We’ve all become increasingly familiar with couples meeting on dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, but traditional social media sites such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have also played a less-reported role in facilitating the path to true love.
he advantage of starting a relationship with someone online is that by the time you slide into their DMs to strike up a conversation, you will already have observed how they interact with others, checked out their interests and likes, and formed a more rounded sense of them as a person.
Then there’s the opportunity to secretly check out their family, friends and exes…
Take former councillors Sarah Ryan and Keith Redmond, who first encountered one another on Twitter. Sarah was regularly tagged in conversations and arguments with Keith, a dentist, and several others. As he didn’t have a profile pic, she didn’t know who he was when he approached her at the bar in Leinster House in 2013 and said he knew her from Twitter.
Eoin had noticed Sarah’s tweets as far back as 2009 and was interested in her. She was born into a staunchly Fianna Fáil family — her dad is former TD and MEP Eoin Ryan — and Keith was in Fine Gael at the time.
“I met him at an event a year later and he got my number from someone and started texting me and asking me out,” Sarah says.
Even though she had formed an assumption that he was a “right-wing lunatic”, Sarah agreed to go out with Keith when her sister Hannah teased her about being boring by not taking a chance.
Actually, she found that Keith was basically the opposite, as he’s a libertarian who thinks people should be free to do what they want as long as it doesn’t harm others.
“For example, Keith thinks that drugs should be legalised, and my dad served as Minister of State with responsibility for the National Drugs Strategy,” she laughs.
“Keith was able to say whatever he thought on Twitter and I was kind of jealous of that freedom as I was much more cautious. I remember trying to be charming and witty online when we first started dating in case he read my tweets. He’s really clever so it’s hard to win an argument against him.”
Sarah knew that Keith was the man for her and told her dad she was going to marry him early on, even though they were polar opposites — the Romeo and Juliet of Irish politics.
“Keith is 10 years older than me, he was in Fine Gael and from the northside, while we’re hardcore southsiders,” says Sarah (38). “He didn’t know what rugby was and supported Liverpool, not Manchester United — but he and my dad became great pals.”
While their wedding had to be moved to next year due to Covid, they have two young sons, Ryan (4) and Conor (2) to keep them busy. Sarah has just completed a law degree and recently sat the Bar exams, and while they both ran in the 2014 local elections, Keith was elected but Sarah wasn’t.
“That was interesting,” she laughs. “Keith didn’t run the last time and isn’t in any party now, so we’re just enthusiastic spectators these days. There are still things that we vehemently disagree on, but my parents are like that too and I think that’s the sauce in a relationship.”
While social media platforms like TikTok and Clubhouse are playing cupid for a new generation, older generations came of age with MySpace, once the largest social networking site in the world.
Grace and Eoin Benson from Dublin reckon they never would have met one another if it wasn’t for MySpace, as they were teenagers who lived almost 20km apart: she in Kilnamanagh and he in Stepaside. The social network suggested friends to its users based on common interests, and when Grace — then Grace Genocchi — came up on Eoin’s page, he added her as a friend.
“I genuinely wasn’t looking to meet anyone, but we started chatting,” Grace says. “I had gone on a few dates with some mad lads before that, and I liked that Eoin was so nice and polite and a real gentleman.”
After a few months of talking online, Eoin asked Grace to his debs, so they decided to meet for a date beforehand. Eoin says it was love at first sight for him and Grace was equally smitten. “I was nervous, but I really liked him,” she says.
They began dating in earnest, which involved taking two buses and juggling college and part-time jobs. They saved hard and bought a house five years ago, having become engaged a year earlier when Eoin proposed on a gondola in Venice. Now 32, they’re married and have two children, Lucia (4) and Evan (20 months).
Grace feels that getting to know one another online was helpful as Eoin was a lot shyer as a teen and probably wouldn’t have approached her in person.
“Social media was a lot more innocent then,” she says. “There was no catfishing or filters, and it was more about sharing interests than finding a date.”
For other couples, like Niall Boylan and Karen Berry, the private messaging feature on Facebook sparked the start of something special. When a sciatica flare-up rendered Classic Hits talk show host Niall immobile, he resigned himself to sitting upright all night on his sofa.
As he was scrolling through social media to pass the time, he received a message from Karen, who was managing an artist and had a query about the studio layout.
“I saw her profile picture and thought she was gorgeous, so I asked what she was doing up at that hour?” Niall laughs.
“We started messaging back and forth and Karen suggested things to help my back, and we ended up staying on until 7am the following morning. This will sound stupid, but I’m convinced it was love at first sight, as even though I hadn’t met Karen, I knew she was very special. I plucked up the courage to ask for her phone number 24 hours later.”
The pair had a lot in common as Karen was divorced with two children and Niall’s 25-year marriage had ended months earlier. The father-of-three had gone through a very tough time over its demise.
“I ended up on Howth Head one night and was going to take my own life, and was saved when a friend phoned and talked to me,” he says. “I was 54 at the time and I remember talking to my producer and saying that even though I’m a person who likes company, there was no way I could go on Tinder. I hadn’t a clue how to meet someone.”
Having unexpectedly struck up a connection on Facebook, Niall and Karen chatted for two weeks, surreptitiously checking each other’s pages out before they met in person.
Niall liked that Karen knew little about him and had never listened to his show, and when they met in person, they both knew it was meant to be.
Although she’s from Dublin, Karen has lived in Belfast for 27 years and Niall goes up every Friday when the show ends and stays until Monday. They have great fun together and are both very adventurous.
“Karen is amazing, with the most beautiful eyes and she is such a happy, generous person,” Niall says.
“We think alike and she has the same controversial views as I have about everything. We never argue and I have never come across anyone like her in my life. I’d marry her in the morning.”