Hearts Connect Online

The February chill may carry an extra sting for singles who watch couples rush around, seeking perfect ways to say "I love you" on Valentine's Day. But those lonely hearts shouldn't despair; there are thousands of people in cyberspace just waiting to connect.

People who have met online praise the Internet as the place for meeting Mr. or Ms. Right, and their stories offer tips about how to avoid the pitfalls of cyberlove while reaping the rewards.

Love on the Line

Tim, the owner of Minnesota Internet, met his wife, Ellis, online in December 1996. Tim was surfing for sites on the rock group Queen, and Ellis was in an Australian chat room devoted to the band.

They talked online for two months before finding out they were of the opposite sex and exchanging photos.

For their initial meeting, Tim sent Ellis, a Toronto prelaw student, airline tickets to Minneapolis in April 1997 for a Blue Jays vs. Twins baseball game.

"We were really safe about the meeting that first time," Tim said. "Her friends and parents had my address and my phone numbers."

Ellis' friends also talked with Tim prior to the trip and gave their thumbs up. Any lingering doubts the pair had disappeared when they finally met.

"We met at the airport and it wasn't looks that were so important, it was hearing her voice in person, smelling her perfume, and seeing her body language," Tim said. "Luckily, I also found her beautiful."

Meeting people online has some big advantages, Tim said.

"What is really neat about meeting people online is that there is no immediate physical judgment," he said.

"When people meet for the first time in person, they judge the physical aspects of the person without really knowing them. Ellis and I were truly friends before we met."