Crack­ing the love code

More than ever, peo­ple are hook­ing up over the In­ter­net

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By GAYATHRI NAIR star2@thes­

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-yearold 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.

andy Mervin Ge­orge met his wife

Melinda Ong over iCQ in 2002. Jonathan Paddy pro­posed mar­riage to rasyida Sam­sudin af­ter meet­ing on an online dat­ing site over a year ago.

Kelly Thean and dar­rent Ng met on Face­book over three years ago.

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