These days, social media networks are fast providing new platforms for courtships between persons seeking love.
More prospective lovers now find it convenient to sit back in the comfort of their homes and offices to make indirect contacts and search for lovers via the social media networks, some of which are Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, 2go and Twitter.
“So tempting is the new trend that one can just lie in bed and fall in love. Wow!” says Bobby, who is in his 20s.
Observers note that the emerging phenomenon contrasts sharply with the past when it was ludicrous to “toast” a complete stranger — one you never met before — on love matters via the cell phone and the social media sites.
In many traditional societies in Nigeria, such acts amount to taboos and indeed anathema, by reason of their value systems, social and religious sensibilities.
The reality, however, is that things have changed and Nigeria cannot afford to lag behind the rest of the world in modern trends in Information Technology (IT).
Some Nigerians of various shades and professions have shared different perspectives on the emerging phenomenon of dating via the social media.
For Mr Segun Bello, a 33-year-old estate agent in Garki, Abuja, the introduction of social networking sites gives a new hope regarding love life.
This is because, for many years before he finally succumbed to the attractions and benefits of ‘2go’, Bello found it difficult to attract and socialise with singles of the opposite sex.
He recalls that he was hardly able to construct a romantic sentence in front of a lady and this made him ashamed of himself for “being too shy and quiet”.
“At times, I cursed myself for being the way I was; I had thought that my quiet and shy nature would have been of advantage to me then.
“I never knew I was so quiet and shy until ladies started running away from me, claiming that I was ‘too boring and not bold’.
“I thought of ‘blind-dating’ but it still did not work out and pressure kept mounting on me to look for a life partner to settle down with.”
Bello further recalls that he felt broken-hearted to the extent of wanting to die due to frustration and loneliness until a friend introduced him to the ‘2go’ social network site.
“I was sceptical about it at first but when I started using the site, I found out that I was more relaxed, composed and bolder in interactions with the opposite sex.
“Thereafter, I was no longer shy and I could say whatever I wanted to a woman; that was how I met and won the love of Remi — the love of my life,’’ says Bello beaming with pleasure.
Bello’s reasons for using the social network may be different from those of many others afterall!
For Kehinde Jibril, an applicant in Gwagwalada, a suburb of Abuja, her physical challenge prompted her to try her luck on ‘Facebook’, another social network site, for a heart throb.
She had lost faith in “direct-contact” courtship when she realised that no one wanted to appreciate and accept her physical challenge.
She recalls that whenever she explained her condition to her dates, they always tried to avoid her.
“Whenever I met a guy and explained to him how I got injured in an okada accident that I can’t now walk very well like before, it was as if I heaped a huge burden on the guy and he just would never come back to me. They would all `run’ away.
“It happened so many times; I felt very terrible at first but decided to move on with my life and never sought love again till I heard about ‘Facebook’ and how two people can meet and be friends from any part of the world without even meeting or seeing each other.
“So, I tried it and luck came my way when I met a guy online, who understood my plight, appreciated me and my physical condition. I thought there was no man for me but I was wrong.
“Mr Isaac is from Ekiti State is his name and today we are engaged ‘on-line’; we have met once and there is the prospect of our getting married soon,” Jibril says.
Observers say that social media dating also has its seamy sides as some “on-line predators” do take advantage of it to swindle unsuspecting victims.
Mr Ojo Busuyi, an Abuja-based businessman, says he is averse to “Internet-dating” largely because of his sad personal experience.
“It would have been better if Internet dating was never there. I have tried it many times. “Whenever I met someone I liked, we started communicating but I always noticed that there was always some dark secret or something sinister about that person, very different from what she claims.
“I have eventually met some face-to-face but they turned out to be very different from the pictures they pasted on their web pages. It’s mostly deceit, as some pretend to love you only to try and get money from you.
“Sometimes, I give and sometimes, I refuse; and as soon as they get tired of me, they dump me and stop corresponding with me. Kai! I never knew our girls also engage in ‘yahoo-yahoo’. Now, I am scared of any girl I meet online,’’ he moans.
Miss Comfort Ekene responds to these drawbacks, insisting that even in real life relationships, deceits and frauds do exist.
“Though dangers do exist online, they also exists in the real life but it is always wise to proceed with caution when online becomes the option for courtship. I am more or less now a veteran in the game. I back out of any online relationship once I get suspicious.”
Broadly speaking, however, communications experts say that social networking sites are meant to connect strangers based on shared interests as political views and other activities.
“It is all something of an ‘on-line community’, where anyone can chat with anybody in any part of the world once you log into a particular site, depending on your areas of interest,” says Michael Danjuma.
Social networking dates back to 1997 when “Sixdegrees.com”, a social networking site came onboard. Since then, the number of such websites has increased just as their interests have varied.
Today, social network sites have become a global phenomenon and are getting more attractive by the day, by reason of new packages and opportunities on the net.
Wale Babs, an architect, says that networking sites are fast becoming a necessity in the minds of many singles.
“Most people don’t want to go out again. They just meet on these sites and end up as couples, period.’’
Mr Bode Allen, the manager of a cyber café in Wuse, Abuja, expresses the viewpoint that there is nothing wrong or vulgar about courtships via social network sites.
“I don’t think there is anything wrong with the idea of courting someone via the internet; it’s almost the same thing as physically going out to search for someone you like and whom you would want to spend your life with.”
Allen, nonetheless, concedes that there are some challenges with the use of the social sites, especially with the growing activities of fraudsters.
“Yes, these sites were made to reconnect people and create avenues for social and business interactions among people who share similar interests,” he says, adding: “Dating is one of the interests but ironically, the sites are also deployed by dubious persons for nefarious purposes.’’
While it is true that a healthy and lasting relationship may require more than a social network platform to thrive, it is also a statement of fact that social networking could also consolidate, or at least serve as starting point for relationships.
For the vast majority of Nigerian youths, however, social networking sites are the in-thing and they have become part of their daily existence, the drawbacks and risks notwithstanding.
Some members of the older generation have also been caught up in the web of socialisation via social media networks and twitter and facebook have been ready options.
With the rising popularity of social media networks in the country, the innovative phenomenon of online courtships will certainly remain with us for quite some time.
Yetunde Bada writes for NAN