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Twitter dating: Even in 140 characters, love can bloom

Annapolis resident John Frenaye’s Twitter account, @eyeonannapolis, is pretty standard fare.

Frenaye tweets about events in town (the Silopanna festival) and breaking news (car accident in Crofton). And there are some personal details, like when a recent stop at Taco Bell “hit the spot.”

But there’s nothing on his account about what he looks like — or what he looks for in a romantic partner. He wasn’t looking for love, at least not through Twitter.

But love followed him.

Bridgett Rheam, who lives near Harrisburg, Pa., frequently visited Annapolis and was intrigued by Frenaye’s tweets — and his personality that shone through.

“I could pick up his sense of humor,” she said. “It would come through in a lot of his posts and his reaction to people responding to him.”

Their conversations late last year went from public exchanges to direct messaging, and in mid-March, they arranged to meet in person. The couple has been dating — and still tweeting — ever since.

Yes, Twitter love. It’s happening. Love shows up in unexpected places online [see: “World of Warcraft” diehards]. Certainly, love connections seem a little unnatural in a 140-characters-or-fewer setting. Yet intrepid users and entrepreneurs are finding a way: Several dating services and relationship coaches are geared to the social media platform.

“Social media has a big role to play in dating because social media is all about connections and communication, and dating is the same thing,” said Ben Parr, editor at large at Mashable. “Twitter will always have a role just as Facebook has a role in dating … and the entire relationship cycle.”

Finding a niche
Some Twitter-based services, like Luv@FirstTweet, which launched this year, cater to those used to traditional online dating services like Approximately 1,200 people are currently signed up for Luv@FirstTweet (@LuvAtFirstTweet), a free service that co-founder Jon Lehr bills as “building an online dating profile on the go.”

The service sends out questions and people respond either publicly or by direct message. Once a user has answered several questions, he or she is matched with someone who has similar interests.

“Now you have a more meaningful way to make an introduction instead of ‘Oh, I think you’re cute,’ ” he said. “We really make it simple, fun and quick to do online dating whether you’ve used Twitter before or not. The ... time you invest is so minimal but the potential is so great because we make matches, instead of browsing profile pictures and hoping they will respond to a message that you send.”

But it may be the “community” aspects of Twitter and its real-time conversation that better lend itself to connections. Washington, D.C.-based relationship coach Paul Carrick Brunson saw Twitter’s potential to change the dating game when his brother asked for help in increasing his followers. Brunson tweeted “Good man alert” to his 2,000 followers and found himself inundated with inquiries about his height, weight and bona fides. He disclosed some details and posted his brother’s picture. It got 300 views.

That experience launched Modern-Day Matchmaker Wednesday (#MDMW), a weekly lunchtime version of “The Dating Game.” (#MDMW has been on hiatus for a few weeks while Brunson works on format changes.) Brunson selects an eligible bachelor or bachelorette, and provides details on their vitals, values and non-negotiables. Over the next 45 minutes, users tweet questions back and forth.

“We typically have thousands — no exaggeration — who tune in to ‘watch’ this,” Brunson said. “Folks miss lunch, miss their meetings, pull out their mobiles at work.”

The singleton’s photo is posted at the end of the “show” and interested users tweet “match.” Brunson’s team then IDs the best match based on Twitter profiles. So far, he’s made 29 matches.

“#MDMW is not about hooking people up,” he says. “It’s about showing people best practice questions — you see what questions you should be asking when you are interacting with someone.”

How to
For people who want to try to find a date through Twitter, there are some hurdles to overcome. One is identifying who’s local, according to  Ricardo Suber, who has self-published books on dating through social media, including “Tweet Her and Meet Her” under the pen name @Flyness.

He suggests doing a keyword search for your neighborhood or city, local landmarks and venues. “People talk about where they’re going or where they just came from and that’s a great way to get a list of people from your area.”

Frenaye talked about the importance of communicating yourself clearly and authentically.

“You can hide behind your user name or Twitter handle pretty easily. With the 140-character limit, you need to train yourself to be very succinct and clear in your messages,” he said. “You don’t have a lot of room for interpretation. Your life is in headlines.”

Some would argue the Twitter dating pool may be a bit shallower than general. A recent poll conducted by dating site OkCupid tried to shed light on Twitter dating prospects. The poll found that people who use Twitter tend to have shorter relationships — the average relationship for an 18-year-old who tweets is nine months, while “everybody else” usually averages nine-and-a-half months.

Of course, if you find love, Twitter is a great place for some Internet PDA. Or not. People who Twitter-court may tweet sweet nothings to their adored’s feed. Witness the new “Bachelorette” couple Ashley Hebert and J.P. Rosenbaum, who are tweeting their love for all to see and even sharing links to baby photos paired with saccharine quips such as “Look at that smile!!! Love you boo!”

Then there’s the unexpected result of a match that seems made-in-Twitter heaven, but, in reality, is far from perfection.

Northwest Baltimore resident Keichel Lewter (@QueChele) said she discovered the hard way that what you tweet isn’t always what you get when she set up a date with a friend of a friend.

“I was expecting a Jay-Z type guy who was suave with swagger,” she said. “He was Screech [from “Saved by the Bell”]. He still was witty, but it was in a cornball kind of way. We were attracted to our Twitter personalities.”

But she admits that her own Twitter persona suggests that she’s more outgoing. “Twitter is just a face and words. You have to decipher for yourself who is this person really. Question every tweet!”

Jordan Bartel contributed to this report.

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