There was a time when dating and romance was strictly a face-to-face thing. To fall in love and develop a romantic relationship, you had to start from the basics of ‘boy meets girl’.
Frantic demands on our time, coupled with improved communication technology, are ringing changes in our social lives, making online dating hugely popular.
Social websites like Friendster, Facebook and Badoo have turned the issue of social communication up-side-down. You can now call someone a friend even if you have never physically met. Thanks to online dating sites, you can even have a lover without any physical contact with them.
Starting as just a trend in the late 1990s, online dating has now become a way of life, especially among the youth. The older generation is not far behind. In Botswana, online dating sites are increasingly the go-to places for many youth seeking romance and meaningful relationships. They are growing popular even among those just seeking the sexual thrill of ‘friends with benefits’.
A casual search online reveals various websites that Batswana log onto for dating ÔÇô with names such as Dating Botswana, Dating.It, Cupid.com, Datememateme.com, Onelove.net, Datingbuzz, and several more. Some of these offer dating services for singles, others for seniors, with some even offering services for married people who want a fling on the side. “Dating Botswana gains thousands of new members every week, any one of them might be your perfect match,” says the Dating Botswana website.
These days, match making is not just about a potential couple meeting to figure out if they are compatible. It’s also about love-hungry men and women scanning online personal profiles, much like we used to scan mail order catalogues for clothes.
Online dating has come to stay, overtaking the lonely hearts columns newspapers and magazines used to run in the past. In Gaborone alone, hundreds of people searching for the perfect mate are regularly joining these dating sites.
Kabo Ketshwerebothata, a middle age man, warns about the danger of online dating. He says it is easier to declare your feelings to someone on the internet, especially since you are not facing them.
“You can end up doing it over and over again to different people and it becomes an addiction,” Ketshwerebothata says. “Through online dating, people might even end up getting married, but I believe a high percentage of such affairs won’t work.”
He adds that it is easy enough for people to start out by giving false information in the personal profiles they post online. This may be done by men to impress their targets, women who they may just want to exploit for sex.
According to Kamogelo Molebedi, a 24-year-old woman, a physical relationship is more fulfilling than a purely online.
“A good relationship is built on good intentions, it’s physical, emotional and looks beyond horizons to possible future bonds like marriage and family,” she says. “Online dating is usually based on lies and is just fun oriented. It’s about someone you talk to when you want to have fun, get wild and all the notorious things you can think of.”
In short, Molebedi believes online relationships feed on lust and online couples hardly last. She adds that online dating feeds on social ills like ‘friends with benefits’.
“When you start dating online while you are still in a relationship, then get to meet your online partner and realize you like them and would like to date physically, it means they become a ‘small house’ if you don’t end the relationship with your current partner,” she says.
Other people who are against online dating say it is difficult to tell whether the person you develop an online relationship with is really who they say they are. You may think you have hooked up with gorgeous 27-year-old man when in fact he is a balding, graying 57 year old, who has uploaded a 30 year old picture of himself.
Over the computer, it can be hard to really know if you are attracted to a person, given that our level of attraction is based on qualities like facial expression, quirky behavior, head-to-toe appearance, and personal hygiene.