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Though the internet allows us to connect with people across the globe near-instantly, dating apps like Tinder prioritize showing us nearby matches, the assumption being the best date is the one we can meet up with as quickly as possible with little inconvenience.
A year and a half ago, I was 23, single, and working as an engineer at the online-dating site Ok Cupid.
But then, what you say to a stranger you’d probably never meet?
Freed from the pressure of a pending outcome—no question of a second drink, moving to a second bar, or going back to anyone’s place—I became immersed in these conversations that lasted, sometimes, for hours.
Reading through them, I noticed something odd: Many of Ok Cupid’s successful users first met when they were living across the country—or the world—from each other.
I read stories of couples who chatted online for months before flying from California to Georgia, Michigan to Washington, Ohio to Peru, Cyprus to Lebanon to see each other for the first time.
Lonely and alone on a Saturday night, I started scrolling through Ok Cupid and, out of boredom and curiosity, expanded my search options to include users anywhere in the world.
A couple of weeks later, for work, I started combing through a data set of Ok Cupid “success stories”—blurbs that couples wrote in to let us know they’d found a soul mate or spouse through the site.
Here I learn there’s a word for digital couples who’ve never met in person: They’re called “nevermets.” “Three years in and we’ve finally closed the distance!! “[f/22][m/28],” she clarified, meaning she was a 22-year-old female and her partner a 28-year-old male.
“Meeting him for the first time tomorrow.” A recent survey of the group found most members are young, between 18 and 23.
Maybe it was the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon—that effect where, when you first learn about something, you see it everywhere—but suddenly I learned that lots of people I knew had this same story.
One friend had just flown from New York to Israel to see a guy she’d first met on Tinder.