Love at first... Yelp?

She wanted to leave a review. Instead she found a husband.

What do you look for when you visit Yelp? A restaurant recommendation? An online menu? How about a husband?

That’s what Jackie found when she used the review platform way back in 2007. Back then, Yelp had a DM feature, and when she saw Ryan’s “really funny” review of a wine bar she had recently visited, she wanted to compliment his writing.

They quickly hit it off and the conversation transitioned from Yelp, to Google Chat to a phone call. Soon, they were getting ready for their first date.

That chance digital encounter led to a marriage that has been going strong for the past 10 years.

Here’s their story.

How did you meet?

Jackie: We met on Yelp in 2007. I was new to San Francisco and I was using Yelp as a way to get to know the city a bit better. I wrote my review of a wine bar I had gone to, and once I published it I noticed Ryan’s right under mine. I read his. It was written much better and it was really funny.

He wrote a note about how he was on a boring date and was looking at a wall of wine bottles and trying to understand the design of the space. I’m an interior designer, so I read that and I was cracking up because I had the same thought on my date. I thought I have to send him a note because it was just too similar to how I felt in that space.

He wrote me back and we started this chat on the Yelp website. And after a couple of weeks we decided to have our first blind date.

I didn’t know Yelp had a chat feature!

Jackie: It was pretty early in the Yelp days. They had a DM feature, it was almost like a mini social media platform.

What did you think about getting a Yelp DM?

Ryan: It was exciting. We were of that generation and grew up with instant messengers like AIM, so the whole DM chatting thing was kind of par for the course. Yelp was in its infancy, it was founded in the city. It had this really fun and new organic kind of vibe to it. So people you interacted with, you kind of felt as part of your community, even though you weren't seeing them. 

Were there pictures on your Yelp profiles?

Jackie: They were very small little round circles. You couldn’t expand them or look at them any closer. I call our first date somewhat blind because we could tell a little bit what our features were, but it wasn’t like it is today where you could see multiple photos or an Instagram profile. 

What happened next?

Ryan: We talked a little bit on Yelp and then we moved over to Google Chat or email. We found some similarities: she actually went to the college that my best friend went to, and she grew up in the Bay Area. So there were some things in common between us that it wasn’t too scary for us to go on a first date eventually.

Jackie: I remember we were chatting on Gchat for a couple of days, and then he asked for my phone number. I gave it to him not expecting him to call me right then and there, but my phone rang. And then we were on a call for hours and hours.

As Ryan said, we realized that his best friend went to my college and Ryan had actually attended my graduation without even knowing. We had actually attended the same party that graduation weekend and never met!

When did you realize there was attraction there?

Ryan: My intention was to explore that from the get go. I wasn’t on Yelp to find dates. It wasn’t a dating website, it wasn’t even a social network. It was just a place to meet people. Once we moved the conversation to Gchat you could tell there was some potential, there was some flirtatiousness there. And then when we saw each other in person I was amazed, I was very excited. 

What were your first impressions once you met in real life?

Jackie: First off, our first date was kind of halfway between the places where we lived in the city at the time. The moment I drove up and I saw him, I had this brief moment of What am I getting myself into? I barely know this person! And I had told my roommates that if I didn’t call them in three hours to check on me. I was super nervous, but he was so funny in real life too, and he just calmed my nerves and our conversation just lasted for hours and hours, to the point where we started trying to find other things that we could do on our date like go bowling or get a frozen yogurt or slice of pizza. It went from brunch all the way until deep into the night. I forgot I told my roommates to check on me, and by the time I looked at my phone I had like 30 missed calls from them!

Ryan: Jackie was one of the most beautiful people I’d ever gone on a date with. I was flabbergasted. At that moment I feel like I talked a lot, and I remember wearing these really stupid sunglasses that I had. I remember Jackie, but the things I remember is that one of us ate a salad and one of us talked too much and I had really silly sunglasses on.

How did things grow from there?

Ryan: Personally speaking, I think there were a few months of fun dating. I was, emotionally and relationship-wise, immature. And so we broke up for a period of time a couple of months in.

And then we reconnected when we were both broken up and had joined a kickball league. And so one night we were playing flip cup post kickball and Jackie was there too, and I didn't know it. And she saw our mutual friend and was like, “Oh, God, Ryan's here.”

Jackie: I saw him and his friend and I was like Wait, I joined this to get over him not to see him every single week and be reminded. But from there he took me out to dinner and I think he had come to a realization that this is really what he wanted, and he wanted to work toward it. And we’ve been together ever since. There was no question. It was just about building that trust and opening up to one another. That was 16 years ago, and we’ve been married over 10 years now.

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Interviewed and transcribed by Nicolas Vega. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.