Logging on for Love
Thanks in part to the recent success of the Meg Ryan-Tom Hanks sappy tale of virtual love "You've Got Mail," Internet love is transitioning from geekdom to chicdom. On Harvard's campus, students pass up real-life amusements and hold tight to their ethernet lifelines, logging on for love. Here are the true stories of undergraduate virtual romance:
Met in a Chatroom
Candace*, a first-year premed, met her first love in an America Online chatroom during her senior year of high school. She and Mike chatted until everyone else logged off. "That was November," she remembers. "Mike and I started e-mailing every day until April-sometimes even two or three times a day. We finally met at a New Year's Eve party."
The digital prelude to Mike and Candace's real-time interaction actually brought the couple closer together emotionally, though it did inject some awkardness in their first meeting. "Over e-mail you can say a lot more to a stranger than you can face-to-face, like if you just met someone at a party," Candace said. "I was really open to him from the very start. But the first time we met, he was scared to talk to me. I had to corner him. I asked him what was wrong and he said, 'You know me too well. I'm scared to talk to you.'"
While Candace says she enjoyed the e-mail correspondence phase of their relationship, she noted that writing incessantly to a stranger can become "kind of scary sometimes because you can get lost in a fantasy world."
Lost and Found
Laura and Jonathan, both current first-years, met in eighth grade at a summer program for gifted youth. Even though the program was only a week long, they hit it off and wound up exchanging handwritten letters the rest of the summer, but eventually fell out of touch. Three years later, by some trick of fate, they showed up for the same spring break tour of Harvard.
"It was so random," said Laura. "I was pretty excited about seeing [Jonathan] for a while, but I realized that we might not get back in touch for a while anyway." Sure enough, the chance meeting didn't lead to instant renewal of contact-at least not yet.
Wanting to get back in touch, Laura did an ICQ search for Jonathan during the April of her senior year. "We would talk for three or four hours a night while we were writing papers -until four in the morning, sometimes," she said. "I'd get excited when I got ICQ messages from him, but had to remind myself that even though we got along online, it'd still been a really long time. I didn't really know him, and there wasn't really any reason to think that there was anything more than friendship."
But during Freshman Week, Laura spotted Jonathan during convocation at Tercentenary Theatre. "We clicked really well right away," said Jonathan. "Over the summer we'd talked a lot and flirted, though neither of us would admit it. We just kind of avoided the whole possibility of a relationship. So when we started to hang out when we got here, there was tension because of all those avoided issues. But we talked it out and finally got together."
*names have been changed to protect the innocent (and guilty)