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Online Couple Never Chats Anymore

SEATTLE—Though only two months have passed since the start of their whirlwind Internet romance, Janice Baxter and Tim Siegal hardly ever sit down in front of their respective computers and chat the way that they used to, online sources reported Monday.

First introduced by a mutual Friendster in August, Baxter and Siegal hit it off almost immediately. What began as the virtual relationship of their dreams, however, has by all accounts completely waned in recent weeks.

"When Tim and I first started seeing each other on Instant Messenger, we used to type for literally hours on end," said Baxter, who lives approximately five miles from Siegal. "Nowadays, I'm lucky if I can even get a 'k' or 'u 2' from him."

"Whatever happened to the Siegalmeister432 I used to know?" she added.

According to extensive chat records, the online couple used to share everything with each other, from the latest YouTube links to the best available podcast downloads. Lately though, Baxter said that Siegal opens up more about himself in his blog than he does with her.

"Tim never used to be scared of showing his true feelings. Smiley faces, frowny faces, that one emoticon with the sunglasses—he was always emotionally available," Baxter said. "But then, suddenly, everything just changed. Sometimes I wonder what I ever saw in his user profile."

As perfect as their relationship initially seemed, sources close to the online couple said that a number of warning signs had been evident. During their second chat, Siegal brought up a past Internet girlfriend, and there were times late at night when the avid Mac user would completely shut down. Yet it was not until Siegal stood Baxter up last Friday to go play Yahoo! Billiards with some friends that she finally realized something was wrong.

"I never thought I'd say this, but I can't remember the last I really 'LOLed' with Tim," Baxter said. "Even when he forwards me a giant list of dog jokes, it's just not the same."

Baxter, however, isn't the only one dissatisfied with the online relationship. Originally excited about the new romance, Siegal said he soon felt smothered by always having his Internet partner around, and began to resent her constant demands that he spend less time with his buddy list.

"It's gotten to the point where I can't log on to AOL without Janice asking me where I've been," Siegal said. "Often just the 'bloop' of another instant message popping up is enough to make me cringe."

"Honestly, there are times when I just want to leave the computer altogether," he added.

According to Siegal, what began as daily messages soon turned into daily e-mails, before becoming daily blog comments, daily e-greetings, and finally daily iChat requests. Sources say the breaking point came a few days ago when Baxter proposed the couple get a MySpace account together.

"It was fine when we were just having a good time, but I'm not sure I'm ready for something this serious," Siegal said. "After all, I'm only 34."

Dr. Margaret Hampton, a psychology professor at a prestigious online university in Phoenix, claimed that the couple's problems are not uncommon.

"Relationship issues are the same all over the World Wide Web," Hampton said. "While thrilling at first, opening up to someone online means opening up about your online friends, online interests, and most personal online aspirations. That can be difficult for anyone."

Said Hampton: "Just e-mail that jerk $teveWarn3r@gmail.com, if you want to know what I'm talking about."

As of press time, Baxter and Siegal reportedly had not decided whether they wanted to end their relationship, since doing so would likely require speaking on the phone.

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