February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day: A web of love

Jason and Jenn Mitchell met online while they were in college in different countries

by Amie Sites

— Staying up until 2 a.m. ‘fueled up on hot chocolate and snacks’ was a normal weeknight for Jason Mitchell while he was attending the University of Reading, England. He wasn’t staying up late to watch television or play video games. He was chatting online to his now wife, Jenn (Dayberry) Mitchell.

Although they were living in different countries attending separate universities and describe themselves as having different personalities when they met, they logged on Internet Relay Chat at the same time in the fall of 1996.

Jason, now executive director of Emmaus in Logansport, and Jenn, both 19 at the time, learned about the chatroom from a friend.  

Jason, with the screen name “Fox Frenzy,” and Jenn, with the name “Elyssa,” would spend up to six hours talking online on weeknights – even with a five-hour time difference. On weekends they would talk about eight hours, Jason said.

“It’s amazing how you can infer from how someone types,” Jason said. “You can tell what they are like.”

Jenn chimed in saying, ‘You really get a general sense of personality.’

Jenn was chatting to Jason from the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville. She lived in Arkansas before moving to Logansport.

The two started talking online before online chatrooms really took off.

“We started talking,” Jason said.

A research article in the Association for Psychological Science stated the percentage of Americans who met their partners online jumped from 5 percent from 1994 to 1998 to more than 20 percent from 2007 to 2009.

The two continued to talk online until Jason made his first phone call from England in the spring of 1997. Jason recalls calling from a pay phone and it was expensive.

“You have to be conscious online that the person you are talking to could be someone else,” Jason said. “I wasn’t nervous to meet her, I was anxious.”

The first time he met her he visited her in Arkansas and he laughed recalling it was 105 degrees and they had to leave a picnic in the park because it was too hot for him.

“We said in the beginning let’s be friends when we met,” Jason said. “That lasted 10 minutes.”

Jenn’s grandparents came to the airport with her to meet Jason.

Jenn moved to Logansport in April 1998 and the sixth time he visited was to Logansport. For the next five years he visited once every summer and winter.

“We waited years to get married,” Jenn said. “That’s a less amount of time than some people who see each other daily wait to get married.”

Jason proposed to Jenn in America and in England. He asked her grandmother for permission before he asked in America in 2000. Jenn visited England once in June 2001 and he proposed to her again in the courtyard of a castle.

The two got married on Aug. 9, 2003, in Logansport at the former Amber’s restaurant. They had 90 days to get married once Jason arrived in the country. Jenn’s bridesmaid was a friend from Florida they met online. Jason’s parents, aunt, uncle and best friend from England attended the wedding. Several members of Jenn’s family attended.

“We also had a wedding ceremony online,” Jenn said.

They will celebrate their 10-year wedding anniversary on in August with a dinner, Jason said.

Both agree they have “rubbed-off” on one another. Jenn said she sometimes says words with an English pronunciation such as wind screen instead of windshield.

Jason and Jenn laughed together saying they spearheaded the online dating movement.

“I don’t know if we would have been matched up by a dating website today because we were so different when we met,” Jason said. “Jenn was the social, out-there person and now I’m in that role. It’s something that worked for us.”