Friend requests, emojis and an online engagement: A modern love story
When Anahit,32, accepted a Facebook friend request in 2019, the last thing on her mind was marriage.
She had never met anyone new online and did not really approve of online dating.
But the request came from Ashot,38, a fellow Armenian living abroad, and Anahit decided there was no danger in clicking “accept.”
"I usually do not even accept requests from strangers, but when I saw that he does not live in Armenia, I thought there was no risk because he could not come to my workplace, try to follow me or approach me,” she says. “When Ashot started writing to me, for several days I answered only with smileys, I did not write texts… Once he wrote that I had very beautiful photos. I thought, ‘it is rude to say nothing, you can at least say thank you.’ And that's how we started talking.”
For months, Anahit treated her budding romance with Ashot with caution, however. While online dating is gaining acceptance in Armenia, it is still viewed with suspicion, especially by older generations, according to sociologist Gevorg Poghosyan.
In addition to the safety concerns, meeting someone online removes the role of the family in matchmaking. “Until 1950-1960, the traditional approach to starting a family prevailed in Armenia․ Even the parents could find a spouse for their child and introduce them. The boy’s and girl's parents had to know each other, and only after that could the girl and the boy get acquainted, then get married,” the sociologist explains.
While that culture has evolved over the past 70 years, people are still wary about matchmaking via social media, a platform that removes the important role of family in the process.
There are good reasons to be cautious, notes media expert Samvel Martirosyan, adding that there have been a number of cases of people being blackmailed by internet “paramours” in Armenia, both by people at home and abroad.
But he underscores there is nothing inherently bad about online dating—people just need to be aware of the dangers and take precautions. That includes doing more research than simply checking out someone’s Facebook page, as well as making sure minors’ accounts are closed to strangers.
“Half of the happy couples around me met on the Internet. I would not hold people back from online dating, I just want to urge you to be careful and think before dating, and during dating,” he says. When interacting with people, be vigilant in real life and on the Internet.”
Anahit, a linguist, was very careful as her relationship with Ashot evolved from Facebook messages to hours-long phone calls.
But since Ashot lived in Germany, it was difficult for her to be 100 percent sure he really was the person she believed him to be.
To ease her fears, Ashot took a page from Armenian traditional courtship: he introduced her to his sister, who still lives in the Armenian capital Yerevan. After that, things became easier for the couple.
They decided to travel to Armenian’s northern neighbor, Georgia, for their first meeting.
Anahit was still wary of telling her parents about her budding online romance—and about meeting Ashot in person. So, she told her parents she was going to Georgia for a work conference and took a girlfriend with her on the trip as a safety precaution.
Luckily, the pair hit it off immediately. “When I saw her in Georgia, at first sight, after the first meeting, I confidently understood that I love her and she should become my wife," says Ashot.
He notes that he had contacted other women on Facebook before he happened upon Anahit’s profile, but never felt any connection with them. Anahit, however, was special. “Anahit is different, different from everyone, unique,” he says.
Unfortunately, the couple’s romance coincided with the pandemic. Anahit was stuck in Armenia and Ashot couldn’t leave Germany. In March, Anahit found a solution: she applied, and was accepted to, a master’s degree program in Warsaw, Poland. Travel documents in hand, the two arranged the last online milestone in their relationship: the engagement party.
On March 11, Anahit and Ashot were formally engaged at a party in Yerevan.
"About 70 guests were present at the engagement - Ashot and my relatives were present,” Anahit says. “The engagement ceremony was in the Armenian tradition, with the only difference being that Ashot joined us by video.”