He exists only on Whatsapp

When Emily, 27, a communications manager, started chatting with John on Tinder, she thought she'd struck gold. The bachelor was cute, smart and funny, and even did volunteer work - he sounded perfect on paper.

Their first date was a hit - over a two-hour dinner, they chatted about everything from their travels to their political views. The chemistry was electric and they were inseparable... over text.

For months, they texted each other every other day and on occasion, had marathon text sessions that lasted 14 hours. John even confessed that he liked her - through Whatsapp. In spite of their online connection, he agreed to only two dates in eight months.

"We made plans to meet up and he always rescheduled at least once, each time saying that he was busy with work," says Emily.

Yet, John's constant stream of messages gave her the impression that he was still interested in her. "It was enough to keep me hooked - but I never got all of him."

She gave him an ultimatum after he postponed yet another date: Meet up, or she'd end contact. "He explained that he just wanted some alone time - but we had spent almost five weeks just trying to fix a date to meet. That's a lot of alone time," she says.

The relationship fizzled out, but it left Emily with questions. "Why would a guy spend so much time messaging me if he wasn't interested?" she wonders. "We were constantly connected virtually, but we never met. It was like being in a long-distance relationship... only, we were in the same country."

More than a friend but not yet a boyfriend, a text buddy is that special guy whom you message practically every day. The texting is reciprocal, and both of you have unspoken routines - you'll feel weirded out if he doesn't text you after work, and you know he'll definitely like any photo you post on Instagram.

The problem? You've hardly met. You're more familiar with his favourite emojis than his face. Forget long-distance relationships; the new LDR is the long digital relationship.

The boom in online dating has fuelled this phenomenon. A biennial survey of singletons in Asia by dating agency Lunch Actually revealed a 25 per cent increase in the number of people who partook in online dating between 2009 and 2013.

The numerous chat and dating apps on the market also means that it has never been easier for singles to meet other singles virtually - a fact that may have contributed to the rise of digital relationships.

"Millennials have lived most of their lives on social networks and mobile phones - it's only natural that they connect with others in these ways," says Charlene Koh, co-founder and chief marketing officer of home-grown dating app Paktor. "Besides, people are too busy to meet up for dates nowadays."

To read the rest of this article, get a copy of the January 2015 issue of Her World, Singapore’s No.1 women’s magazine. Her World, published by SPH Magazines is available at all newsstands now.

Also, check out the January 2015 issue for these stories:
1) 38 Stylish Work Pieces For Under $300: How to look like a big boss without a hotshot salary? Try these classics-with-a-twist.
2) 9 Ways to Spring-clean Your Beauty Tools: Yes, even your eyelash curler and pumice stones – so they look good as new and don’t become breeding grounds for bacteria.
3) Get Over Gynae-phobia: Here’s all you need to know to fix that appointment you’ve been putting off.