a week in Las Vegas I had fewer bot matches than I normally do in just a few days at home.
The biggest shocker I've had is that just when I'm ready to uninstall the app, I can't pull the trigger. I don't generally have an addictive personality, but Tinder is just too damn easy to use. Even despite the ads, the aforementioned bots and the flakiness that pervades early messaging (I'm guilty of it, too), there's still a slot-machine-like draw to the swiping process that urges me to "keep playing," in the app's parlance. "Could she be cool, or is she going to bail as soon as I send my phone number?" Other apps are doing it better and feel less salacious, but when it comes to sheer numbers, as much as I hate to say it, Tinder is hard to beat.
Christopher Trout, Executive Editor
I'm new to the world of online meat markets, and I can tell you they smell just as bad as the real thing. Over the past nine months I've been catfished and ghosted; learned that gonorrhea and strep throat look strikingly similar; and seen more geriatric dick pics than I care to shake a stick at. I've also learned that there are grown men who think emojis are a perfectly normal way to express human emotion. Online dating is sad, pathetic and lonely. So, basically just like dating in the real world.
I'll be spending my Valentine's Day getting drunk on red wine with a friend who thinks she's allergic to gluten and trying to figure out why you haven't texted me back. Seriously, did I do something wrong? It was strep, I swear.
Dana Wollman, Managing Editor
I believe in online dating. I met my last two boyfriends online, and though neither relationship worked out, I at least know that it's possible to select a stranger on the internet, taking into account little more than looks and shared interests, and discover you actually connect in real life.
I've had the most luck with OKCupid. I've been told it's getting a little passé, but I still prefer old-fashioned profiles: You can get a good feel for someone's personality based on how they respond to prompts like "I'm really good at..." and "The six things I could never do without." If nothing else, I can rule out people who don't respect common rules of grammar and punctuation. And assuming a profile is fairly lengthy, and written in earnest (which I like), I can find something around which to write a personalized message. (Something more personal than "Your body looks delicious in the shorts," I mean. Thanks, random stranger!)
That's why I don't like Tinder: I never know what to say. "So, you're a six-foot-two lawyer and went to Harvard? HUBBA HUBBA." Unless a man fleshes out his profile, my options are slim: inquire how his week is going, or ask a question so random, so out of left field, that it would only serve to establish me as a weirdo (which I totally am). I'm also convinced that men think Tinder is a game. I can just picture them, lying on the La-Z Boy, one eye on the television, swiping right on everyone to see how many chicks they can match with. I know this because in a way, that dude is me: I use Tinder at home, when I'm bored, and because matching with 20 men in three minutes is a nice ego boost. In any case, most of the men I match with don't message with me, so I can only assume they're not taking this thing very seriously. That or, like me, they have so many matches and so little time. Basically, I only talk to guys who message me first.
Your body looks delicious in the shorts.
That includes a fair number of Engadget readers, by the way. I've experimented with saying in my profile where I work, or just saying I'm a tech journalist, or not saying anything at all, but either way, I've been recognized a few times, either online or once I sat down to meet someone face to face. (I once blocked a guy whose introductory message amounted to "Hey, you're the laptop lady.") Don't get me wrong, I'm tickled that you all read Engadget. I just hate talking shop on a date. Nothing makes me feel less sexy than dishing about LED projectors and Android SDKs. I'd much rather hear about what movies you've seen lately, what books you're reading, places you've traveled. How many siblings you have, if we run out of stuff to talk about. I guess what I'm saying is, if you stumble across my profile on OKCupid, better if you pretend at first that you don't know who I am.
You might be wondering by now why I like online dating. I don't, really, but I still believe in it. Dating apps aren't a shortcut to finding someone I connect with. But they do make it easier to find dates, including with people I wouldn't meet otherwise. I'd like to be done with all this nonsense soon, but until then, I at least have a lot of stories.