download to happiness
Special to The Pantagraph
In the hit movie
You've Got Mail, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, two people fall
in love without ever meeting in person by writing letters to each
other electronically through their computers.
For three Central
Illinois couples, this idea of a visionless courtship involving
a long-anticipated meeting that results in a lifetime commitment
is not just a made-up story line for a major motion picture. It's
the real story of how they met their spouse.
Darrin and Tiffany Acton of Bloomington, 50-something Ken and Lea
Splane of Fairbury and 40-something Bruce and Cindy Wilson of Gridley
have learned that the romance of letter writing combined with the
wonders of modern technology can end up in a happily-ever-after
depict the first generation of technology-based romances – cyberspace
pioneers, whose only common characteristics are they weren't looking
for romance, but found it anyway – over the Internet.
I had no idea
when I first met him we would end up marrying, says Lea Splane,
whose complete Internet romance story, authored by her husband Ken
on their personal Web page, includes links to their honeymoon spot
at Starved Rock State Park and a bed and breakfast in Galena. It
is always risky when you don't know the person, but risks are what
life is all about. If you aren't willing to take risks, you are
missing out on a lot of good things in life.
For Ken, who
is shy by nature and likes to write poetry, the Internet provided
the perfect way to meet people. His first reply letter to Lea included
a poem he penned titled The Last Rose of Summer, that can also
be viewed on the couple's Web site.
We both believe
God put us together and led us to do what we did and that is why
we fit together so well, says Lea. Meeting over the Internet is
not for everyone, but it's a good alternative way to meet someone.
Of the three
couples featured here, Ken and Darrin are shy, Lea and Cyndi are
not. Bruce, Cyndi and Ken have been married with children, Darrin
sand Tiffany have not. Ken, Bruce, Darrin and Cyndi live on the
Internet, Tiffany and Lea don't. Darrin and Tiffany, Ken and Lea
met by accident through Internet bulletin boards and chat rooms
while Bruce and Cyndi met through specific Internet dating databases.
But, in order to find a good companion online, each couple agrees
on two things: caution and honesty.
If you are
honest, this is the best way in the world to find somebody, says
Bruce Wilson, who had five Internet romances in three years before
meeting his wife Cyndi over the Internet in 1998. You don't want
to come across as a Superman-type when you know yourself you are
more of a Fred Flintstone-type.
your marital status, gender, age, occupation and race are common
in the chat rooms and dating databases of the Internet. This is
one reason Internet dating hasn't been taken seriously.
A lot of people
thought we were crazy when we decided to marry, says Cyndi whose
two-month engagement to Bruce included dates to flea markets, garage
sales and a visit to her parents' home, My family was concerned
we didn't know each other long enough or well enough. She said.
My father's first reaction was, how do you know he isn't an ax-murderer?
The ax-murderer extreme seems to be the most
popular concern for well-meaning family members and close friends
of those involved in an Internet romance.
And justifiably so.
Internet dating is not a quick fix for loneliness
or a magic program designed to fulfill personal fantasies. There
are all kinds of people out there in cyberspace and the chance of
having an encounter with the right one is more than unlikely – it's
next to impossible.
That's why general
public opinion and acceptance of Internet romance is two-faced.
During the courting
process, couples may face a barrage of criticism, jokes and eye-rolling
from friends and family. After the couple has a favorable meeting
in person, however, the couple may experience a celebrity-like status
among the same circles.
who married us said she couldn't wait to enter our marriage into
her journal because she could say she married someone who met over
the Internet, says Cyndi.
Once the ax-murderer
or pathological liar theory has been dispelled, waiting to meet
in person and the absence of physical touch are two of the biggest
drawbacks to an Internet romance.
You can't kiss
your date good night, says Ken.
It was hard
waiting to meet, but also very exciting to know you were finally
going to meet this person you were talking to all this time, adds
was built on communication and trust, says Tiffany Acton who met
her husband Darrin during a conversation about cats while in a chat
room. It was hard waiting to see each other but it gave us so much
time to talk. We knew everything about each other by the time we
got to meet face-to-face.
in Canada at the time of their first conversation. But by the time
they arrived a little over one year later, he visited Illinois twice,
Tiffany visited Canada once, they experienced globalchat, a technological
wonder using computer microphones to talk back and forth and they
overcame compelling opposition about the difference and distance
in Bloomington, they are in their second year of marriage, going
through the immigration process for Darrin's permanent citizenship
and planning to have children.
We are both
very happy, and I thank God that He allowed us the opportunity to
meet even though we were so far apart, says Tiffany. He brought
us together, I truly believe that.
Internet romance is different, comparing the stories of these three
couples reveals four distinct stages that will serve as markers
on the road of online dating.
met in person about four months after they began exchanging letters;
during the four months photos were exchanged, either online, snail-mail
or both; each married within a year; and each experienced some kind
of opposition or celebrity status as a result of how they met.
don't give the Internet a chance, says Bruce. I know there are
many people not telling the truth about themselves. I think with
some controlled questions and a sharp mind, you can weed out these
So, after the
marriage do the e-mail love letters stop?
Bruce and I
still e-mail each other and chat online, says Cyndi. We even plan
evenings together, to meet on our deck, to cuddle and look at the
I got mail,