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High-tech dating is a step back in time

MY friend went on a date with someone for the first time this weekend. She couldn't stop smiling when she met me for coffee to tell me about it, because she'd been nervous about meeting him.

They first contacted each other through an online dating service. Her concern was he might find her less interesting in person than in writing.

She's a writer and shy when it comes to personal encounters. I've often tried to encourage her as she is brilliant professionally but lacks confidence in the social context. Now she's at a stage in her life where she wants more than a 12-hour working day, so she's putting some of her energy into finding someone to spend the rest of her life with.

But everyone she's dated, apart from this guy, hasn't bothered to find out about her. She's quiet but if they go more than two questions in they will find a rich seam of conversation.

This man gets that. He also likes her taste in music and the arts. He has a spiritual side -- very important for her. They both like nature and would prefer country over city, but work dictates a commute, so they've both put that on hold until they meet the right person.

Their date went on for hours. The only thing they didn't share was the venue. They were thousands of miles apart for their first encounter.

Skype dating is the next best thing to an airline ticket; my friend represents a growing number of global daters who are looking for love and not letting oceans get in the way.

One of my relatives met her man just before he went to live abroad and they kept in touch with each other using Skype. It led to her packing up her job and heading after him. Phone calls don't give the same impression as a visual and voice combined.

My friend and relative both investigated their local pub scene to the point of exhaustion and didn't find what they were looking for, so they used new technology to answer a very old longing.

They agreed it had its issues, but it was better than dating someone who they only had half an interest in back home. My relative used Skype to back up the hunch this was the right man. She hadn't enough time to discover that in the first hormonal rush, so she 'Skype dated' for a few months to make sure. But what about when you've never met, is it madness to pursue?

"I know you can't tell unless you meet a man close up, but this man is worth putting money into a long-haul plane ticket," my first-date friend tells me. "We got a glimpse of each other's worlds and a sense of the other's presence. We already knew each other very well from corresponding."

It's very new, but the pace is very old fashioned. There's no rush to the bedroom but a long and detailed enquiry into the person's background.

"Before our generation, our parents married the first person they saw seriously. They got to know them really well and saved for a wedding and house before living with each other. I know we live together and it's a better way of finding out if the person is right for you, but I moved in too quickly with my last long-term partner," she explains.

The no rules around modern love means a lot of us move too quickly into the other person's space. Now space-age dating gives us back the space we need.