Amanda talked with Aaron for months, without seeing any pictures of him, before the couple finally met -- like Jon and Katie, at an airport -- when he returned from summer vacation to attend college.
"I watched him walk off the plane, and I remember thinking, 'This is so weird because it's not weird.' It felt like I was meeting an old friend," she said.
A year later, by which point they were officially dating, the two discovered that their grandmothers had attended the same Jewish summer camp in Cleveland, Ohio, a strange coincidence considering Amanda grew up in Alabama and Aaron in New Mexico.
"(Jewish summer camp) was important to us, and it was important to us because it was important to our parents, because it was important to our grandparents," said Amanda, who works at an ad agency. "So it kind of felt like my fate was sealed."
While Amanda says that the two were not officially dating during the months preceding their first meeting, and although she had never seen a picture of Aaron, she still says their connection was deep.
"All I knew was that he was tall and had brown hair and blue eyes, so every guy I saw who kind of fit that description, I would look at him and I would say, 'If that were Aaron, would I still like him?'" said Amanda, who now lives with Aaron in Decatur, Ga. "The answer was always yes."
Love can be blind -- literally
Amanda's attraction to a man she had never seen before is not uncommon: studies have been done on this phenomenon for decades. One of the most famous is 1973's ominous-sounding "Deviance In The Dark," in which interactions between students were observed in both pitch-dark and well-lit rooms.
Those who met in the dark room, on the whole, were much more open and intimate with their fellow participants than those who met face-to-face under the fluorescents. In short: When you get rid of all the stress attached to face-to-face meetings, people feel more free to be themselves and get to know each other.
That approach worked for Keith A. Masterson, 41, and Gabriel-Thomas Masterson, 37. After meeting via a Facebook group comment chain, the couple spent hours daily chatting on Facebook and the phone before meeting two months later. The couple are now married and living in Colonial Heights, Va.
"In our situation, (meeting online) gave me the opportunity to ask questions that I probably would not have asked face to face at that time," Masterson said.
Gabriel-Thomas agreed: "One of the reasons we moved so quickly was because we spent so much time on the phone talking."
Some research also suggests that chatting online first can have a beneficial effect on face-to-face relationships. In the "Relationship Formation on The Internet" study, the authors tested whether a group of students liked each other more after an online or in-person meeting. They found the online group was much more chummy, in part because of the quality of the digital interaction itself. In short: The Web allowed participants to pare away interpersonal distractions and focus on communicating openly and honestly.
Granted, there are some pitfalls with too much online interaction before meeting in person.
Dr. Artemio Ramirez, Jr., associate professor of communication at the University of South Florida, has done his own research on the effects of online communications on offline relationships.
"If you meet someone face to face shortly after you meet them online, it's not necessarily going to lead to someone having a positive relationship, but waiting longer increases the possibility that things are not going to work out," he said. "We tend to develop in our heads these impressions of what we think that person is like, even though the realities of communication do not reflect that."
Still, Ramirez says the effect of idealization can be mitigated by expanding a relationship beyond the bounds of the written word.
"When people rely on more text-based forms of communication, that's where you really see people idealizing. When people in relationships can talk on the phone or via Skype, it's more of a reality check," he said. "Each new form of communication incrementally gives us more information about that person."
'Catfishing' goes mainstream
Of course, not all online love affairs pay off as well as those detailed above. Manti Te'o fell for a woman he was told died of cancer, a woman he had to say "goodbye" to twice after he found out she never existed.