Pulse Blogger: Courtship: The confusing dynamics these days

Dear Oyin...

First, we had letters, then the old school landline telephones, then emails, then text messages (Seriously, the word, “texting” has become a valid verb?)

Then instant messengers, then social networks, then Blackberry Messenger, then Whatsapp, then Skype…. What’s next? Human holograms?!

Disney lied!

Like most girls, I grew up watching romantic Disney movies and numerous chick flicks. Oh my gosh! They portrayed love as the ultimate form of affection between a man and a woman. But in reality, especially nowadays, it's such a let down that we hardly see those Prince Charming or Damsel in Distress characters.

In fact, as human beings continue to evolve, grand romantic gestures seem to be either diminishing or are becoming more complicated due to the influence of technology, modern exposure and so many other factors. Our attitudes towards courtship are changing every single day.

I remember back in my high school days, when the sale of Global System Mobile phones, “GSM” (what we now call cell phones) had just commenced in Nigeria. Pretty much only businessmen were found carrying them around. Hardly anyone at school, especially not at a boarding school, had a valid reason for owning or even using one.

I did not get my first one until several months of begging my parents: It was an Ericsson A1228D, which in my opinion was one of the cooler ones. I had to share it with my brothers because it was for emergency purposes only, not leisurely contact with friends.

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Communication in the noughties.

So back then at school, the main means of communication were through face-to-face interaction and occasional letter writing, when romantic feelings were involved. I remember receiving letters from and writing to my high school boyfriend; this guy had some serious lyrics!

This was the sort of romantic gesture I had looked forward to since my days of The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast reruns. Well, sadly, today the "letter-writing tale has become extinct with time".  Romantic gestures have been so reduced to such an impersonal level limited to whatapp and social media that handwriting these days looks more like chicken scratch!

From mail to holograms?

Amidst the Internet Boom, Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, two of my favourite actors then, starred in the movie, You’ve Got Mail, which essentially tells a story about a man and woman who fall in love via email. Back then, they probably had no idea that this sort of non-verbal romantic gesture would quickly become common in the near future, and via so many variations of technological media that never stop advancing.

First, we had letters, then the old school landline telephones, then emails, then text messages (Seriously, the word, “texting” has become a valid verb?), then instant messengers, then social networks, then blackberry messenger, then whatsapp, then skype…. What’s next? Human holograms?

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Technology and relationships.

In my opinion, technology has negatively influenced the way we communicate, rendering us not only physically, but emotionally distant. I am trying to accept this as an unfortunate worldwide movement, which is great for businesses and globalisation. But when it comes to relationships with our friends, family and partners, I do not agree with it.

Western influence.

With this exposure to the global culture through technology, are some aspects of our local culture changing? In addition to television and the vast amount exposure the internet and social media provide, another observation is that over the recent years, more young Nigerians have migrated abroad to continue their education, and this move occurs at a younger age every year.

We are becoming more exposed to some aspects of the Western culture, which are quite different from the seemingly conservative Nigerian culture and are becoming more socially acceptable. These have unfortunately taken a toll on traditional courtship, causing young people to take a more casual approach towards dating, thereby rushing into some circumstances they may or may not be prepared for physically and emotionally and would very likely regret.

 

Materialism…the new cool?

Another observation is our increasingly materialistic society. For men, it’s all about having the latest car. For women it’s the designer pair of shoes and handbag. Some people even refuse to travel if they cannot afford a business class ticket because of the shame of being seen in economy class.

But luxuries are not supposed to be huge financial burdens. They should be purchased if the means of attaining them is readily available. Therefore, sometimes we find that rather than looking for a deep emotional connection, we are digging deep into each other's pockets, searching for something to gain from the other person, be it money, social status, a family name or maybe a house in Banana Island!

The combination of changes in technology, lifestyle and attitudes are negatively impacting conventional dating and courtship. My mum says that she fears for my generation. How am I supposed to feel about what my own children will be exposed to?

But really, at the end of the day, some people still do remain traditional, while others have reached different degrees of changes with their approaches, and this just leaves everyone confused with mixed signals and messages. So intentions are misread and people can only hope that what they see is really what they truly hope for.

Written by Oyin Egbeyemi

Oyin Egbeyemi is an engineer-turned-consultant-turned-educationist, runner and writer.

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