April 16, 2012 -- When Winnipeg resident Mike Duerksen popped the big question over the weekend, he and thousands of others were waiting with bated breath to see whether his girlfriend would agree to marry him.
It was a private moment shared very publicly, as Mike Duerksen live-tweeted his marriage proposal to his girlfriend Janelle Freed, after more than 12 hours of minute-by-minute tweets updating followers throughout an elaborate date that culminated in the proposal.
"About to tell her a story: Our story. It ends with a question. Here I go. #MikeProposes," Duerksen wrote on Friday night, leaving the Twitter world to wait sixteen minutes to find out the answer to his question.
Duerksen started the proposal festivities by announcing on Twitter that on Friday, he would take his girlfriend on eight mini-dates, to eight special places in their relationship, culminating in a marriage proposal that night. He referred to his girlfriend only as "J," and assured followers she would not catch on while reading Twitter.
She thinks Twitter is a much lamer version of Facebook for geeks, he tweeted. "She's not on Twitter and she's leaving her phone at home."
Duerksen said he had the idea weeks before, when he was live-tweeting an event for work and realized how easily friends and colleagues could become part of an event.
"I wanted to let them in on the big day, and use it as experiment, to see what happens. I didn't know what to expect, and it just took on life of its own," Duerksen said.
"I expected friends and maybe some people in the city to follow along, but I started getting tweets from all over the world. I got so much support and positive tweets sent my way, halfway through the date I was starting to really feel the pressure!"
Utilizing the hashtag #mikeproposes, Duerksen interacted with Twitter followers who became interested in watching the events unfold. He answered questions, retweeted proposal suggestions, and thanked followers for good luck wishes.
"Now, to address a few questions: Yes, I'm aware it's Friday the 13th. No, she's not on twitter. Yes, I think she'll say yes. #MikeProposes," he wrote.
The elaborate, Twitter-aided proposal matched the couple's love story, one of a chance meeting in a foreign country, followed by a long distance relationship, in which they used Skype sessions, emails, and text messages to keep in touch.
Duerksen and Freed met in 2009, at a professional conference they both attended in Paraguay, where he spotted her across the room and arranged to sit next to her for a session. Following the meeting in Paraguay, she returned home to Pennsylvania and he to Winnipeg, and they took to the internet to keep their budding romance alive.
"The core of our getting to know each other was all done over social media. Maybe people think social media is only about shallow connections, but this is proof that it can go beyond the superficial," Duerksen said.
Finally, two years after meeting, Freed moved to Winnipeg for a year, and the pair began dating.
"We've been partners in crime since. #MikeProposes," Duerksen wrote.
Friday morning, Duerksen tweeted that he was off to pick up Freed for their first date, breakfast at a local eatery. He then tweeted and posted pictures of the seven dates that followed, including a bon fire in his parents' backyard, where he finally popped the question.
Twitter users, many of whom Duerksen had never met or heard of, began to chime in and wish him luck.
"Don't know who @mikeduerksen is, but he's live-tweeting his marriage proposal & I'm not leaving the couch until she says yes. #mikeproposes," wrote Twitter user @stephaniepelley.
Around 8:30 p.m. Friday night, the moment had finally arrived for Duerksen, Freed, and hundreds of Twitter followers. Duerksen built a bonfire for the two to sit around together, recreating their first date, and wrote one last tweet, announcing that it was time to pop the question.
Sixteen minutes later, after Freed was let in on the joke and urged him to not keep his followers waiting any longer, Duerksen returned to Twitter with good news: "Folks, she said yes! #MikeProposes."
Duerksen received congratulatory messages-- and offers for wedding photography and other services --from all corners of the world.
The couple plans to marry in October.