A man and a woman sit side by side in a New York cafe, drinking beer, sharing food, and not saying a word. Instead of chatting, they are typing on a laptop about the tunes played through a shared iPod.
"Realizing that communicating via typing was far more comfortable ... we conducted ... our date without speaking. We traded headphones back and forth and typed and ordered beer and wine and more food ... The waitress thought we were crazy," wrote singer Amanda Palmer on her Web site.
As the Internet evolves -- with its Webcams, iPods, Instant Messaging, broadband, Wi-Fi and blogs -- its image as a relationship-wrecker is changing.
Now a sociable habit is emerging among the Netorati: couple-surfing.
Coined by bloggers responding to a column on the online version of "Wired" magazine, couple-surfing describes "netaholics" or "infomaniacs" who surf alongside each other -- doing together what used to be seen as a solitary activity.
It can make cyber-love more playful and informative than the caches of steamy e-mails left in the late 1990s.
"It's difficult to communicate things like images, sounds and URLs through speech," writes Stanley Lieber (I'm not really Stanley Lieber... and I'm not really from NYC) on the blog.
Started by Nick Currie, alias iMomus, the blog has attracted over 200 contributions, showing a vast array of ways couples use the Internet.
Couple-surfing can apparently be as mundane as telling each other to take the trash out, as intimate as sharing a book by a blazing log fire, or as showy as a masked ball.
"Our new relationship was often the subject of my LJ (blog) entries and I would often say things in there that I wouldn't tell him to his face," writes Kathryn.
Another couple -- married for 12 years -- say that for a while they communicated through blogs without ever discussing their feelings face to face.
The Internet is a boon for people who are verbally shy and provides a great way to resolve disputes about facts, say some fans. Some couples play online games together, and computing seems to be a zone where men can be manly.
"For my birthday, he upgraded my RAM and I thought it was incredibly romantic," writes Jess.
But in the same way as real-life interests may diverge, couples who do not share what one blogger called "common geekdom" can find surfing divisive.
A mother from Sweden calls for breakfast tables to be redesigned to accommodate computers, "as it is kind of sad for a son not to see his own father at the table ignoring him and everyone else while he reads the news..."
And even between geeks -- or "tender electroverts," as blogger Tim H dubs them -- questions of privacy and secrecy raise tensions. Amanda Palmer published the entire typed "conversation" she had with her friend in memoriam, saying he had recently died.
Relate, Britain's largest relationship counseling body, says about one in 10 couples who seek its help cite some sort of computer-related problem, and the trend is on the rise.
"Increasingly, people are saying that time spent on the computer -- not necessarily chat rooms or sexy or suggestive sites -- is an issue," said Denise Knowles, a Relate counselor.
But Knowles points out that the Web itself is often the medium, not the root, of problems. "The Internet has highlighted or exposed difficulties in relationships that might have gone unnoticed had there not been a computer in the house," she said. Currie agreed. Like any absorbing activity, "couple-surfing" only works if both partners are equally enthusiastic, he said.
"After listening to what everybody had to say (on the blog) and thinking about my own relationship, I came to the conclusion that surfing doesn't damage relationships -- as long as both partners are equally into the Internet," he said by email. "The question then is whether one of them is just faking it!"