Sharon credits Facebook for connecting her with her husband, Harold Boomer. Jennifer's romance started with friendly online chats via ICQ, the precursor to AOL's IM, with her future husband, Ryan Wyse. Both romances began online with a friendship that led to in-person meetings.
Chat Leads to Date
"I was 15 at the time when I was on ICQ," says Jennifer. "I put in the minimum information, not revealing my location. I just added a brief blurb about my favorite bands and whoever saw me online didn't see my age, location or real name." Jennifer met people from all over the world on ICQ, and one night started chatting with Ryan.
Ryan lived 15 miles from her and he says God told him to click on ICQ one more time. That's when Jennifer popped up. They saw that they liked the same bands and started chatting. "Six months later he asked me out, when he turned 16," she says. "We've been together ever since."
Ryan and Jennifer married at 20-years-old. In May, they will celebrate their 9th anniversary.
God Used Facebook
In March 2009, Harold in Kansas City sent a friend request to Sharon in Utah on Facebook because he thought she was his daughter Sarah's respiratory therapist. Sharon wasn't Harold's daughter's former respiratory therapist but she saw on Facebook that Harold was friends with Mary, a woman she respected.
"I thought if he was friends with Mary, he must be a good guy." Harold and Sharon discovered on Facebook that she attended the church he used to attend when he lived in Utah. They also had a lot of mutual friends and interests.
One day Harold messaged Sharon on Facebook that he was coming to Utah for business, and to go skiing with his son, James. "My friend Crystal told me to give Harold a chance. He sounded like a good guy," says Sharon. "I thought, 'you can be anyone you want to online.'"
Harold attended Sharon's church that Sunday and they went out to lunch. "We talked for three hours, then we drove around Utah to see some of the places he used to go to when he lived in Utah in 1991," she says. "We enjoyed each other's company." They ended the day eating dessert at one of her favorite places.
Sharon had been divorced for three years and was cautious about her new friend. The following Thursday, Harold took Sharon out to dinner. "He came to my house to pick me up and when I walked out he said, 'Wow,'" says Sharon. "That was his moment when he knew I was the one for him."
Harold went back to Kansas City and called Sharon a week later. "He said he wanted to take our relationship to another level." she says. "I told him that long-distance relationships took a lot of work and I didn't have the time or funds to make this happen, so this would be all on him. He said he was willing to do the work."
Harold travelled to Utah two times after that conversation and Sharon visited Kansas City twice. In June, Sharon realized Harold was the one for her. "I had a problem with my sinuses and we had a bunch of stuff that didn't go right," she says. "He was so kind and tender through it all that when we were walking on the Riverwalk, he held my hand and it all connected. He was the one for me."
They got married in Utah and Sharon moved to Kansas City. "God used Facebook to bring us together," she says.
Jennifer's Tips for Relating Online
If you're venturing into online romance, Jennifer gives these safety tips:
- Be very cautious about how much information you reveal. Don't reveal your age or location right off the bat.
- Talk about general interests first. Spend time building a friendship. "You can learn a lot about a person with the information they decide to reveal or omit ... during an online chat," says Jennifer.
Here are more online dating safety tips from Scambook, an online complaint resolution platform.
- Don't provide real names or release too much detailed information: Even a social media account can release too much personal information for a dating site.
- Use a prepaid credit card: A prepaid card can protect primary bank accounts, especially if any problems arise requiring a cancellation of subscription.
- Be wary of downloads: All of these sites have mobile apps for your iPhone, iPad or Android device, but remember, these are optional. If a dating site asks to download and install software, take this as a red flag and be sure to keep browsers updated with the latest anti-virus software.
- Don't send or receive gifts (or money) prior to meeting: Identities cannot be confirmed online and gifts can be used to build fake "trust" between two parties. Don't provide a personal or work address until an in-person meeting has taken place.
- Keep things light—and local. It's best to meet a match not too far from home, in person, before investing too much. Caution should be taken with those who proclaim intense feelings right away, cannot meet, or claim to be serving in the military or working overseas. If someone is temporarily abroad, press the "pause" button to resume when they are available. A real person will understand and respect an in-person meeting. Click to read more about fake profiles.
- Meet in a public place. Meet a date in a well-lit public place when other people around. Make transportation arrangements ahead of time so you won't have to rely on a date to get home. Tell someone the location of your date, about the other person, and the time you expect to return. Lastly, have fun and don't do anything that leads to discomfort.
Leilani Haywood is a Kansas City, Mo.-based award-winning writer and columnist. Her work has been published in the Kansas City Star, Metro Voice and other publications. When she's not updating her status on Facebook or Twitter, she's driving her three kids to school or their next rehearsal. Follow her on Twitter @leilanihaywood.