That's been the case for 20-year-old Cristina Lara, a Cornell University student who relies on Skype and e-mail to nurture her long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, Joshua Mbanusi, while he's working in North Carolina. From the beginning, their courtship was carried out through digital means.
Lara's boyfriend, a Cornell alum, asked for her email address instead of her number at first. While some might have taken that as a hint of disinterest, Lara recognized that the frequent, friendly emails were his way of showing he liked her. Eventually, he asked for her number, and they went on their first date about a month later.
"A lot of our relationship has been e-mailing and texting and Facebook messaging," said Lara, adding that she's kept as mementos a lot of their emails and texts -- some of which were unfortunately erased. The couple spent copious amounts of time together, giving their virtual courtship a real-world backbone.
So, when her boyfriend revealed that he loved her via text, it wasn't ideal. But it wasn't a deal breaker, either.
"Before class started I got a text from him that said, 'I love you,' " she said. "He wanted it to be as organic as possible. It's unfortunate that it happened when we weren't physically together, but what are you going to do about it?"
His text was, interestingly enough, sparked by a lengthy letter Lara had handwritten and left in his apartment. She believes that a handwritten note can communicate things an email cannot.
When it comes to romance, "I think there's a level of flirtatiousness that helps to sustain a relationship, and that's what I had every day with Joshua in person," Lara said.
Now that they're long distance, the pair makes an effort to fly to see each other when they can. But in the interim, "for me and Josh, being romantic is having one night a week where (we're) eating together on Skype," she said. "I think that's really romantic."