The Internet has been a playground for lovers across three decades.
NOT everyone remembers the Internet Chat Client, or more popularly known as ICQ. But ICQ will always be special for Andy Mervin George and his wife Melanie Ong.
Way back in 2002, then 21-year-old George was introduced to Ong by a friend via ICQ, the most popular instant messaging application then. “My now wife, Melanie and I began chatting over ICQ after we were introduced by a friend,” shares George.
The ice-breaker for them was sharing birthdays that were a fortnight apart.
“We began chatting like old buddies. Before we knew it, we had developed an online relationship and our daily chats brought us closer. We made each other laugh and shared mutual interests.
“I remember looking forward to our chats and it became the highlight of my day, every day.
“And just through the texts Melanie sent, I could tell her character. She used emoticons to express herself and some of them really made me smile,” says George.
When they became more comfortable with each other, they exchanged photographs.
“It wasn’t the same as meeting face-to-face but it certainly offered some sort of intimacy. Eventually, we exchanged numbers.”
Exchanging texts and calling each other were, however, not nearly enough after awhile. They were curious to find out how they’d get along offline.
“And since phone calls were expensive for a student, we decided it was time to meet. The rest, as they say, is history. She was sweet and quiet; I was loud and adventurous,” says the cheeky 33-year-old insurance advisor.
George still remembers how nervous he was about offering Ong a ride on his motorbike, and how he decided that she was the one when she didn’t mind at all.
“I knew then she was a definite keeper,” recounts George.
Still, they could only date on weekends. When they missed each other on weekdays, they chatted online.
George and Ong dated for six years before tying the knot in 2008, and have a daughter now.
Online dating site
Rasyida Samsudin is a workaholic who didn’t have much time to meet new friends. Furthermore, she had a policy of not dating colleagues and former coursemates.
When she started working in her early 20s and felt she was ready to start dating, Rasyida decided to give online dating a shot.
“Despite signing myself up, I was still sceptical about finding a perfect match on the Internet,” shares the 25-year-old public relations consultant.
However, she was proved wrong three months later, when she came across an interesting profile.
The stars were aligned and the attraction was mutual. But it was 37-year-old Jonathan Paddy’s first message to her that sealed the deal.
“He didn’t use cheesy one liners or ask me uncomfortable questions. From his texts, I could tell he wasn’t like other guys. And so began our story,” says Rasyida. After a few exchanges, Rasyida took their chats off the dating site and to their personal instant messaging accounts. Soon, chatting with each other became a daily routine.
“I would rush home from work knowing that Jonathan was waiting for me. It felt like the virtual version of saying, “Honey, I’m home!” Rasyida laughs. “Talking to Jonathan after a hectic day was a huge stress reliever.”
They found it was easier to share their little secrets with each other via text rather than face-to-face. “When we chatted online, I felt comfortable sharing little secrets about myself and he did the same. We found it easier to build trust,” she explains.
As their relationship grew stronger online, they decided to see if the spark was also present offline.
“I began to wonder if Jonathan was as charming in real life as he was in his texts.“Fortunately for me, Jonathan was one of the many good ones. And I am a lucky girl indeed,” she continues.
A few months into their courtship, the couple started talking about their future and marriage.
Paddy is English, and Rasyida was initially worried about their cultural differences. “Even though my family were supportive of our union, they are also traditional and my culture is very important to me,” she said.
But Paddy proved to be the perfect gentleman as he approached her family to seek their blessings before proposing marriage to Rasyida in May last year.
And then came Facebook
About three years ago, Darrent Ng, 29, decided to browse through a few Facebook profiles to pass his time.
He sent a “poke”, followed by a friend request to Kelly Thean.
“Kelly had a profile picture that simply screamed out to me,” says the young IT sales manager, who admits to adding Thean, 29, as a friend out of curiosity.
“To my delight, Kelly accepted my friend request despite not knowing who I was,” says Ng.
Thean knew they would click, based on our mutual love for movies and music. They were so enamoured with their chats they’d lose track of time.
“We would stay up till the wee hours of the morning chatting, and it didn’t matter if we didn’t have enough sleep. We would go to work knowing we shared a special bond.
“He would send me texts in the morning wishing me a good day and that alone was enough to keep me happy,” Thean remininces.
Soon the curiosity got the better of them and they wondered how they would get along in person.
“When we first met, I remember how we both took a lot of effort with our apperances. I was terribly nervous. Many things went through my head. What if I laughed too loud or snorted?” Thean says remembering their first encounter.
True enough, it was nerve-wracking for them both.
But they had built a solid foundation for their relationship online.
“I didn’t forget Kelly’s favourite flowers or colour because they were written in text. If I ever forget these details, I can always go back to our chat history!” Ng says with a chuckle.
Today. after three and a half years of being together, the couple are now joint owners of a condominium.
If it were not for their Facebook encounter, they believe they wouldn’t have found each other.” I don’t believe our paths would have crossed,” explains Thean.
“Darrent is from Banting and I live and work not far from Kuala Lumpur. We barely have any friends in common. So, I’m very sure we could not have met offline.
“Facebook has changed both our lives forever,” she concludes.