Interviews

Romance on Jamaicans.com

Written by Xavier Murphy

The Jamaicans.com forum was developed in 1996 as interactive space for the website’s users to share information and network. Through the years, these forums developed into popular social cyber hubs, later growing into strong friendships and for a few lucky couples, true love.

Murmurings of Cupid’s presence at the forums were hard to suppress. Those who found themselves lucky in love and seriously dating were hesitant to disclose that there was romance budding on Jamaicans.com. Further investigation would later reveal that there were three (3) marriages and numerous dating couples. Determined to have these couples tell their own story, I found two brave couples who were willing to share with the rest of us their journey of love on Jamaicans.com, especially stealth fully navigating their love affair in public view. Other couples who declined to have a published interview did share valuable information for the article. There were common thoughts that resonated among the couples that I interviewed, which were: · An online forum can be safe place to start a friendship. · Forum discussions offered more insight on participants than a “real” date. · Unfair social stigma on online dating can potentially taint a budding relationship. · The playful familiarity of the forum mirrors the way Jamaicans meet and relate to each other. · Finding love was not a consideration for signing up for the forum. · The connection and attraction was developed progressively over a period of time. INTERVIEW WITH COUPLE NUMBER 1

Q: What was your first encounter on Jamaicans.com like?

Woman: It was nothing out of the ordinary; we interacted just as I would have with any other board member. The 1st time I noticed him, he was flirting with a bunch of women and invited me to join – but I told him I didn’t go in for the “group” action. (LOL)

Man: We had normal conversation just like any other members. She was JA.com royalty the way she carried herself on the board and I liked that. (LOL)

Q: Was the attraction to each other online or when you met offline?

Woman: Well we spent several months talking on the phone before we met offline – I think the attraction developed during the phone calls.

Man: Like I said I was attracted by the way she carried herself on the board especially her quick wit and obvious intelligence. We talked for a while on the phone before we met which I think allowed us to get to know each other.

Q: Did any of the Jamaicans.com offline events (bashments, parties, Jamaica get together) help facilitate your offline meetings?

Woman: Not really – we kept our meetings private. Although, we did see each other at some of them.

Man: Not at all. I’m extremely private especially with my private life so we kept our interactions to ourselves. We did attend a few offline events together.

Q: Did you pretend to be just friends at these events?

Woman: Yes

Man: Yes and no. We didn’t let anyone know but we found ways to interact with each other the way we wanted.

Q: Were you living far from each other?

Woman: Yes

Man: Yes we were

Q: Was the picture exchange what you expected?

Woman: (LOL) Not really – but truthfully at the time we exchanged pictures – there was a big thing going happening on the board where everyone was sharing pictures. This was before the time of ‘Myfamily’. I really had no expectations at that point as we had not yet had any type of personal contact.

Man: Nuh lissen to har… lol we were all exchanging pictures at the time so it was more seeing what everyone looked like.

Q: How did your relationship develop?

Woman: It happened very gradually. There was a group of us that kept in touch by email off the board and slowly he and I became a subset of that group. I was going through a tough time then and he became a confidante. In the 1st 3 months I think we logged a minimum of 5 hours phone time each and every day. Lots of time on the IM, and on the board. After the 1st face to face (which was 3 months after we started talking on the phone) – we began to see each other every other weekend but we still were afraid to rush into anything. I think being able to ‘see’ each other on the board every day definitely helped to push the relationship along despite the distance involved.

Man: Very slowly just the way I like it. LOL I don’t like to rush things so I was cool with the slow pace and appreciated the way she also didn’t want to rush things. I’m sure she will tell you I was too slow. (LOL)

Q: Did you have different online persona to your real life one?

Woman: Yes – I think I am more outspoken on the board than in real life and our relationship online is NOTHING like it is in real life.

Man: No doubt. I’m much more conservative than I am on the board. The board allows people to step outside themselves.

Q: Was that a challenge?

Woman: In the beginning of the relationship it was a challenge for me more so I think than him. But it wasn’t like we had a consensus to act differently; we automatically knew that was the way it had to be in order to preserve our privacy.

Man: I didn’t think it was a big deal. We knew what the real deal.

Q: Did you ever say something in the online community that caused a problem in the relationship?

Woman: I can’t remember saying anything – he has a few times though (grrrrr)

Man: LOL X-man yu a try get di I inna hat wata sah..

Q: Did you find it difficult hiding the relationship on the forums?

Woman: NO not really. But I do recall once typing something and then erasing it because I realized that it gave away some telling information about us.

Man: Not at all. People could have been sitting right next to me and if I didn’t want them to know they wouldn’t have a clue.

Q: Was there some excitement in keeping it a secret?

Woman: Yes – most times, but sometimes it can get tiring.

Man: I would say it brought a little more excitement but that wasn’t the reason for it.

Q: Did you ever feel like saying to the Jamaicans.com online community we are a couple?

Woman: It has crossed my mind a few times. I think back when I just joined the board I would have been comfortable sharing. These days when I look at the board I see things like people calling other people’s jobs, keeping spreadsheets so they can pull out information later to throw at you etc. That scares me tremendously; I do not want to invite public commentary on my private life. There are a handful of board friends whom we trust, and are close to who have been privy to our relationship from day one.

Man: Not at all. You never know who is who so I keep things very minimal except for the precious few I consider close friends.

Q: Do many of your discussions draw you back to the daily community interactions on Jamaicans.com?

Woman: Yes almost daily we talk about board members that we have met, or know from online or something that may have happened on the board. Although we both don’t have as much time to be there now as compared to before.

Man: I don’t really have the opportunity to get on the board much anymore so she keeps me up to date with what’s happening up there. Plus we are part of a group that email each other off-line (call demself di “iglaz” an dem cyan chat yu si (LOL) that helps me to stay in touch.

Q: How do people react when you tell them you met online?

Woman: Who says we tell them that??? (LOL) Just kidding… at 1st we didn’t tell anyone… but now it is more widely accepted and people just kinda shrug. (I still haven’t told my mother she would still be in prayer and fasting over it).

Man: Mi done tell yu areddi sey mi no tell nobady nuttin.. (LOL)

Q: How different is an online relationship from an offline relationship?

Woman: I don’t think it is any different at the end of the day but initially I know that our phone conversations gave us a chance to really get to know each other. He really became my friend long before I ever met him and I think that laid a strong foundation for our relationship to develop.

Man: Di phone bill (LOL) Not much difference. I agree it gave us a chance to get to know each other first. If we didn’t have a relationship I think we would have been friends because of this.

Q: What advise would you give anyone meeting and dating some online?

Woman: Just use your common sense as you would in any other relationship. Don’t be in a hurry, the best things in life sometimes take time but they are worth it in the long run. Learn to read behind the words, a lot can get lost in translation and NEVER allow your online communications to interfere with the personal ones.

Man: It’s really no different than meeting someone by another means. You use the same instincts the same thought process so nothing changes there. Jah will always show di way wi juss haffi follow an no force tings.

Q: How long have you been together?

Woman: We have been together for seven (7) years now.

INTERVIEW WITH COUPLE NUMBER 2

Q: What was your first encounter on Jamaicans.com like?

Him: As I remember it, I had sent her a personal message (PM) about something she said in one of her posts, and she ignored the PM. I sent her another one, and she ignored that too, and the one after that as well (LOL). She must have felt badly about it because after a while she did reply and that opened the door to follow up communication.

Her: I vividly remember my first encounter with him being in the Faith and Reason forum. There was a discussion going on regarding women in the church being quick to say a man is her husband. I put forth the position that I am not one to “go after” a man. He rebutted that it’s okay for a woman to approach a man because it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s for a romantic interest. I wanted to slap him for coming up with such an astute answer and rebutting me.

Q: Was the attraction to each other online or when you met offline?

Him: Initially it was more curiosity than it was attraction. I was very intrigued by some “down to earth” answers she had given to some questions asked by a member. She spoke honestly of the difficulties of being out in the world and then coming into Church and not being able to go to parties anymore, or do some of the other things she had fun doing. It was refreshing to me that her response was not filled with “churchy clichés” and I wanted to know this person a bit more – maybe as friends. Around this time I also saw a picture of her online. She wasn’t wearing any makeup that I could see, but she exuded a ‘certain something’ that I couldn’t put a finger on. Now I really wanted to know the person behind the things I had read, and the person whose picture I had seen.

Her: The attraction came for me when we met offline. Online he was just another poster until the exchange of the personal messages. My curiosity was piqued at this really refreshing and “out of the box” thinking person. His discourse on the board was always so astute and intriguing. Even with that, I was never of the intention of us even having an “interest” in each other. When we met we just meshed so well. It was as if we were old friends. After that initial meeting, that interest that I didn’t intend on happening, started to creep in…actually make that walk in. I tried to remain in control even after a couple more meetings. But what’s in must come out. J

Q: Did any of the Jamaicans.com offline events (bashments, parties, Jamaica get together) help facilitate your offline meetings?

Not really. Out of necessity we were at two events together, but outside of that, we did our own thing.

Q: Did you pretend to be just friends at these events?

The first event was in the very early stages and we sat in different places then. The other was much later and we sat at the same table just like any two people would. One could say we were just being ourselves, though a very observant person could possibly pick up on a thing or two.

Q: Were you living far from each other?

About 4 hours away.

Q: Was the picture exchange what you expected?

Him: We didn’t formally exchange any pictures but we did see pictures of each other before that first meeting. For me, she was a bit ‘smaller’ than I first imagined, but that was alright. (LOL)

Her: The first picture I saw of him, he was very diplomatic, well dressed, and quite stately. When I met him, he was a little more casual, but still held the diplomatic air about him.

Q: How did your relationship develop?

Wow! Do you have the time? (LOL) It went slow at first. Given our distance and the different stages of our lives, we were cautious. We corresponded by emails and phone almost daily, initially. We didn’t just talk about things on the surface. We really got deep and laid everything on the table so to speak. We had a meeting of the minds on the core things we believe in, which was very important. We continued to get together and very much enjoyed each other’s company. We were (and still are) of the mindset that we will let go and enjoy this ride and see where it take us. So far, so good!

Q: Did you have different online persona to your real life one?

Him: No, I’m comfortable in my own skin and couldn’t assume a different persona. I would definitely get them mixed up.

Her: No; not at all. I would not have the emotional wherewithal to handle both personalities. Too much work, I think.

Q: Was that a challenge?

Him: It would have been if the personas were different.

Her: No, because there isn’t a different persona.

Q: Did you ever say something in the online community that caused a problem in the relationship?

Him: Not that I can remember.

Her: Oh yes! I made a post about feeling a certain way about “us”. Unfortunately, someone completely blew it out of proportion and brought it to his attention. He, of course, confronted me about it and I had to explain my position. Given the relationship we have however, we talked about it without any ill feelings/resentment resulting. It was a learning experience for us both, and I was quite pleased with how we handled it as it could have turned out very differently.

Q: Did you find it difficult hiding the relationship on the forums?

We don’t think of it as “hiding”, but rather trying to keep what happens in cyber separate from our personal lives as much as possible.

Q: Was there some excitement in keeping it a secret?

Not really, because for a long time it was a conscious decision on our part to keep our relationship off the board. The times we interacted directly in the forums, we tried to be as “normal” as possible.

Q: Did you ever feel like saying to the Jamaicans.com online community “We are a couple?”

In some situations yes, but we figure it’s nobody’s business <evil grin>. Seriously though, a few people do know it for a fact and that’s good enough for us right now.

Q: Do many of your discussions draw you back to the daily community interactions on Jamaicans.com?

The odd times we do talk about something that someone said that we thought was really good / funny, and other times about some of the negative stuff that happens from time to time. Our discussions are mostly about things and events happening in “our worlds”, encouraging, supporting, and reaffirming each other especially when being apart gets really difficult.

Q: How do people react when you tell them you met online?

Him: Because of the strength of the relationship, most times they are pleasantly surprised. Some people freely give anecdotal examples of such relationships that didn’t work out while expressing admiration for what we have accomplished.

Her: Some give that look as though they’ve bitten in a sour grape. Others marvel, after knowing how far we’ve come and wonder how we did it. I do have to clarify that we met on a close knit discussion forum, as to quell any thoughts of our meeting on one of the many dating service sites.

Q: How different is an online relationship from an offline relationship?

The biggest challenge is the distance – not being able to be there in person to offer encouragement, support, a shoulder, talk about issues/misunderstandings, that kind of a thing, when it’s needed most. We make every effort to see each other as often as our schedules allow, and so our situation is somewhat tolerable for the time being.

Q: What advice would you give anyone meeting and dating some online?

Her: My advice is to drop all preconceived notions about meeting someone online. Just look at this as another medium for meeting someone. Once upon a time it was the bar, club, supermarket, church..etc and you can now add the internet as one of those other venues. Always follow your instincts. It it’s too good to be true, it very well may be. Of course, be cautious. In this world we do have to deal with the good and the bad. In addition, what you won’t do in person, don’t do it online. Keep in mind you’re dealing with another person’s feelings.

Him: Take your time, and most importantly, do not rush into being anything more than friends. Being friends, without the pressure of trying not to put a foot wrong, gives two people a real chance of knowing each other beyond the superficial. As she said, the internet is another medium through which people meet people, but once the meeting takes place, then all the appropriate rules that govern a functional friendship, common sense and otherwise, should apply. Generally, it is in the context of solid friendships that most people let their hair down and show their true selves. It is this knowledge, and how it impacts on the things that are important to a person, gained over time, that often influence if romance blossoms. The best of relationships are born out of solid friendships, so take the time to cultivate that.

About the author

Xavier Murphy