Instaclick: Connecting through social media

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A couple proves that social media is a good channel to meet someone special.

By April Zara Chua

Events manager Esther Chin, 32, recalls the first time she interacted with professional skateboarder Tan Lepham, 32, through Instagram in 2012. “We both like to follow new people with interesting content, so we actually didn’t think much of it when we started following each other on social media.” She had started following Lepham on Instagram after seeing him act in the local film Hainan ji fan, and Lepham followed her back.

Instagram friendship

The two saw snippets of each other’s work and personal lives through the popular social media platform and often left comments on each other’s posts, driven by sheer curiosity about each other’s interests, such as skateboarding. The nature of Instagram allowed them to start conversations easily, and it served as a good channel for them to get to know each other without being too intrusive.

Through their posts, they saw that they visited the same restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs, and often exchanged tips and recommendations for new places to visit and activities to try. They also discovered that they had shared interest in sports and travelling, which opened up more topics for discussion. They both liked diving and exploring new countries, especially cold weather destinations.

Back then, the photo-sharing application had no direct message function so they conversed through public post comments. “We were really only using Instagram as a way to expand our circle of friends, and to discover new places and activities,” says Lepham. “But, I also found her cute and I liked that she seems to enjoy life,” he adds with a laugh. The pair were also connected via microblogging site, Twitter, which allowed Lepham to drop Esther a direct message asking her for her number.

By then, the pair had been talking through Instagram for almost five months so Esther felt comfortable giving him her number. They eventually started chatting “real time” on the instant messaging application, Whatsapp.

In real life

The first time they actually met face-to-face was completely unplanned. “He was telling me that he was with his friends at a kopitiam, and I realised it was very near where I was ending my work day,” recounts Esther.

Lepham invited her to join him and his friends for supper, and Esther took this as an opportunity to find out if he was really the same person he portrayed through social media. “I had some concerns at first. But we were meeting in a public place with a lot of people, so I felt comfortable in that environment,” she says.

As it turned out, the pair hit it off and were soon meeting up more frequently. According to Esther, she enjoyed getting to know Lepham and his friends. “It was important for me to see how he and his friends interact with one another because it says a lot about someone’s character,” she shares.

They both found that their social media personas were true to what they are like in person. “Lepham’s very real. What you see is what you get – crazy, fun, sporty and unique,” says Esther. It was the same for Lepham who found Esther to be very down-to-earth as he got to know her. “She’s very respectful and has a very good heart,” he says.

For weeks, they hung out with their various groups of friends but Lepham eventually asked her out on a one-on-one date – they went to a Japanese restaurant and had drinks by the kerb as they watched the night go by. The rest, as they say, is history.

Go with the flow

The couple believes that the friendship they built through social media served as a good foundation. “We sometimes forget that we met through Instagram because it felt like we have been friends for a long time before we got into a relationship,” says Lepham.

Esther agrees, “We didn’t follow each other on Instagram with the intention of looking for a partner, so when it happened, it happened because it was organic, which makes it even more special.”

Dos and Don’ts

Everyone has different comfort levels when it comes to meeting someone you met online in real life. Here are some guidelines to keep in mind for your offline meet.

  • Always meet in a public place. Don’t meet at their house or somewhere where there will only be the two of you, and always let someone you trust know of your plans.
  • Only give your phone number if you are comfortable with it. Don’t feel obliged to give your number right away. Remember that you can choose to continue conversing via email or through an app until you are ready.
  • Follow your gut. Don’t arrange for a face-to-face meeting if your instincts are telling you otherwise.
  • Keep your personal information safe. Don’t reveal any personal information such as your full name or your home and work addresses.
  • Have fun! Don’t overthink or get stressed up prior to the meeting. Keep conversations light and casual.
  • Friendship is equally important. Don’t be discouraged if sparks don’t fly. Some things take time, and even if nothing happens, it’s better knowing you’ve made a new friend.