Bytesize Blog: Twitter flirting - online romances can be fun until the cheeky turns to creepy

Twitter has, for most, entwined itself into our daily routines but when the cheeky turns to creepy, it's not necessarily all fun and games, says Jamie Smith

If you're a regular Twitter user and you're single and you haven't swapped flirty direct messages (DMs) with someone and subsequently developed a bit of a crush on them, you're doing it wrong.

Whether you're organising revolutions to overthrow dictators, putting together clean-up operations after riots or sharing pictures of your breakfast with your favourite ITV2 celebrities (Yo @lemontwittor - check out my muesli, bro!), Twitter has changed the lives of millions of people around the world, and mostly for the better.

But one of my favourite things to do on Twitter is flirt. I'm not the sort of bloke who can talk to women in bars without feeling like an idiot. My last such conversation with a female ended like this - Me: "Can I buy you a drink?" Her: "No."

On Twitter, it's different. You probably follow people with similar interests, political views and hobbies to yourself, which gives you a head start on making a connection with them. But the best bit is that you get the chance to measure your responses, to take your time over your witty replies to wow your chosen flirting partner. You don't have to post the first thing you can think of. You can edit yourself.

If you get on with someone, you might move on to flirty DMs, maybe even text messages if you're trusting enough to give out your number to an internet stranger who could turn out to be an axe murderer.

I once made the mistake of getting too close to a girl I knew from Twitter. And I mean that geographically, as well as metaphorically. I actually moved house, to another country, partly to be nearer to her.

There were other reasons, of course. I'm not completely mad. Inevitably, it didn't work out. She didn't like me like I liked her and it was a little bit brutal, though my own stupid fault. But we're still friends. I've been out with other people from Twitter and while there hasn't been that spark Richard Curtis films have convinced us all exists when it doesn't - really, it doesn't - I've had fun.

But Twitter flirting isn't necessarily harmless. Some people go way too far and cross the line between cheeky and creepy.

Many women report being harassed by men through the site. A friend told me she got a DM from a man about sneaking into her bedroom while she was asleep and "unzipping". Horrible and disturbing. "I'm all up for some laughs, but that made me feel sick," she says.

Others have received messages pestering them for sex. Another friend told me how a man came on to her in DMs and turned out to be a lecturer working at her university. It's common for women to have been sent dodgy, sleazy, pervy, dirty and downright weird messages through Twitter, even though you can only receive DMs from people you follow.

Others have positive stories to tell. Charly Murgatroyd and Andy Hart have been together four years after they got chatting on Twitter and bumped into each other by chance.

"You don't realise how well you get to know people by tweeting every day, it's a really easy way to find people with similar interests and it just so happened that he lived about four miles away from me," says Charly.

"It was a bit awkward the first time we admitted we liked each other. I think we were both a little bit embarrassed, so it went from tweeting every day to a few days of nothing, but a few weeks later we decided to give it a go," she adds.

"I think people assume that if you meet on the internet it won't last but if it wasn't for Twitter, chances are we'd probably never have met."

Another advocate of dating people from Twitter is writer Kit Lovelace, who recommends people confess to their online crushes and has carried out his own research into the matter.

He points out Twitter is still new enough that many are yet to cotton on to how useful it can be as a dating tool.

"As soon as most people catch wise, it will become no more useful than any other dating site - where people act on their best behaviour at all times. At the moment, people are laying themselves bare and it's ideal," says Kit, who has been on about a dozen dates through Twitter.

This includes two with a woman who has been a pundit on a current affairs TV show.

He adds: "Twitter makes it almost impossible for people to keep their true personalities under wraps. People's timelines give a very clear indication of what they think, what they like, how they interact with both friends and strangers and (crucially) it shows what sort of a sense of humour they have.

"This means it's very easy to see who you would hate in real life, but it also affords you a huge wealth of reasons to fall in love with people you find magnetic."

Kit will be the best man at the wedding of a Twitter couple later in the year.

As for my own current Twitter crush, I'll be keeping that to myself. I know nothing will - probably, a man can dream, can't he? - ever come of it, but it's an occasional distraction from my mostly mundane life. And isn't that what Twitter is for?

@JamieSmiff

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