August 8, 2006

“Love me, love my blog,” as Netorati couple-surf

By Sara Ledwith

LONDON (Reuters) - A man and a woman sit side by side in a
New York cafe, drinking beer, sharing food, and not saying a
word. Instead of chatting, they are typing on a laptop about
the tunes played through a shared iPod.

"Realizing that communicating via typing was far more
comfortable ... we conducted ... our date without speaking. We
traded headphones back and forth and typed and ordered beer and
wine and more food ... The waitress thought we were crazy,"
wrote singer Amanda Palmer at

As the Internet evolves -- with its Web cams, iPods,
Instant Messaging, broadband, wi-fi and weblogs -- its image as
a relationship-wrecker is changing.

Now a sociable habit is emerging among the Netorati:

Coined by bloggers responding to a column on the online
version of "Wired"
couple-surfing describes "netaholics" or "infomaniacs" who surf
alongside each other -- doing together what used to be seen as
a solitary activity.

It can make cyber-love more playful and informative than
the caches of steamy e-mails left in the late 1990s.

"It's difficult to communicate things like images, sounds
and URLs through speech," writes Stanley Lieber (I'm not really
Stanley Lieber... and I'm not really from NYC) on the blog.

Started by Nick Currie, alias iMomus, at, the blog has
attracted over 200 contributions, showing a vast array of ways
couples use the Net.

Couple-surfing can apparently be as mundane as telling each
other to take the trash out, as intimate as sharing a book by a
blazing log fire, or as showy as a masked ball.

"Our new relationship was often the subject of my LJ (blog)
entries and I would often say things in there that I wouldn't
tell him to his face," writes Kathryn. Another couple --
married for 12 years -- say that for a while they communicated
through weblogs without ever discussing their feelings face to


The Net is a boon for people who are verbally shy and
provides a great way to resolve disputes about facts, say some
fans. Some couples play online games together, and computing
seems to be a zone where men can be manly.

"For my birthday, he upgraded my RAM and I thought it was
incredibly romantic," writes Jess.

But in the same way as real-life interests may diverge,
couples who do not share what one blogger called "common
geekdom" can find surfing divisive.

A mother from Sweden calls for breakfast tables to be
redesigned to accommodate computers, "as it is kind of sad for
a son not to see his own father at the table ignoring him and
everyone else while he reads the news ..."

And even between geeks -- or "tender electroverts," as
blogger Tim H dubs them -- questions of privacy and secrecy
raise tensions. Amanda Palmer published the entire typed
"conversation" she had with her friend in memoriam, saying he
had recently died.

Relate, Britain's largest relationship counseling body,
says about one in 10 couples who seek its help cite some sort
of computer-related problem, and the trend is on the rise.

"Increasingly, people are saying that time spent on the
computer -- not necessarily chat rooms or sexy or suggestive
sites -- is an issue," said Denise Knowles, a Relate counselor.

But Knowles points out that the Net itself is often the
medium, not the root, of problems.

"The Internet has highlighted or exposed difficulties in
relationships that might have gone unnoticed had there not been
a computer in the house," she said.

Currie agreed. Like any absorbing activity,
"couple-surfing" only works if both partners are equally
enthusiastic, he said.

"After listening to what everybody had to say (on the blog)
and thinking about my own relationship, I came to the
conclusion that surfing doesn't damage relationships -- as long
as both partners are equally into the Internet," he said by

"The question then is whether one of them is just faking