Some might say that meeting online takes the fun out of love. Maybe it’s because we’d all like to have a good “how we met” story. Or maybe it’s because we really do enjoy the unpredictability of offline dating. But it’s hard to concoct a good tale when you’ve been matched up by a dating site’s personality test results.
While StumbleUpon is not a dating site, it does spark chance meetings between people with similar passions. Yes, we use algorithms, but we consider a broad set of your interests and preferences as you stumble to determine how similar or dissimilar you are to other Stumblers, instead of answers to a long list of questions that you’re probably not answering truthfully anyway.
As we see it, discovery is as much a part of love as it is of finding great content. In honor of Valentine’s Day (and to continue the tradition started by last year’s post), we wanted to share a few stories about users discovering love on StumbleUpon. After all, beautiful things often happen unintentionally.
Darin had little interest in getting back into the dating game after his divorce, despite well-intentioned pressure from friends. But he became intrigued when he noticed Lisa’s username popping up in his toolbar as he stumbled, indicating that StumbleUpon was recommending sites Lisa had liked. He clicked on her username icon and started investigating, and then finally sent Lisa a private message.
“I thought, ‘Wow, a girl’s into SciFi. How cool is that!” remembers Darin over video chat with me. He’s sitting next to Lisa, who’s caring for their newborn daugher Kate, at the couple’s home in Orange County.
After that initial StumbleUpon message, Darin and Lisa’s communication then progressed to email, then instant messaging. Finally they met for a lunch that turned into a three hour conversation. They instantly felt and looked like a couple. In fact, as they were leaving the restaurant, a waitress called out to them, “Have a nice life together!”
Darin and Lisa, who will celebrate their five-year anniversary this September, still seem like newlyweds. They’re positively giddy as they talk about how Kate has a “Trekkie ear” – a little folded point that looks like Spock. Both are big believers in the power of social media to connect people in unintended ways. Together they run a business teaching clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to political campaigns to non-profits how to harness social media and use it to drive innovation, productivity, profitability and social activism.
The couple says that StumbleUpon is one-of-a-kind amongst other social media sites, since it values “idea-based” relationships over “circumstance-based.”
“We go to a place and point out the same things. We finish each other’s sentences,” says Darin. “We’re so like-minded.”
A Pair of “Internet Introverts”
Like Darin and Lisa, Mike and Sarene found each other by watching the like-minded user icon in their toolbars. These self-described “Internet introverts,” who both love cognitive science and geek humor content on StumbleUpon, stumbled and shared back and forth with each other for months.
“Sarene would stumble late at night,” says Mike, who’s a Technical Writer near Boston. “I would see that I had 10 shares waiting for me in the morning and would delay going to work so I could stumble through them.”
The pair met in person in July 2008. Sarene, who works as an Application Analyst in Toronto, flew to Boston to meet up with some friends, figuring that she’d drop in to meet Mike. She ended up spending most of her weekend with him and finally made the first move: she planted a kiss as they sat near a fountain downtown.
“I’m not much of a people person, but with her I had no nervousness,” Mike says. “I felt like I knew her really well.”
After multiple trips back and forth between the two cities, Mike finally popped the question – in true StumbleUpon style. On one of Sarene’s visits, Mike led her to a secluded spot by a river in Lowell, Massachusetts. Sarene noticed that he was wearing two layers of shirts, but didn’t realize why until Mike peeled off the top shirt, revealing a graphic with the Stumble! button. He turned to her and said, “Push the button.” She did, and then he got down on one knee and proposed. She gave him a thumbs-up.
They were married on 10-10-10 (binary day, as Mike points out) and are looking forward to settling down in the same place permanently. Sarene says that stumbling and sharing with one another helps them cope with the distance.
“Mike used to say to me, ‘I never thought a click of a button could make me so happy,’” says Sarene. It’s not a surprise though – their StumbleUpon similarity meter reads, “91% – Like Twins.”
Fried Food and Love That Rocks
When Lowell, a web programming consultant working in the Bay Area, first came across Kristen’s review of Prince’s Hot Chicken on StumbleUpon, he probably could never have predicted where he would be two years later: Holding her hand by her hospital bed in Nashville, Tennessee, as she endured daily chemotherapy for stage IV malignant melanoma. But, then again, that was before he tasted that chicken.
In November 2007, Lowell, who had joined StumbleUpon just six months before, stumbled upon a video about a Nashville restaurant with famously spicy chicken. He read a review posted by Kristen, a Nashville native, offering a “free half-bird” to anyone interested in visiting the restaurant with her. Lowell, who had been casual friends with Kristen on StumbleUpon for a few months, took the offer, intrigued by her offbeat and sometimes outrageous sense of humor revealed through her reviews and favorites.
Soon he was exposed to her offbeat personality firsthand. Before he got on the plane to Tennessee on Christmas Day 2007, she told him that she’d be accompanied by a rockstar at the airport, in case he needed a hint about how to recognize her. When he landed and walked out of the terminal, he saw Kristen standing next to a cardboard cutout of KISS’s Paul Stanley.
The two spent the holidays together and quickly fell in love, and the relationship progressed quickly. Lowell moved to Nashville in April 2008, running his IT business cross country, and moved in with Kristen. The couple bought a house together in 2009.
“It was apparent to us, and everyone that knew us in real life, that we were meant to be,” says Kristen.
But in January 2010, as they were planning their trip to New Orleans for Mardi Gras, Kristen received news that she had a stage IV malignant melanoma in her shoulder, with a 6% chance of survival. Kristen, who works as a family medicine physician, left a review on StumbleUpon describing her state of mind:
My life is like a house of cards right now, with gale force winds approaching my Deltoid region with alarming force…It’s terrifying how quickly someone could lose everything.
So instead of Mardi Gras, the couple endured months of daily trips to the hospital for Kristen’s surgeries and chemotherapy treatments. A year later, Kristen’s chemo schedule has been reduced to three times a week, and her chances of survival are 100%.
“Lowell has been faithfully by my side,” she says. “He is my rock.”
Kristen adds that when she alerted her StumbleUpon friends about her diagnosis in January 2010, she was overwhelmed by words of encouragement and support. And to celebrate her beating cancer, she and Lowell hosted over 100 friends, dozens of them people they had met on StumbleUpon, for a StumbleCon party this past Saturday. The couple received gifts from Stumblers all over the world, including a six-pack from a Texas preacher and a pinata from a Mexican Stumbler. Even the party’s caterer is a Stumbler!
Both Lowell and Kristen say they not only thank StumbleUpon for bringing them together, but also for connecting them with such a warm, colorful, and interesting group of close friends. They say they’ve never had success making any real life friendships on other social media sites.
“StumbleUpon is a great filter for meeting people, since you already know you have a lot in common,” he says. “You really get to know people, and you know you’ll have a lot in common before you even talk to them.”
Interested in meeting and interacting with people on StumbleUpon? Read this help center article on discovering similar people for some insider tips.