A social network is considered a website or application which facilitates communication between people with the possibility of posting information, commenting, sending messages, images, and videos.
Social networking sites one could say were originally conceived to redefine face-to-face communication and to maintain one to one relationships, thereby bridging the gap created by long distances. Most relatives in Africa lost communication in the past when one of them traveled abroad for greener pastures. This situation was overturned with the coming of mobile phone, and now it has evolved to seeing the individual physically and even monitoring and taking part in the day to day life of the person.
There existed a growing phenomenon in Africa where people had friends in other parts of the world referred to as pen pals. Youth in that epoch would spend hours on the internet sending emails to their virtual friends.
With the rapid growth of smartphones and broadband, generating online relationships has not only improved but people now use it as an avenue to find love and flirt around. There are countless stories of people who found their loved ones through an online dating site. While a considerable number of these relations contracted through these platforms have eventually led to marriage, several others have suffered heartbreaks and ghosting.
With the decline in data costs, people can now initiate sexual relations quicker and easier than before which makes it easy for the internet to play the role of matchmaker.
The proliferation of Online dating sites in Africa
The African culture has once been imbibed with decency and secrecy as relationships and dating were a practice for adults. Love and sex topics were highly avoided by teens for fear of being termed spoilt or badly brought up. However, globalization came with its own concepts which led to a change of lifestyle and ideologies. Youths at a tender age now have access to dating sites and keep virtual relationships. This has now become a hot topic of discussion within youth groups and every small gathering.
The proliferation of numerous online dating sites came with the increase in internet use. In 2018, a report released by We Are Social and Hootsuite, a global digital agency indicated that Africa witnessed the fastest growth rates in internet penetration, and the number of users increased by more than 20% as compared to 2017.
In 2018 the reported number of internet users in Mali increased almost 6 times since January 2017 while the figures in Benin, Sierra Leone, Niger, and Mozambique were seen to have doubled over the past year.
The first Internet dating sites are said to have originated in the 90’s which permitted users to create a profile and search for matches. Latest sites have moved ahead to introduce more options for communication such as instant messaging and webcam video dating.
Facebook, created in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg is now seen as the most popular social networking sites with over 1 billion users. Although it was not created for dating, people now use it to snap a date.
However, Tinder is now known as the world’s most popular app with approximately 30 billion matches to date. Zoosk is also another platform for a quick date with its app affiliated with Facebook. Other apps such as MySpace, Match App, Hi5, MeetMe as well as Badoo are also prominent sites to enrich your love life.
Can online dating be seen as a social ill?
In countries like Nigeria, people are very skeptical about online relationships and may never consider online dating a means of meeting potential spouses. This is primarily due to the fact that although online dating has its benefits it also comes with some risks and limitations attached to it. Whether to consider this form of interaction an ill or not depends on individuals’ opinions and experiences.
However, some experts have indicated that social media helps relationships about 13% more than it hurts them. According to Barbara, a social media fan in Cameroon, people are more comfortable striking up a conversation online than physically. This means of communication has spared men the trauma of approaching their crushes and trying to revise well edited lines to impress her.
‘Personally, I have never considered dating or have a serious relationship with someone I just met through a social network but these different networks have facilitated information flow in my relationship’, revealed another social media user.
The ability to maintain multiple sexual relationships is also very easy. This reduces the chances of giving one relationship the attention needed.
It is also worth noting that some people use these sites for fun as swapping through photos of girls and men alike becomes interesting. Coupled with the fact people are faking virtual representation, it becomes highly questionable if these relationships are true and can last longer than expected.
‘Online dating has both a negative and positive attribute because the world is fast becoming a global village and more and more people tend to get in touch with each other online. Dating via social media can be successful as long as both parties do not have ulterior motives’ noted Eucharia, a writer and event manager.
At the end of it all, recent observations have revealed that relations which were started physically are now being sustained by social networks. Previously, getting a woman to date in Cameroon could take months or years of asking her out. But things became different with modernization and now the concept of online dating too. However, whether positive or negative, it is undeniably true that the whole process of dating has changed as a result of social networking.
Article from AFRIC editorial.
Credit image/google images/dating apps