UTPA students share their experiences with online dating
Nursing major Sarah Christensen’s death brought her and boyfriend Luis Escalante together. Had he not resurrected her, they might have never met.
Four years ago, while attempting to complete quests as a character for the Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game Fiesta, Christensen found she was out of her element.
“It was my first MMO and I sucked really, really bad,” the 22-year-old recalled with a laugh. “I died so I needed someone to come resurrect me. So he came by, resurrected me and then he left.”
An MMO allows people from all over the world to play the same game and interact with each other in real time. While Christensen was gaming from Morgan Hill, Calif., Escalante was in Hidalgo.
Over the next couple of days, the two met up within the game and began to talk to each other via typed chat.
“From there, basically there’s only been a span of about three days that we didn’t talk in the beginning because he was busy,” the sophomore said. “But other than that, for four years now, not even a single day has gone by that we haven’t talked.”
After about two years of communicating through phone, video chat and spending a total of three weeks together in person, Christensen moved to the Valley the summer of 2010 to be with Escalante. Since then she has been a resident of Hidalgo, living with 23-year-old Escalante, and his mother.
“I can’t imagine anything without him. My entire future is planned with him,” Christensen said of her junior biology major boyfriend. “We’ve gone through a lot of stuff together. Living with him has made us closer.”
With this generation’s popularity of social media and online gaming, human interaction has extended throughout different mediums. Online dating is a means of meeting people when the girl next door has been whisked away or the eligible bachelors at the club have lost their luster.
More than twice as many couples that married in 2009 met through online dating services than at a club or social event, according to a 2010 article in The Washington Post.
“It’s something different and a whole new experience,” said Alamo native and senior Randy Garcia, who had a two-year relationship with a girl he met online. “I wanted to see what the fuss was about and gain the knowledge of something that I thought I would never do…curiosity got the best of me.”
“There are always downfalls to things like that,” Garcia said. “Sometimes you have to be aware about people who are catfish and that’s creepy.”
The term “catfish,” a person who creates a false online identity, was coined in 2010 when a documentary by the same name came out. It followed a relationship between a man and a woman who met online, but after investigation the man found the woman had fabricated her identity.
While Garcia’s relationship ended, he admits he would give online dating another shot, unlike 20-year-old McAllen native Doris Valdez, who flatly said never again.
“I met a few people, but it’s not the same as real-life dating. In meeting face to face, you had to have a social connection first,” said the senior art education major who signed up with site OKcupid. “(With) online dating, these people are presented to you without context. You’re meeting a total stranger with no social connection and that’s not a good way to meet someone.”
Biology and theater performance major Karen Rice has a vastly different opinion than Valdez.
Rice is a 29-year-old Springfield, Ohio native who found a relationship through the MMORPG World of Warcraft in 2008. Like Christensen, Rice began a relationship by chance with someone out of state through the gaming world.
After about four months of flirtation, Rice and her now former boyfriend made their relationship official and were together for two years. Though the couple could only initially interact through technological outlets, Rice believes it was an experience that person-to-person interaction couldn’t grant.
“I think it’s better to not meet someone face to face at first because then you’re going off of somebody’s personality and not what they look like,” she said. “If you don’t know what someone looks like then I think you get to know them a little better because you’re not wrapped up in the looks of someone. You actually get to know their personality.”
As far as what it’s like when finally meeting up with the person who has been primarily composed of pixels on a screen, Christensen went through her own battles with Escalante.
No longer able to hide reactions, facial expressions and mannerisms, she was taken aback after first moving in with Escalante and his mother, but found a better outcome.
“You have to kind of get to know them all over again because the way you are online is a little more selective,” she said. “It’s like your perfect vision of that person is not there, but the reward is that you get to actually know the person that you’re with for who they truly are.”