“Hank and I met on IMVU in 2009. He saw a picture of my avatar that I posted on my account, and messaged me. He had a great sense of humor, and seemed to enjoy mine. After I sent him a few messages, we started talking, a little at first, and quickly built a friendship which eventually became romantic (and a lot more fun). We talked all the time, on the phone, Skype, through chat, even while I was at work. Everything we said to each other was tinged with sarcasm, and I loved how he ‘one-upped’ all of my jokes with another.
Behind the Avatar: Whims and Hank, Married since 2011
In early 2011, we decided to meet in person but I lived in Arizona and he lived in Michigan. We were both very nervous! At least, I was. It took him several days to drive from Michigan to Arizona, so we’d been in contact by phone for the trip. He arrived very late in the evening in a winter coat having never set foot in Arizona in the winter — he couldn’t believe it was t-shirt and shorts weather in January.
We were both very tired but exhilarated at the same time to finally meet face to face. The moment he walked up to me, however, the nerves disappeared and it was like I’ve always known him. One big hug and the rest is history!”
Whims and Hank are just one of many couples who met on IMVU, the world’s largest avatar-based social network, and married in real life. Unlike traditional social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Snapchat, where the social experience is limited to posting photos, comments, likes, and shares, IMVU enables an online experience that is truly social with immersive and life like chatrooms, real conversation and shared experiences, all from an avatar that you own, customize and learn to love. It doesn’t hurt that the avatars in IMVU represent our best selves. They are idealized versions of us: what we would look like if we went to the gym more often, stuck to our diets, and had a side hustle modeling for Elle or GQ.
While the avatars are hyper-real, their onscreen actions are lifelike and nuanced to simulate real life interactions. The nonverbal cues in IMVU are just as important as they are IRL (that’s In Real Life). Avatars can smirk, display nervousness, wink, and hug. When avatars high five, the sense of elation is just as palpable as it is in a bar, a stadium or a break room at work.
So what makes these online relationships successful?
Thanks to the added benefit of being able to control not only what your avatar looks like but how it acts, users are empowered to communicate in ways more accessible, controlled, curated and expressive than real life. For those new to dating or just plain shy in social settings, IMVU avatars give a sense of protection and anonymity to experiment with socializing, to test the waters of a potential partner, to practice reaching out to someone else — with little risk of failure. How many times have you left a first date analyzing every move you made, falling to self-doubt or worse self-blame for the fact that you were too forward, too reserved, too hasty in that first encounter? Imagine the freedom of dating behind the veil of something you control — what you look like, what you wear, how you dress, how you move, and what you say.
Online technology enables having a connection that is faster and more direct. Communicating online before meeting IRL can actually foster strong relationships by helping those with similar interests come together over great distances. Many of the couples who have met online and later married in real life say that meeting online let them ask questions they would not have asked face to face and often they fall in love before they meet in person. Potential lovers overlook superficial turnoffs, and people open up to each faster and more deeply.
At IMVU, we’re studying ways to help people meet new people and deepen their social relationships. The shared experiences in IMVU help people bond, create friendships, and even develop over time more romantic relationships. And that, according to various research, helps you be happier and live longer because of a person’s natural desire to connect with other people.
With over 200 million users from all over the world to choose from, the odds are in our users’ favor to meet someone who might be a new friend, maybe a romantic partner. And in the words of our modern day Romeo, Hank, and his love story to find his bride in Whims, a bit of advice for finding love on social media: “First — as in real life, be yourself. Your soulmate is out there, and IMVU can help you meet them! Second, never be afraid to say hi to someone you see on IMVU. People are a lot nicer and more willing to chat than you think they are. Just like in the real world, it takes a first conversation to strike an interest and once you do that, the rest comes easy.”
MissMaya & TStone: “TStone and I met in 2011 in a room where we were chatting with other IMVU creators. In the following weeks, we spent hours together on IMVU just getting to know each other as friends until our friendship turned into something more months later that November. After months of talking on the phone, we decided to meet each other in real life. He drove 600 kms [over 370 miles] to my hometown to meet me and we got on like a house on fire, just as we both knew we would. We ended up moving in together that same month and have been inseparable ever since…for six years now! I have found in him the support I needed to turn creating into more than a hobby. We understand and support each other on both an emotional AND professional level — I think we are very lucky to have that. We never thought we would’ve found the love of our lives online and we both are forever grateful to IMVU for that!”
Izis & Y0AN: “My name is Izis and my boyfriend is Y0AN. We both live in France, he lives in Paris and I’m from a small town near Paris called Créteil. We met in a french chatroom on IMVU. I needed male models for my shop so I asked him if he wanted to help me out since I loved the look of his avatar. He was really kind and followed me to my room so I could take pictures of him wearing some of my products. After the photoshoot we started getting to know each other and realized we lived close to each other.
We started talking every single day and added each other as friends on IMVU, then gave each other phone numbers, and finally decided to meet at the Galeries Lafayette, a very popular store in Paris to do some shopping. After that magical day we kept seeing each other and never could stay a day without seeing each other. We realized we were falling in love, and now we live together. This February 14 will be our very first valentines day together as an engaged couple.”