Matched With A Click
By Rizouana Prome & Hanna Kozlowska
‘Matched With A Click’ is a zine on the theme of online dating, with original poems, photography, artwork and elements of memoir and interview.
A Game of Love
The concept of online dating is a mystery to me: two strangers across the globe meet on the internet and form a relationship without ever seeing each other in person. How do people catch feelings only through text messages or calls? How do they trust each other given so much distance between them? How do they stay connected? To better understand online dating, I interviewed one of my close friends, Israt.
Israt lives in New York City and her boyfriend, Arif, lives in Dhaka, Bangladesh. They met in September 2019 over an online game called PUBG, in which you try to avoid getting killed by killing other people, “Hunger Games”–style. One day the game paired them up to play together. As they were talking, they fell for each other’s voices. “I noticed he was trying to flirt with me. Normally it’s irritating, so I just ignore those boys. However, I found him cute and his voice was really sweet,” Israt said. For the next couple of days, they continued to play PUBG together before exchanging social media handles. They started getting to know each other through countless hours of texting, gaming and calls. They mostly talked over the phone, but eventually, Arif wanted to see her face. Initially, Israt mentioned she felt insecure and shy but Arif quickly made her feel at ease. “He made me feel comfortable by sending his funny pictures to me and tried to normalize everything between us, ” she said.
This continued for some time until Israt started to realize how much she liked Arif. One day, they were both playing PUBG. There were a few other people playing with them. One of the guys was trying to flirt with her, making her feel uncomfortable. Arif noticed it and got mad. After the game was over, he made sure she was okay and tried to make her laugh by cracking jokes. “That moment I realized I would be so lucky to be with him,” she said. This was the turning point of their relationship. Israt knew she liked him and wanted to tell him about how she felt. A couple of days later they were casually video chatting with each other. Before she could tell him about her feelings, he asked, “How would you feel if I wanted to be more than friends?” Israt was surprised. It was exactly what she wanted to ask him.
When asked what Israt liked most about their relationship solely being online, she replied, “when I see other couples together holding hands, hugging or kissing I feel like, “Oh my god, I am so lucky that I don’t have to do these things.” She explained that dating is forbidden in Islam. Since she is in a relationship, she wants to keep it as halal—permissible—as possible by avoiding physical contact.
I still don’t know exactly how you catch feelings for someone over the internet. But Israt solved for me part of the mystery of the appeal of dating someone online. You don’t necessarily need to be physical to be in a relationship with someone, because what’s most important is the emotional bond between two people.
“By the way, before you go to bed, what’s your name?”
I was 24. I had just had my heart slightly broken—fractured might be a better word—by a guy I’d met through a friend. The same friend was there to pick up the pieces, and on a bit of a whim, in my basement apartment, we decided to create OKCupid profiles. We giggled at the questionnaire, which is famous for being endless. One question asked about whether you were mellow or high-strung. We were living in the “cool girl” era. Who would admit that they weren’t laid back? I probably also liked to think of myself that way, as the adventurous, low-maintenance, chill dude who was down for anything. Meanwhile, I’d chewed off all the enamel off my teeth out of stress at my first journalism job. Mellow I was not.
Neither was Misha—although, like me, he lied on the OKCupid questionnaire. Six feet and three inches of nervous energy, just as much charm, a dazzling smile. And that’s how two lying, anxious people got matched by the app’s algorithm.
I’m kicking myself now for not saving that first OkCupid conversation—my account is long gone, and all I have is little snippets from the emails the app sent to notify me of a new message:
“That might do the trick.”
What would do the trick?
“Prank Wars” is really funny. It gets me laughing from the belly every time. I wish I could do…”
What did he wish he could do?
I am able to decipher one conversation thread. He asked me what I was working on in my fiction-writing workshop, and I must have answered “Coney Island,” the setting of one of the few short stories I’d written in my life.
“You ever go to any of the Russian restaurants on the boardwalk?” he asked. (I probably said I hadn’t).
“My favorite place for people watching in thw city,” he answered to something I said, typo included.
I gasped when I read these six years later. Misha0488 and haniamk are now married, with two cats, living in… Coney Island.
We are both, in different ways, interested in romance and how people meet, so we decided to make online dating the theme of our piece. We each separately wrote our essays and reviewed and edited them together. Then we swapped them and created blackout poems that distill what the other person’s piece meant to us. Rizouana made a wonderful drawing to illustrate her essay, and Hanna used her photography for her visual element.
Rizouana is an extrovert, but as much as she likes hanging out with her friends and exploring, she is also attached to her own company. Rizouana believes having an optimistic and peaceful mindset is the key to making the most out of an experience. During her leisure time, she likes to draw, paint and write. Rizouana writes poetry, fiction, and memoirs about young adults’ lives. She likes reading fictional romance novels and philosophy. Rizouana is passionate about immigrant rights, women’s rights, and climate justice.
Hanna Kozlowska is a reporter based in Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Quartz, the New York Times, Foreign Policy, The Guardian and many others. She's covered everything from the US presidential campaign trail to the prison industrial complex to a “Gilmore Girls” fan festival, but in recent years has focused on how people use and abuse the internet.