We’ve come a long way from having to tell people that we met our romantic partners “through a friend,” rather than divulging the true story of meeting on an online dating website. Most of us have our own personal online dating stories, ranging from great successes to absolute nightmares. Meeting someone via a social networking site, however, is a little less common (even if we do all have a secret list of Tumblr crushes that we definitely would should we ever be in the same city).
Jude and James’ relationship began with a Tumblr follow while the two were living over 1,000 miles apart and now, almost four years later, they’re engaged. I spoke with them about how it’s possible to completely fall in love with someone you met on the Internet, how you can totally freak someone out pretty early on in the relationship and still end up marrying them, and how, in the end, some of the little stuff, like where you actually met or who initiated the contact, turns out to not really matter.
Who followed whom first on Tumblr and how long did it take for a follow back?
James: This is a hotly contested point in our relationship because we both think the other person followed them first. It’s one of those things that seem so trivial at the time so you instantly forget it not thinking that it’s important to remember because in 4 years you’re going to be marrying this person.
Jude: I think he followed me first and since this was almost 4 years ago, I was probably eager for followers and followed back right away.
Who initiated the first textual context and what was it? A reply? An Ask?
Jude: This was before replies or asks and he had gone through a series of traumatic events in one day so I sent him an email just offering my sympathy and if he ever wanted to talk I was here, so it was me!
James: On August 6th, 2009, in a period of about 30 minutes I lost my job and my mom called me from the hospital where she was admitted out of the blue for heart surgery. I made a little one line text post detailing this, closed my computer, and then proceeded to go swimming in a pool full of whiskey for the night. When I woke up the next afternoon (in my roommate’s bathtub, but that’s another story) I had a handful of emails from some Tumblr followers wishing me well and she was one of them. In fact, she was the only one with whom I hadn’t previously interacted.
When did the first non-Tumblr contact happen?
There was a Nascar race there that weekend though so all the hotels were booked or crazy expensive so I ended up spending like, the last $500 I had to my name on two nights in a Hyatt Place.
Jude: After that initial email I believe we started being Facebook friends and then I can’t remember which happened first–Gchatting or possibly even IMing (on AIM! how vintage) or him texting me randomly at like, 6 a.m. one day. I had posted a photo of an airport, since I travel for work, and he was still up (drunk texting me) and so we started texting too. I had my phone number available to my Facebook friends because apparently I’m a really trusting person to people on the Internet.
James: I texted her first and I couldn’t do that until I Facebook stalked her (because it was 2009 and people still had their phone number on their Facebook page). Anyway, we texted a little and then I know for a fact she was the first person to call me because I remember it happening totally out of nowhere and I remember thinking it was violating all kinds of communication protocols.
How did your relationship develop and when did it become romantic?
James: I don’t remember how long exactly but it wasn’t more than a week or two after initial contact. We had a legit four hour phone conversation. I can’t tell you anything we talked about. It was a weird night. But in hindsight I feel like that was the turning point where it sort of became less like online pals and somewhat more serious.
Jude: He was in Phoenix and unemployed and I don’t like sleeping so we were talking for like, three or four hours a night, having these very intense conversations about EVERYTHING and all of a sudden I was missing this person I had never even met and we were talking every day and running up his cell phone bill (because someone hadn’t signed up for an unlimited texting plan yet) and we were just really IN IT like a month after this first random email.
When did you first meet in person?
James: First weekend of October 2009. Since I lost my job in Phoenix I was moving back home to St. Louis and I convinced my roommate (who I’d worked with and who was fired a couple of weeks after me, and who coincidentally is the best man in our wedding) to convoy up through the Rockies instead of the way we came through New Mexico and Texas. So we drove up through Flagstaff and Utah, then over through Colorado and Kansas, and then I spent that weekend in Kansas City with her while he continued on back to Illinois. There was a Nascar race there that weekend though so all the hotels were booked or crazy expensive so I ended up spending like, the last $500 I had to my name on two nights in a Hyatt Place.
Jude: I lived with my parents at the time (whoohoo minorities!) so I made him get a hotel room and it just also to be happened a weekend where some Nascar event was going on (because, Kansas) so it was also super expensive and I feel mildly bad about it still because he paid for it all. I took the day off of work and we met! We spent the whole weekend together, he got drunk and met my friends, I stole food from his plate without asking and it basically set the tone for the rest of our relationship.
How did your friends and family react to you meeting someone from Tumblr and ultimately deciding to start a relationship with this person?
Jude: Well we had/have two different stories: the real one and the fake one.
James: Family–Still doesn’t know, probably will never know. We’ve scripted a very elaborate story about how we met in “college” despite having attended two different colleges.
You two were also dating long-distance for a substantial amount of your relationship. How did you make that work?
Jude: Constant, constant communication–texting, email, phone calls, and always having a date that we would see each other again. It made it easier knowing that, okay, we only have to do this for three more weeks or one more month. Knowing that it was only going to be temporary (even if temporary lasted almost 3 years). It was the hardest when there was no end date in sight. But I think we always came back that we would rather be in this really shitty situation with each other than maybe in an easier situation with anyone else.
James: Communication is easily the most important part of a long distance relationship. You learn to reevaluate the way in which you communicate because you miss out on all of the intangible non-verbal cues. Long distance sucks, and there’s no way around it, but for us it helped I think to build our communication ability and foster trust.
Do you think that there’s some type of genuineness to the way that you two met that’s different from traditional ways in which we tend to meet our romantic partners (being set up, blind dates, online dating, meeting at a bar, etc.)?
Jude: I think having to build our relationship off pure communication really helped us know each other better. There was no movie or dinner or other people we could sort of put any awkwardness off on. It was just us, and if we couldn’t make it work or even when we had these stupid fights over the phone, having to resolve it without any other help has made our relationship really awesome. Also, knowing how we communicate via our blogs kind of cemented his personality and interests to me (and hopefully me to him?).
James: I won’t say that it’s necessarily better, but it’s definitely different than meeting someone on an online dating site. I guess in the end it doesn’t REALLY matter how you meet that person as long as you do. That’s why I think we disagree on so many of the details about our initial Tumblr interactions. At this point it doesn’t really matter.
What’s your advice for someone who’s really into someone that they know from social media, but doesn’t really know how–or is too afraid–to pursue it?
James: This might be a bit of a cop out answer but it didn’t really feel like either of us “pursued” each other per se. I think there has to be a certain level of mutual initial effort in order for it to really work, especially over long distance. Because it’s hard to strike up that initial conversation otherwise when the most commonly socially acceptable means to express interest in someone is to ask them out to a bar or restaurant. If you DO live in the same city as someone, then just go for it. What’s it matter how you know someone as long as you know them? Jude and I have had plenty of Internet meetups with people from Tumblr and they’ve always been great so I guess my barometer regarding initiating contact for people you met on social media is perhaps a bit skewed.
Jude: I would say go for it! Communication! Talk! And if you can’t send an email or tweet or share something in common with them over social media, there’s a low chance you’ll be able to do these things in person. And on the flip side, once you start communicating, maybe you’ll find out those posts you find so funny or interesting don’t translate well in person. Worst case scenario you realize they suck, best case, new friend or more!