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How safe is 'online-connect'...

These days, virtual relationships are a gamble - sometimes they end up in long-term bonds and sometimes they are sour. Here are a few online dating tips from Prema K...

sex and relationships Updated: May 18, 2009 18:02 IST
Prema K
Prema K
Hindustan Times

Some useful tips:

* Make sure your screen name never includes your real name.

* Don’t share your videos and photos with unknown people.

* Don’t reveal personal information to those you don’t know and protect your personal identity.

* If you receive messages that make you feel uncomfortable, don’t respond to them and try to avoid chatting with that person; blocking the user is a good option.

* Don’t meet up with your new chat friends. If necessary, meet up in a busy place and make sure you’ve informed friends or family about where you’re going.

* Saving copies of your chat conversations is a good idea in case you need to use them in future.

One of my close friends met an interesting man online. He was in the US and she in India. They chatted regularly and even spoke over the phone for months.

She was convinced that he was her soul mate.. till they met and the romance soured. The harsh realities of life made them realise to grips with the futility of the relationship.

There was another friend in his mid-30s. His parents had given up on him ever getting married. Some of us even suspected him to be a closet gay till he met a girl online. She was in Singapore.

No flirting
I didn’t take his new online friendship seriously till he announced that he was going to Singapore to meet her. I wondered when the friendship had turned into romance. He was back after a fortnight. They had clicked. His parents were relieved. That was five years ago.

The marriage is a happy one. Marriages are not made in heaven any more.. they are made online, sounds more apt now. According to the Norton online living report, a majority of Indians make friends and find romance in the virtual world. Every one in three flirt online, the report adds.

In the past few years, flirting has paved the way for serious online relationships. People of all age groups find their soul mates on the net.

Another friend’s online romance started as a joke (at least for him). I was surprised when I suddenly received an invite for his wedding. I mean wasn’t it just yesterday that he had met Afreen Khan? Here’s their story: Abid Moinuddin added Afreen randomly to his friends list. They chatted a couple of times on and off. Meanwhile, some of his friends created a site for him — ‘Want to get married’. He joked about it to us. Then he moved to Dubai and forgot about it.

Abid states, “During one of our casual chats, Afreen asked me how my wedding preparations were getting along. I told her nothing was happening although my family and friends were desperate to get me hitched. But there was no suitable girl around. She told me that her family was also looking for a groom for her but nothing was working out.”

He was surprised because he’d got the impression that she was a kid. He asked her her age, and things fell into a different perspective.”

Afreen laughs, “He thought I was too young to be even allowed entry into a pub.”

Blossoming romance
They had a long chat and discovered that they had a lot in common. They chatted regularly and an online romance blossomed. Distance was not a barrier. Abid was still in Dubai and she in India. Afreen told her parents to stop groom hunting because she had found her match.

They met when he came to India three months later. Afreen smiles, “We felt as if we had known each other all our lives. He proposed.. I accepted instantly. Our families approved and we got engaged.”

Three months later, they married. Its been five months of bliss. They are grateful to the Internet for connecting them.

Afreen adds, “Meeting someone online, falling in love and getting married to that person feels like a dream. The Internet has opened the door to social networking and taken it to a different level.”

Blog over Facebook

Riddhi Shah had her own blog and came across Siddharth’s. She thought he was a cool guy, read his blog regularly and even added her comments. Soon, they started commenting on each other’s blog. She says, “I felt an immediate connection with him. I asked him for his email id and we kept in touch after that. A couple of months later, we started talking over the phone. He was in London then. We met a few months later, when he came to India.” No, it wasn’t love at first sight! Riddhi admits that there was a big difference in the way they communicated in person. She says, “I found him quite reserved. But he felt he was more comfortable with me than with other girls. I guess he was also intrigued by me because I had asked for his email id."

They married after two years. Riddhi feels that each day is a learning process. She’s still discovering many things about Siddharth although she had already gotten an insight into him through his blogs.

Instant chemistry

A friend of Rowena Catamura’s suggested that she give online dating a shot. Rowena had no problems with that but she specified that she wanted to meet only Asians.

Shivram Sundaram’s profile matched her requirements. And that was the beginning of a new friendship.

They were based in Los Angeles and met up after a month. It was instant chemistry. Regular meetings every weekend followed till he asked her to move in with him after a couple of years.

Shivram says, “That made our relationship official. I’d told my parents about her a few months after we met. She even met my sister and mom when they came to the US. I’m a shy guy so it was easy to get acquainted with her initially through emails and chats.”

Rowena adds, “I’d never believed in online dating. He was the first guy I communicated with online. I liked him instantly. In the technological age, the Internet is an easy access to people, especially for professionals who are short of time.” They got married three months ago.

Free communication
Pranav Chawda and Ruchika Agarwal met three years ago on Orkut. Gradually, they became good friends and met up after five months of regular chats and emails. They too clicked instantly.

Pranav says, "We were already in an online relationship and had gotten to know each other really well. That’s the advantage of meeting someone online.

"One can express one’s thoughts freely. There’s no need to be politically correct. I never doubted her genuineness. I believed everything she told me."

Ruchika trusted her instincts as well. She just knew that Pranav was everything he claimed to be. The two are getting married next month.

Looking back, the couples wouldn’t have wanted to meet any other way now.

Pros of online chatting:
* You can be brutally honest with the person.
* You don’t have to worry if the person likes you or not.. you don’t have to talk to the person again if you don’t wish to.
* It’s a great way to get to know someone especially if you are shy and cannot express your feelings in person.
* It’s also a great way to bond, especially for time-short professionals.

First Published: May 18, 2009 15:05 IST