Look, Sayra Lopez knows it sounds crazy but she fell in love with a guy she met on Instagram. They’re engaged. He’s about to move from England to Philadelphia to be with her.
But what’s crazy, anyway? Lopez, 25, doesn’t think it’s any crazier than her life up until now.
She grew up in Mexico’s Cuernavaca, a city of 350,000, south of Mexico City, where she spent much of her childhood as a competitive gymnast, training four hours a day, six days a week. She left home for the University of Pennsylvania and now she lives in Philadelphia, where she weightlifts competitively and works as a product designer for one of the country’s telecom giants: Comcast.
That is to say, the world is smaller now. Technology, among other things, has made it so. And for Lopez, technology created opportunity — not just for her career, but for her love life, too.
The love affair starts on Instagram’s “Explore” tab.
He was a super photogenic weightlifter on the British National team. Lopez, a UX/UI designer at Philly startup Squareknot at the time, was just scrolling casually when she spotted him.
The photo in question: He’s at the British Championships, red sneakers, blue knee wraps. His muscles bulge and his face strains as he lifts an enormous barbell.
“Very cool photo!” she commented.
Lopez, a petite woman with bright red hair and an apparent lack of shyness, wasn’t looking for love. Hardly. She was married at the time, to her college boyfriend, though it was swiftly coming to an end. The comment was just a little harmless Insta-flirting. She didn’t think twice about it.
But then he Instagram direct-messaged her — turns out he liked her photos, too.
A little Facebook stalking showed her that they had some mutual friends from the weightlifting world. From there, it moved to Snapchat (tame ones, she insists). Skype. WhatsApp. Hundreds of selfies. Until finally, they split the cost of a plane ticket and he appeared in Philadelphia. They hadn’t even been talking for two months at that point. They just knew.
Their airport meeting, last fall, was the moment of truth. Even though Lopez felt sure about her feelings, there was still a possibility that, during all those weeks of chatting and falling for each other, they had been under some sort of social media spell. (Not to mention that her friends, and his, too, kept saying they were each going to get catfished.)
But there was no spell.
“He’s even better looking in person,” she remembers thinking as he came into view.
His weeklong visit was perfect: they trained at her gym in Center City, went on a haunted hay ride, visited New York City.
When the week was up, they said a tearful goodbye. Shortly after, Lopez competed in the USA Weightlifting American Open in Washington, D.C. Then she flew to England to visit him for New Year’s and that’s when he proposed. (She said yes.)
It happened just like that. All her friends were dumbfounded (“Everyone had opinions,” she said) but when they saw them together, they got it. But for real? Lopez just didn’t care what everyone thought.
“People are super judgmental,” she said.
She went back to visit him this spring, working remotely for Squareknot and picking up freelance UX work for a London-based mobile app called DogBuddy and for Ishqr, a dating app for Muslims that graduated from DreamIt Ventures last year.
Now they’re both making moves to live in the same city. He’s applying for a master’s program in sports business at Temple, and she left Squareknot for Comcast. (She wanted a corporate job because she’s going to support him while he’s in school.) The earliest he’ll be in Philly is January. For now, they use Voice Notes on WhatsApp, Facebook chat, Skype and Snapchat. As for Instagram, their accounts have become a chronicle of their romance, a wink to all the haters and a throwback to where they first met.