Wednesday 28 September 2016

Love birds: The couples who met on Twitter

Who needs Tinder when you can fall in love in less than 140 characters? Vicki Notaro reports on the romantic side of the social media platform

Published 27/07/2016 | 02:30

Baby makes three: Christian Hughes and Jules Keeley wed after meeting on Twitter and now have two-year-old son Beckett. Photo: Tom Conachy
Baby makes three: Christian Hughes and Jules Keeley wed after meeting on Twitter and now have two-year-old son Beckett. Photo: Tom Conachy
Ben Keenan and Nathalie Marquez Courtney are engaged

Twitter is good for many things, from observing celebrities fighting to discovering witty memes, not to mention watching events unfold around the world in real time. But had you ever thought about it as the place to find the love of your life?

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Last week, a British woman made headlines when she revealed that she had done just that. Four years ago, Twitter user Victoria O'Brien posted: "Well I'm in love with whoever is manning the @WstonesOxfordSt account. Be still my actual beating heart." She was referring to the social media manager whose witty quips and book trivia had piqued her interest, but had no idea who the man himself was. Then last week, she wrote a follow up post. "Dear reader, I married him #noreally #yeahidunnohoweither".

Sharing their wedding pictures with their followers online this week, Victoria and the mystery man behind the account, Jonathan, revealed how they met on the site.

After a few exchanges, it was Victoria who took things in to the realm of reality and brought him doughnuts at work. He followed up with a DM (direct message, for the uninitiated) days later, and they've been inseparable ever since.

But their story is not unique. Interacting on Twitter has been a mere hop, skip and a jump from the aisle for many Irish couples too. Photographer Nathalie Marquez Courtney met Ben Keenan on the micro-blogging site five years ago, and the two got engaged last spring.

"I tweeted something very witty, probably, and saw a familiar-looking name retweet it," explains Keenan (31) of their first online interaction. "It was an ultra-nerdy joke about Steve Jobs and Adobe and I chortled at it," remembers Nathalie. "He asked if he knew me from somewhere. Looking back, that now sounds like a total line!"

It turned out Ben remembered Nathalie from her work at the UCD college paper, her long name sticking in his head. "We struck up an online conversation straight away. I immediately found her easy to talk to. She was funny and self-assured, and most importantly thought I was funny too; I found myself wanting an excuse to talk to her without being constrained by 140 characters."

The two had a shared interest in photography, so Ben asked Nathalie for her email address for some advice. "I was working unsociable hours at the time and would take time most nights to send her a long email. I'd break into a big smile the next day when I'd wake to find one from her. I wasn't looking to meet someone, but I knew that romantic or not, I'd connected to someone really deeply."

"At the time, we didn't think we had any mutual followers," Nathalie recalls. "But it turns out we had loads. One night I was sitting there when a tweet came in addressed to us both, saying "What's going on between you two!? It's like watching something beautiful blossom!" and I remember grabbing a nearby cushion and burying my face in it in mortification. I mean, I knew it wasn't private, but at the same time, I didn't think anybody had been following along either!"

Their first meeting came as the result of a Dublin "tweet-up", or a night out for people who regularly chatted on the site. "It was in my local pub, so couldn't have been more perfect, but that didn't stop me from hiding in the snug for a good 40 minutes," laughs Nathalie. "As soon as we met, we cracked a joke and basically didn't stop talking for the rest of the night."

After that, their romance deepened and after five years together, Ben popped the question in San Francisco, the home of Twitter. The couple say their upcoming wedding might have a hashtag, but that's about it as far as a nod to the website where they met.

One couple that have already tied the knot after a Twitter meeting are Jules Keeley (41) and Christian Hughes (36).

"Twitter was a very different beast back in 2009, a small community in Ireland, so we met through mutual friends," says Jules. "I'd been organising tweet-ups in Dublin so it was only natural, I suppose, that our paths would cross, given his career in digital marketing. I was at a place in my life where I was ready to start seeing someone seriously; he came along at the right time. Serendipity, I guess. I was drawn to his honesty, kindness, wit and charm."

By chance, Christian was attending a birthday party in Jules' native Drogheda one weekend soon after; they arranged to meet that night and instantly hit it off. "We went from dating to living together in the blink of an eye," she explains. "I was commuting to Dublin from Drogheda, so it began with me staying over a couple of nights a week in his place, and he'd come up to me in Clogherhead at the weekend."

After a stint living in Dublin together, Christian left the city behind to live with Jules in the rural beach town in 2013, and months later Jules discovered she was pregnant with their son Beckett, now aged two. Nine months after that, Christian proposed. "There was never any question in my mind that I was going to marry Jules. I knew very early on in the relationship that she was 'the one'."

Meanwhile RTE 2fm's director of music, Alan Swan, met his now-wife Gillian on Twitter in 2011. "Twitter suggests people you should follow judging from your own current followers and interests; it suggested that I follow Alan and I did," explains Gillian. "One day I referenced the fact that I was getting my braces off, and Alan tweeted me trying to be funny about it. One was not amused, tweeted him back to tell him so and from that point the tweeting was relentless.

"We had great banter, and it got to a point where we would be messaging each other until 4am. Alan told me afterwards he was literally shaking with tiredness as he used to have early starts while producing the Hector breakfast show on 2FM and was getting no sleep!"

The two took things offline and on to the phone a couple of months later. "I was sick with nerves expecting Alan's call. When he did ring, I was out in the car and I pulled over. It was winter and it was absolutely Baltic. We spoke for over an hour and I nearly had frostbite after it, but was glowing because our virtual banter translated easily!"

Alan then asked Gillian out to dinner, and he says it was love at first sight. Even though he was based in Galway and she in the capital, love prevailed, and the couple traversed the country to see one another for almost two years until Alan was relocated to Dublin. Fast forward to present day and the two are married and parents to baby Serena.

A place that fosters a meeting of like-minded people, without any blatant dating agenda, it seems Twitter is where love strikes quite organically. So bear that in mind when hitting the follow button - you could just be clicking on your soul mate.

Alternative places to meet online

Dating websites and apps are all well and good, but for some, signing up feels a little too scary.

However, there are other places on the internet you can meet someone with a shared interest…

• YELP

Not many know that Yelp has a messaging function that allows you to send a note to someone via their profile - and you can even send them a compliment... So next time you see someone with a nice avatar and er, great reviews, ping them a message and see what happens.

• INSTAGRAM

The photo sharing network has a direct message service, so it's easy to chat if you like the look of someone's pictures. Just beware, you need to send a message request to someone who's not following you, and they may not see it right away.

• LINKEDIN

Sending saucy messages on a professional network is definitely a bad idea, but LinkedIn is a good place to connect with those in a similar field to you. You never know, you could link up with lovely John from finance…

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