A Google image search, a Zelda fanfiction site, AOL chat, the Craigslist 'free stuff' section.
It's a love story as old as time: A woman Google image searches the grave of a dead poet, stumbles upon the blog of a guy living halfway around the world. They message, she visits, they fall in love. They live happily ever after. Welcome to the internet.
Online dating is nothing new, and in an age of Tinder, it's been totally normalized. But the internet is a vast, weird place. If it's possible for something to have happened, it probably has—Monday morning, a news story about a couple who fell in love because of a Facebook glitch was going viral.
We Met on the Internet is a new book by Brooklyn photographer Jena Cumbo and Vermont-based writer Gina Tron, a whirlwind tour through the lives of dozens of couples who originally crossed paths online.
Tron and Cumbo's book makes it patently clear that there's lots of ways to find love that don't involve swiping right. There are senior citizens who met on AOL chat (bless their hearts), a pair of nerds who met on a Legend of Zelda forum, and a couple who met on Craigslist's "free stuff" page (he was giving away movie tickets he'd won in a contest, she was new to the city).
"We found that the ones who met on sites that are just for hooking up or aren't even supposed to be romantic ended up having stories that are just as traditional as a couple who met on Match.com," Tron told me. "No matter how they met, the way they fell in love, the connections they formed, everyone is ultimately looking for the same thing."
Cumbo started the project in 2013 as a blog, which got attention from the New York Times and a few other news sites. She met couples around the country through friends of friends and on Craigslist, where she offered to trade free portraits in exchange for their participation in the book. Tron would do a follow up interview to get the specifics of their stories.
After meeting with so many couples, Cumbo says there seem to be some subtle differences between those who met online and those who originally met in real life.
"Generally when you meet online, it turns into a relationship quicker. I don't know if it's good or bad thing, but it seems like there's less of a gray area," she told me. "When you meet organically, you might just end up hanging out with someone—sometimes it's not clear if the intention to date is there."
And how about that couple who met via Google image search?
"She was in England, he was in Pasadena, California. She did that Google image search and they started talking on Twitter," Cumbo said. "She eventually planned a visit and came out to California where they hit it off. He proposed super quickly. That one is probably my favorite story."