Twitter: A Love Story
Matt and Cere have much in common. They’re both attractive thirty-somethings who are regulars on Twitter. They have been dating for about two months. They live on different continents. And they have never met.
Social media, like online dating before it, has the potential to revolutionise the way modern people connect and interact with one another. The quaint days of meeting at school or through a friend may not be over, but the web opens a brave new world of possibility. It’s easy to imagine a teenage boy, who has no need to write angst-ridden poetry after being rejected by the girl-next-door – as he can simply switch on his computer and chat to any number of girls in the digital realm.
There are numerous advantages to using Twitter as a platform to meet people, such as not having to awkwardly deal with parents at the start of a relationship. Unlike online dating sites, on which users can easily manipulate their profiles and over-sell themselves, Twitter is far more revealing.
“I’ve found Twitter especially to be a very good litmus test for someone’s personality; the 140-character limit doesn’t leave a lot of room for obfuscation,” said Matt Baldwin (@thisbrokenwheel), who lives in San Diego in the US. “People who are insincere or unpleasant tend to reveal it rather quickly.”
His girlfriend, Ceredwyn Nortje (@Dwyndle), a South African student in Edinburgh, Scotland, whom he met on Twitter, agreed. “Twitter is a great way to meet people. People I have met tend to be more open and honest – perhaps because we can’t see each other.”
Twitter, though, is not a direct rival to dating sites. The way it is utilised differs from person to person. For some it is a source of news, for others a social outlet. Few regular users visit it to trawl for attractive members of the opposite (or the same) sex. But human nature, such as it is, often takes the mind on a different journey.
Jennie Greenhill (@JennieGreenhill), a 39-year-old South African, has been on Twitter since September 2009. When she signed up to the microblogging platform, she had no idea that it would have the capacity to take her in to a relationship with another Twitter user.
“I cannot say that Twitter can be considered an online dating service, but one does get to see the personality of the people you interact with more clearly than with a dating site – purely because people are not there to date. I find that people let their guard down on Twitter more easily.”
Her Twitter relationship is over now but she did meet her Twitter boyfriend in real life. “He lived in Cape Town and I am in Johannesburg, but we did meet. It was amazing to spend time together in the same room and we were very compatible.”
For Jennie, who has used online dating services, Twitter’s authenticity offers advantages. “Online dating is forced and false and completely desperate at times. There is a repetition of your life story and theirs that is exhausting.”
The concept of Twitter dating is still a new one and no figures are available as to how many long-lasting relationships have come about through the platform. The other side of the story has, however, received some bad press, with the Daily Mail citing an OKCupid report that states that Twitter users have on average shorter relationships than non-Twitter users.
At least anecdotally, it seems Twitter has the power to bring people together, because it’s unique capacity to allow users to filter whom they follow and interact with.
Nonetheless, in informal surveys, many non-Twitter users – and sceptics – view the idea of meeting people through the website as unsavoury, even sleazy. But not for Matt. “I’ve been very pleasantly surprised at how accepting my friends have been about this certainly unconventional relationship,” he said.
For her part, Cere said she too was sceptical about the power of Twitter and social media.
“It was the last thing I expected to happen,” she said. “If someone had told me six months ago it was possible to engage in a genuine relationship with someone on the other side of the world via the internet, I would not have believed them.”