According to Danny Sugarman, author and roll and roll manager, "Love is the beginning of all futures". Fine so long as your loved one doesn't live on the other side of the earth. If they do, you could end up worrying about your financial future instead of concentrating on the passions which brought you together in the first place.
Cynical trash, I hear you say, but the realities of a virtual world were brought crashing home last week when this remarkable story of cyber love was given to PC Week:
Tim, from London, is a forum hopper on CompuServe. He's been using the service for some time now and has been spotted regularly on the sci-fi forum on CompuServe for at least a year, earning him the title "owner of the forum".
In June, while sitting in the so-called 'hot tub' - a private forum for two people, Tim met Elisa, a North American divorcee who shared his interests in science fiction, the Internet and so on. Within 24 hours of their first meeting, the two "talked" on-line for 15 hours, resisting the urge to call one another on the phone, for fear of the bills. But as with all things heartfelt, temptation took hold and a 17-hour telephone call ensued, followed by months of correspondence both on-line and off. "On average we'd spend about seven hours a day just talking to one another via the forums, but obviously we'd pick up the phone when we got tired of typing." Over 130 Emails and 80 letters later (some letters were up to 200 pages long), the couple arranged to meet in America where they spent a fortnight together. Less than six months after courtship began the couple decided to get engaged.
The wedding is planned for July next year, but it won't be a flash do.
No fancy cars or cholesterol-laden cakes. Any money Tim has must now go towards the #7,000 bill he has accumulated since his 'hot tub' meeting with Elisa. The phone calls are the worst. Even the Premier line account, which BT supplies for heavy usage on your favourite numbers, hasn't really helped with the #5,000 debt - resulting in him being disconnected - with no chance of reconnection until the bill is cleared.
CompuServe offers a Super Value scheme which costs #17 a month for 20 hours of use, but has nothing like the friends and family scheme BT offers.
The company has been just as fierce with the debt of #2,000 Tim owes it, but points to the Super Value scheme as a way of saving money.
"Some people might say they should have known they were going to run up these bills - and they'd be right. But neither of us was looking for anything like this when we went on-line. People simply don't know what it's like."
When the couple do tie the knot in July next year, the financial burden of having an on-line affair will at last be severed. But the couple are still facing crises over their investment in each other. Elisa is virtually bankrupt and Tim still owes just over #1,000 to BT and #250 to CompuServe (from a total debt of #7,000).
Effectively the on-line service, in this case CompuServe, acted as a bridge across continents, uniting people whose lives are now changed forever.
But the company is based on the principle that connection costs and, as Tim and Elisa have proven, the costs may dampen even the strongest passions.
In true journalistic style we'd like to urge on-line services to introduce a more appropriate heavy usage scheme for individual users, where a percentage discount is given per phone - similar to BT's Premierline. It won't help Tim and Elisa, but it may save their children a bob or two.
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