From email to dating apps and social media, the Internet was made to connect people.
Some connections turn out deeper for some, like these couples who say that they might never have ended up together or even met if not for the Web.
While modern pen pals may have traded ink and paper for emails and Skype, the romance of getting to know a stranger from across the globe still lives on.
Students Kok Yuan Ting, 23, and Patrycja Medrala, 22, met on Interpals, a penpal website with a focus on learning languages and cultures from users across the globe.
“I love learning languages and people tell me Slavic languages are one of the hardest to learn. Hence I took up the challenge to learn the Polish language,” he said.
Medrala messaged first, offering to teach him Polish and practise her English too. After chatting for a while, Kok said he “mustered up the courage to playfully ask her what she thought of long distance relationships” and it turned out she was game for it too.
“I still remember hearing her shouting to her parents ‘Mum! Dad! I have an Asian boyfriend now!’ when we were Skyping,” he shared, reminiscing on how they got together back in September 2014.
Though they have since stopped using InterPals, online channels were still a big factor for their relationship as Medrala lived in Poland, 9,000km away from Malaysia.
The couple make sure never to miss a day to Skype, unless they were flying to meet the other.
“Distance is a double-edged sword: it makes you long for each other even more, but without each other’s company for the time being,” said Kok.
He is proud to tell people he met Medrala online. Though that sometimes gets a mixed reaction from people, most, including his family, have been supportive. He added that most of his friends viewed meeting people online as the norm.
After five years together, with constant video calls and visiting each other abroad, Kok popped the question. The now-engaged couple are looking to close the distance between them, with Medrala planning to migrate to Malaysia.
Looking back, Kok noted that his fiancée didn’t have much of a social media presence beyond the ever ubiquitous Facebook.
Asked if they could have ever possibly met any other way, he said it would likely never have happened otherwise.
Must love dogs
The worry with meeting a stranger, based on little more than their dating profile, is that even that profile could be a fiction. It’s become common enough that creating fake dating profiles is known as catfishing.
Dog person Adrian Tan Han Teck, 40, met Yan Lai Peen, 37, under slightly less sinister circumstances that some might call dogfishing.
“I swiped right to Lai Peen’s profile because she had a picture of her walking a puppy at the beach, but in the end she has three cats and the profile was a complete lie! Ah, the wonders of the Internet,” he joked.
Yan admits that she actually has three cats and the dog was being fostered temporarily by a friend.
The two make no bones about how they met, even bringing up the dog mix-up at their wedding.
“When I told the guests that we met through Tinder, everyone laughed. I guess it’s the reputation of Tinder being an app for hookups,” she said.
A service manager with an automotive company, Tan had only been on Tinder for three months before meeting lecturer Yan, although she had been on-and-off the app since 2011.
“I still think our meeting through Tinder was a sheer fluke. If anyone were to ask me to recommend a dating app I would recommend something other than Tinder, ironically,” Yan said, finding issue with how the service doesn’t require users to put up much info on their profile, compared to other dating platforms.
Living in different towns – Yan in Kuala Lumpur and Tan in Mentakab, Pahang – they only met after a month of chatting. After meeting three times in as many months, the two decided to make it official, with Yan visiting her partner’s family.
Now married for six months, after being together for two years, the couple still live in different states.
“The distance is the most challenging. When Lai Peen has a bad day, all the words in the world will not be able to console her,” said Tan. They visit each other every other weekend and bridge the time in between with WhatsApp messages, video calls and sending each other gifts.
“We have no mutual friends at all, and as we are both homebodies and have a small circle of friends, we would probably never have met if it weren’t for the app,” said Yan.
Education consultant Janice Yong Jade Lynn, 29, and fraud specialist Jasvinder Singh Sarwan Singh, 36, had added each other as friends on Facebook a decade ago, but never actually met till last year at the wedding of a mutual friend in Ipoh, Perak.
“When I heard a lot of my exes were attending, I nearly bailed, but the groom insisted I come and that it would mean a lot to him,” she said. Meanwhile, Jasvinder was doing a favour for the groom too, working as the DJ of the night.
Not wanting to attend the wedding while “sad and single”, Yong tried to find a short-notice partner on Tinder when she arrived in Ipoh, even offering to rent a boyfriend for RM500 an hour. Unsurprisingly, she noted, everyone she talked to assumed it was a scam and declined.
The groom, noticing Yong had come alone, introduced her to Jasvinder.
Yong said he had caught her eye as she entered the wedding hall, but she assumed all DJs were players. Meanwhile he felt she was out of his league and unsure about approaching.
“When the groom introduced us, I was so shocked to realise this was the guy I knew from Facebook for like 10 years,” she said, explaining that both shared a passion for DJ-ing and had added each other while being in the same Facebook groups but never actually connected.
Yong added: “We have a lot of the same history and music taste, it’s so hard to believe we didn’t meet earlier”.
The two admitted they would not have considered connecting if they weren’t already long-time acquaintances on Facebook and without the groom’s introduction.
Yong said though they were both on Tinder prior to meeting, she preferred knowing people on Facebook so she could do background checks, finding mutual friends and reading through a complete profile page compared to the few-lines-only introduction on dating apps.
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