Before you dismiss it, consider this: in the digital world, no one judges you based on your chai-making skills
There are no awkward salaams and floor gazes; just you and a chatroom full of people. You decide your move and most importantly, your spouse.
Though many might balk at the thought of online dating (been there, done that) there are many out there who swear by it. Be it Tinder, MSN, mIRC - yeah, waaay back in the day - or even online marriage portals, here are 5 success stories of couples who, if given the chance, wouldn't change a thing about meeting their partner online.
In 2004, Rija was frustrated. She had been engaged twice before, once to someone she had known in college and once to someone handpicked by her parents.
"I had gone through those options, it hadn't worked out."
So when she joined Shaadi.com on a whim as a joke because her friend dared her to, she wasn't expecting to meet her soulmate, especially not the first guy who messaged her and lived over 7,000 miles away in Canada.
However, that's exactly what happened.
"It was a very casual message but right off the bat, we could tell our sense of humour was the same. Even when we were chatting, we were just always laughing," recalls Rija.
"He was born and raised in Canada, I was all the way in Karachi but within a couple of months, he visited Lahore and then actually flew out to Karachi to meet me. I was still on the fence about it though. One night, after the Sind Club Ball around 2 am, I had gone to the Pearl Continental with a friend for tea and Farhan was actually staying there.
"My girl friend encouraged me to just call him up and ask him to come down, she was like, "He won't have time to prepare so it'll be like what you see is what you get." That's how we met for the first time. He said he knew that he wanted to marry me as soon as he laid eyes on me, like love at first website. I told him it wasn't quite like that for me," she laughs.
Farhan's dad had recently passed away and he had really wanted him to marry a Pakistani girl and Rija was 27 at the time, looking to settle down.
"It was a way for him to honour his late father and it was just like a puzzle that fit; he called his mother in Canada, got her blessings, came over with a family friend in tow and met my parents. We were married within 6 months."
Now, 12 years and a kid later, her family still knows nothing about their whirlwind romance and thinks they just happened to "bump" into each other at a party. I ask Rija if she would change anything about how they met. It didn't surprise me when she said no.
Back in the day, when computers were the definition of 'cool' and MmIRC (Internet Relay Chat) was the 90s Facebook, Nyla, at 14, happened to chance upon an online channel of a group of 'nerds' discussing computers.
"My family had newly purchased a computer and I had missed the last show of PTV drama Dhuwan, I thought I'd find it online... I didn't. I ended up finding nerds talking on an online channel about programming," starts off Nyla.
Soon enough she became a part of the group.
Nyla and her now husband being the youngest of the lot, 14 and 15, respectively, had the most clashes.
"We had a lot of fights, from politics to what subjects I should take. Now that we're married, people [our group] wonder how it happened since we fought so much," she laughs.
They spoke for three years before they actually met face-to-face in university. "My husband thought I was a boy conning him online because I never sent him pictures, and there was no telephonic communication between us."
Ahmer, originally from Quetta, owned a cafe there and had relocated to Lahore. He flew to Karachi to meet Nyla.
"I recognised him. I had seen his pictures... we were sitting under a tree and something fell in his eye. He kept rubbing his eye and pulling out his eyelashes and then he asked me for a tissue. I reached into my bag to give it to him and he said, 'you have very pretty eyes'."
For nine years, they had a long distance relationship, they knew the other's struggles and were each other's support system. At 23, the couple decided to get married. "It was very difficult telling my mother. She completely freaked out. For the first time in her life she burnt rice."
However, Nyla was adamant on her decision, regardless of her mother's qualms concerning log kya kaheingay.
"I told her I wanted someone with the same sense of humour as me."
At 33 and a marriage of nine years, Nyla says she wouldn't recommend online dating "as a tool to find love or a spouse." Instead, she says, "I would recommend it to interact with people. How can you trust a person you've never met? You don't know if they exist or not."
If you went to high school in the early 2000s, it's likely that chatting on MSN Messenger is what occupied a considerable chunk of your evenings after school.
It all started with a group chat on the instant messaging software for Farah and Shiraz 15 years ago, which she was added to by her best friend, Emaan* and he, by his family friend (also Farah's classmate).
When they finally decided to meet up at Pizza Hut, Shiraz was a no-show.
Farah elaborates, "Well, actually he showed up; we just failed to recognize him! We told him to wear a white shirt and come by himself. He, being the shy guy that he is, obviously brought a buddy along and so we just didn't connect the dots. Funnily enough, him and his friend were sitting in the booth right behind us!"
"While we were waiting for him to show up, my friend literally pointed him out to me, not knowing it was him and I remember thinking this guy's cute," she adds.
While they didn't end up meeting in person, they continued talking; four months later, Shiraz told her he liked her and that was the beginning of a decade long road to their engagement, one filled with many bumps.
"My parents were strict, eventually my brother started to get the hint because we were sneaking around so much, just to even talk on the phone. At the time, I felt so helpless but in retrospect, I wouldn't trade that time in for a different experience. They were the 10 best years of my life and even 15 years later, Shiraz and I never run out of things to talk about."
That being said, Farah isn't the biggest advocate for finding a partner online.
"I got extremely lucky but it's really a gamble. If my sister was doing something like that, I'd definitely have my reservations. I count my blessings twice!"
"Nobody's ever known this story," starts 27-year-old Mahin. "My parents don't know, they assumed I met Sarim through my best friend."
Here's how Mahin's story unfolds:
"I've had a few bad experiences," she says of online dating, but putting her dread aside and taking it with a pinch of salt, she decided to make a profile on shiamatch.com while in Europe for her education.
"My family kept throwing rishtas at me and I kept refusing. I thought why not try online matchmaking? There is no social baggage; you can meet the guy as an adult and you won't have your parents on your head or getting involved too soon," explains Mahin.
A few friend requests and zero expectations later, Mahin found her now-husband, Sarim, asking for a friend request on the matrimonial website. She stalked him on social media to see if he was 'legitimate', and only after that accepted his request and they got chatting.
Three months into email correspondence they exchanged numbers. Seven months into it, they decided to meet for the first time.
"I met him on a Eurotrip. After running circles around a tram station trying to find me he was a bit pissed, I think, but he finally made his way to me outside the tram station. And he just stood there at a distance of about a foot and gave me an awkward wave. My heart melted and I spontaneously hugged him. I don't do this with anyone (not a touchy-feely person) at all but we were finally seeing each other and I was overwhelmed."
Fast forward a year and five months later and they both signed the nikkah papers.
However, she advises people looking for love online to be very careful. "The internet is full of horror stories. Keep an open mind and give the other the benefit of the doubt. Not everyone is out to cheat and scam, but be safe and follow common sense."
In today's day and age, romantic meet-cutes aren't happening over at the mall after school or over dropped books in oldtown bookstores. They're happening online and aren't just limited to dating websites.
Rather, they can potentially happen anywhere and everywhere on the internet, even, sometimes especially, where you don’t necessarily expect them. You could find a suitor on Tinder just as much as a retweet on Twitter can turn into flirty comments, which turn into DMs, which turn into... you get the idea.
Or writing for a news website could lead to your soulmate seeking you out.
(Let it be known, we want some credit for this one.)
A couple of years ago, Kiran was writing food pieces for Dawn.com when in the winter of 2014, Ali Facebook messaged her. A rather observant reader and fellow foodie, he wanted to know why she was suddenly writing about the food landscape in Lahore when she had previously done reviews for restaurants based in Karachi.
"He reached out to me, asking me if I had moved. I was quite impressed because even I didn't know that the article had been published then! After the initial conversation starter, we discovered mutual friends and common interests and the conversation just flowed from there," she shares.
They began chatting and when she told him about this food writing workshop that she was planning to attend in a month's time, Ali decided to do the same, which is where they ended up meeting for the first time.
That "cemented their friendship" and a few months later, they met again at Karachi Literature Festival.
By January 2016, the two were engaged, married by August.
While the 30-year-old project manager managed to find true love with her fingers on a keyboard and not wrapped around a cup of chai in a living room, she warns others of the dangers of interacting with people online, particularly with the hopes of falling in love.
Her pro tip? "If you do interact with someone, do it in public social forums where the person cannot hide his true personality. This could be a Facebook food group, an online book club, a photography forum or even Twitter. And if one thing leads to another and you want to take things offline, meet them at a public place like an instameet, a blogger's event, Karachi Eat Festival, etc."
This article was originally published on 3 October, 2016.
Names of all couples have been changed to protect privacy.
Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell us in the comments below.