Ali Garland wasn’t expecting to meet her husband when she sent out an innocuous tweet in the summer of 2010. “I just bought a domain,” she wrote. “Now I just have to figure out how to set it up.”
Andrew Couch, a fellow travel blogger whom she followed on Twitter but had never interacted with, was quick to respond. Their casual exchange progressed into direct messages, which then led to a short Skype session, “and that was that,” recalls Garland. But a couple of weeks later, she got curious and started reading through the posts on his website. “I thought, ‘This guy just helped me out, and I feel bad I’ve never actually looked at his blog.’ ”
That’s when she discovered he had moved to Europe on a whim even before getting a job there — something she had always fantasized about doing. She began emailing him questions about what it was like to live abroad as an ex-pat, and before long, they were having Skype sessions most weekend nights, sometimes until the early hours of the morning, when Couch, who was six hours ahead, would fall asleep in front of his computer. They met in person during a trip to Prague that Thanksgiving, and seven months later, they were married in Atlanta, Ga., where she had been living at the time. The couple now lives together in Berlin.
Garland and Couch’s love story might be unique, but it’s not an anomaly. Twitter doesn’t bill itself as a dating service or even a place to meet people. Since its founding in 2006, however, it has emerged as an unlikely matchmaker for singles who share highly specific interests, made searchable using hashtags. The hashtag #WeMetOnTwitter, which has been used in roughly 500 Twitter posts according to the social media tracking tool Keyhole, suggests there are many couples who found lasting romantic partnerships using the social media site more typically favored by news agencies and celebrities. One such couple, Atlanta-based Anuj Patel and Sumita Dalmia, famously had a Twitter-themed wedding in November. Twitter doesn’t maintain statistics on how many of its users met through the website, but it does actively crowd-source and feature stories from people who have used the app to “kindle a romance,” according to its website.
That Twitter has become fertile ground to meet eligible singles makes sense, considering its demographics: More than a third of 18-to-29 year-old Americans online count themselves among the app’s 313 million active monthly users, according to a Pew Research Center report published last year.
La’Queasha Beard, a Miami-based preacher who runs a branding agency, says she never considered joining dating apps like Tinder, considering their reputation for facilitating no-strings-attached sex. But she was used to getting hit on via Twitter direct messages, she says, including one message four years ago from her now-fiance, fellow preacher Bryce Graham. The two became boyfriend-and-girlfriend while she was still living in St. Louis. They communicated mostly through FaceTime before she moved to Florida to be closer to him.
But the same thing that makes Twitter so appealing for singles — the fact that it’s not a dating service — can also make it tricky to navigate. Enter the U.K.-based dating app Loveflutter, which offers a more discreet platform for Twitter users to make the first move. Loveflutter initially hit the market in 2013, requiring its users to take personality quizzes before joining, and re-branded itself a year later as the “quirkier” version of Tinder. It uses a similar swiping interface as Tinder but displays users’ bios — in a nod to Twitter, bios must be 140 characters or less — ahead of their photos to emphasize brains over looks.
When Loveflutter relaunched again earlier this month, it debuted a feature that embeds users’ 10 most recent tweets into their profiles. The app’s co-founder Daigo Smith believes his is the first dating service to do so. Plenty of other apps have utilized similar technology — Tinder allows users to integrate their Instagram and Spotify accounts, for example — but Smith argues that tweets give potential matches a much deeper insight into each other’s personalities. The app today boasts about 1 million total users worldwide, according to Smith.
Says Smith of flirting on Twitter: “I think it’s too public. How do you go about it?” His app promises to give users a boost of confidence before pursuing each other. “The beauty of the mutual like system is that you’re not giving away that you like someone unless you know that they like you back.”
According to a survey Loveflutter conducted in January among 1,000 of its users, roughly half said they followed someone on Twitter because they were a potential love interest. About a quarter of respondents said they’ve flirted with another user through a favorite, a reply or a direct message, and yet just one percent said they’ve asked someone on a date via Twitter. Ninety-six percent of respondents said Twitter is the “wrong place” to look for a date.
But at a time when there’s a Slack bot to romantically connect co-workers and a dating app to match LinkedIn users, the lines between business and pleasure have never been more blurred. “We like to compartmentalize certain things in our lives. [People think] Twitter is just for business and just professional,” says Thomas Edwards, a dating coach who founded a service called the Professional Wingman. “It’s like, no, they’re all just tools. You decide how you want to use them.”
Edwards would know: In 2009, he got a direct message from a fellow dating coach who noticed him via a hashtag, retweeted him, and later suggested they meet in person to compare industry notes. They kept their conversations business-related at first, but it soon became clear they were more than just networking buddies. The couple, now based in Los Angeles, married in 2014 and gave birth to their first child earlier this month.
Laurie Davis Edwards says she was attracted to Thomas’s profile picture initially, but then became even more charmed reading his “sweet” tweets about his friends and family. “I think what makes platforms like Twitter and Instagram and even Snapchat very viable [for dating] is that you actually get a peek into how someone lives their life,” says the founder of the dating service eflirt and author of the 2013 book “Love At First Click: The Ultimate Guide to Online Dating.”
She admits to having met her previous dates on platforms such as Myspace and Craigslist but insists that Twitter is an ideal platform to connect with potential mates, so long as users switch from public replies to direct messages fairly quickly. Even then, she cautions, it can be a challenge to feel out the situation. “Ultimately, asking someone out on Twitter, there’s still that fear of rejection that exists,” she says.
“But it’s super possible,” Thomas adds. “It all goes down in the DM’s.”