Like its impacts on businesses and social interactions, social media is changing the narrative in the marriage institution. In this piece, LADESOPE LADELOKUN writes on the effects of social media on marriage and cultural identity
Love, as the saying goes, can be found in strangest places. From a no pants party to a prison, a brothel to a funeral, stories have been told about how enduring relationships or journey to solemnisation of marriages birthed.
In a tribute penned in honour of her late husband, rights activist, Joe Okei Odumakin, had written about a romance that sprouted in a prison facility. “Who meets and marries from detention at Alagbon?
Only Yinka would ask! And only I would say YES!” She declared. For a number of parents and some cultures, where a child meets their better half gives an inkling about their character. Hence, a premium is placed on where and how the fire of romance is ignited. But the world has evolved.
It’s the age of social media and stories abound about how virtual friends not just morphed into lovers but tied the nuptial knots. But, like a double-edged sword, it has positively and negatively affected marriages, precipitating joy and sorrow in homes. Akeem Akibu, a Muslim and grandfather, is still grateful to the founders of Facebook, a social media platform, for laying a path for his first child daughter to find what he called “a wonderful man”.
According to the businessman, he’s the luckiest father-inlaw in the world as his daughter is married to the man she met on Facebook since 2012. Flowing from that experience, he told Sunday Telegraph, it was easy for him to meet his fourth wife on Facebook and marry her some months ago. “My daughter got married in 2012.
Ever since then, I’ve not really had any cause to settle any quarrel. In fact, I can say my daughter is very lucky to meet a man like my son-in-law. I wish her siblings could be that lucky. She met him on Facebook and today, they have four beautiful children together.
They truly love each other. There’s no Ileya festival (Eid el Kabir) that he doesn’t give me gifts, including cash in substantial amount. He’s a wonderful family man. I believe you can find true love anywhere. About two months ago, I got engaged to my fourth wife .We met on Facebook and we dated for almost two years before we agreed to live together.” For Seun Akinbiyi (not real name), the death of her bosom friend, Tayo, still leaves a sour taste in her mouth.
According to her, she was an industrious and extremely comfortable lady that ran a domestic and industrial cleaning services company.
Tayo, she said, had fallen in love with a gold digger and a sly monster who masqueraded as a real gentleman.
“I have reasons to believe majority of relationships that are products of social media interactions don’t head anywhere. It’s hard to know the intention of the man chasing you. Some just want your body, while some just need your money. You may say some people get it right but what’s the percentage? My friend met her untimely death after the cold treatment she got from a man she met on Facebook and married. This lady had a good heart. She was industrious and amiable.
Having known all these qualities about her, he drained her bank account, impregnated her and later absconded. My friend didn’t know where to start again. Her business had crumbled. She lost everything because she met a man that pretended to love her. Life became meaningless to her. She slipped into depression and died.”
Social media has influenced various facets of human endeavours, Marriage, Sunday Telegraph observes, is not an exemption.
According to Perspectives of Troy Counselling Centre, a counselling and mental health centre in the United States, a study from Boston University revealed that non-social network users were 11.4 per cent happier in their marriages than couples who frequently used social media. Heavy users were 32 per cent more likely to contemplate leaving their spouse. The study also suggested a possible correlation between the number of Facebook users in a state and the divorce rates for the area.
States with a higher increase in Facebook users showed a similar increase in divorce rates.
Another study in Great Britain showed that close to 25 per cent of married couples argued at least once a week because of social media use, and 17 per cent fought daily over something they found about their spouse online. 20 per cent of respondents reported that they fought with their spouses on Facebook, and nearly half said they secretly logged into their spouse’s accounts.
Is social media the new marriage minefield?
While social media is for many an important way of keeping in touch with friends and family, many argue it’s the new marriage minefield.
According to a research commissioned by a law firm Slater and Gordon, which was in response to what it said was an increase in the number of its clients, who said that Facebook, Skype, Snapchat, Twitter, WhatsApp and other social media sites had played a part in their divorce, one in seven married individuals considered divorce because of their spouse’s postings of Facebook or other online sites.
Commenting, a marriage counsellor, Ajoke Jeje, said though cases abound of how social media has fuelled infidelity, the break ups triggered by activities on social media can be averted.
“Well, there is no perfect marriage anywhere. It doesn’t matter whether you met you partner offline or online. But, truth be told, it’s far easier to have extramarital affairs now than in the past. For example, with Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and other social networks, it’s a lot easier to reconnect with a former lover to reconnect, especially when a marriage is going through a trying moment.
As a counsellor, I know, from my experience that six out of 10 cases of infidelity in marriage starts from a social media chat. What starts from an innocent and friendly chat leads to a meeting for a drink and before you say ‘Jack’, a romantic affair has started. I’m also aware that there’s a study by researchers at The University of Indiana that found out that many taken people who are insecure are on Facebook to hunt for potential back-burners who can fill the void created when there relationships crash. Let me shock you!
Do you know an innocent act like clicking the ‘Like’ button on sighting a lovely picture of a man or woman can cause arguments, disaffection among partners, especially when a jealous partner makes a job of monitoring their partner’s post on social media? It’s even worse when you think blocking a jealous partner from seeing your posts will help you find peace.
That will only complicate the problem you have. Like I always advise, couples should seek the right counsel and pray when they see traces of a relationship going sour. Sometimes, little things we unknowingly ignore trigger these things. ”
How colonialism, Islam, Christianity bastardised marriage institution
According to a historian and lecturer at the Osun State University, Dr Temitope Fagunwa, colonialism and religion have played a significant role in negatively changing the social structure of the African society. His words: “The purpose of marriage then was more of reality-driven.
Colonialism changed totally our orientation of the social structure of the society. And marriage is one of the institutions colonialism bastardised. During the earliest times, the prospective wife of a particular household would know that she would get married to the said family.
She would be nurtured towards that line. What is happening today is that we are living in a more chronic society. By virtue of that, we now have women going into marriages essentially for economic vibrancy and financial vibrancy.
In the days of our ancestors, women controlled the market system; so, they encouraged their husbands to marry more wives so that they could focus on their trade.
That’s an expression of the fact that women in pre-colonial era were economically important. With chronic capitalism, women’s economic pride has been battered. But let’s not excuse the roles Christianity and the role of Islam. During the days our ancestors, it was about complement ability.
The man complemented the woman; the woman complemented the man. But with Christianity, which is a patriarchal religion, the religion that places more importance on men than women, they began to see women as commodities. You know the whole idea about a man is the head of the house.”
How it was
In a chat with Sunday Telegraph, an Igbo chief, Innocent Ogbonna, told how digging deep into the background of a potential husband or wife before the advent of social media helped in building strong bond between families and strong marriages that lasted a lifetime.
But he laments that times have changed. “In the old days, when you see a lady you like, you tell an elderly person in your family. It could be your father or uncle. Either of them would hunt for someone that knows the family to make findings about the family.
The person in question would find out the kind of illness the family suffers, they would find out if they die early in the family, or even if the father or the mother is lazy.
They would also do findings about the grandfather and the great grandfather. Every important information would also be extracted for the purposes of having a happy marriage that would last a lifetime. The lady’s parent would also get someone or people to make findings about the potential husband’s family. When both families agree to come together, they go ahead to marry.
Note that the families being investigated might not even know what the investigators were up to.
And in those days,whenever there was a misunderstanding between the husband and the wife, elders from the man’s village would visit elders in the woman’s village and they would resolve the issues in their marriage and tell the wife to go back to her husband.
You see, these are the things we’ve lost and it ‘s why more marriages crash now than the days of our ancestors,” he said.
Narrating how he met his wife of almost 40 years in Oyo town, Wahab Tadese, a native of Iwo town in Osun State said: “While growing up, parents, uncles, aunts played vital roles in who a young man or woman married. In my case, it was my aunt that got me a wife.
How? She saw this decent lady in Oyo town. She took time to get information about her and her family. So, she invited me to Oyo. I eventually saw her and I liked her. We met.
We liked ourselves. Today, we have children and grandchildren. But the realities in our days as young people are not the realities now. For example, a young man or woman that’s technically married to their job, may not have time to socialise. It’s one of the reasons some people turn to Facebook or Twitter these days to hunt for partners.”
Marriages of celebrities made, dissolved on social media
In what appears to confirm speculations that a number of celebrities live a lie, Nollywood actress, ChaCha Eke, tendered a public apology for feigning to have a perfect marriage.
Announcing the end of her marriage to her husband, she wrote on her Instagram page: “Leave now alive or leave as a corpse. Many have died pretending all is well whilst wishing, hoping and praying for a better tomorrow. “I don’t want to ‘die’ or go inexplicably ‘missing’. I sincerely and publicly apologise for living a lie these past years. True to random speculations, there has been trouble in my perceived paradise.”
Also, citing irreconcilable differences on his Instagram page, Abdul Bello, popularly known as JJC Skillz, announced separation from his actress wife, Funke Akindele-Bello.
According to him, despite announcing their separation, issues such as the well being of the children they have together and business interests still need to be resolved. He wrote: “Dear Friends and family, I need to let you know that Funke and I have separated. While it lasted, we shared a lot of things together and have created two beautiful children.
“The last two years have been extremely difficult for us. I know I have tried my best to fix things but I believe it is beyond repair now. 3 months ago and at Funke’s insistence, I moved out of the house and apart from AMVCA, I have not been able to get Funke to sit down in an amicable manner to discuss the future of our relationship.
“I’m making this announcement so that the public is clear that we both are pursuing separate lives. We still have issues that need to be addressed such as the custody and wellbeing of our children which is paramount as well as business interests which need to be disentangled but I have no doubt that these will be resolved one way or the other.”
However, despite known marriages of celebrities that terminated on social media, there are celebrities who met their significant other on social media and still have their marriage intact.
Ebuka Obi Uchendu, a popular BBN star and media personality, makes the list of celebrities that met their partners through social media. Responding to a question by her fan on how she met her husband during a question and answer session with her social followers, Cynthia, his wife, had said that she met her husband on Twitter.
The couple recently celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary. Like the Uchendus, singers, Adekunle Gold and Simi, make the long list of celebrities across the world that met their soulmate on social media.
Speaking during an interview on Ndani TV, Simi said she met Adekunle Gold on Facebook and their first meeting was at a show in 2013 at Bogobiri House, Ikoyi, where she had gone to perform, adding that she never knew Adekunle Gold was a musician like herself during their first meeting, but as ‘King of Photoshop’.
Her words: “He was chasing me all over Facebook. When I was still doing gospel music, he used to listen to my songs. He sent me a message on Facebook and that was how we met. I didn’t know him at the time. I didn’t respond either. The first time I ever saw him was at a show at Bogobiri. He told me that he was going to be there and I said ‘sure’.
He came and that was how we met. Over the years, we were friends at first. When I first met him I just knew him as the king of Photoshop, I didn’t know he was also a musician.” Also, known for nuggets of medical wisdom on Twitter, what started like ‘shooting a shot’ on Twitter by Chinonso Egemba, popularly known as Aproko Doctor, ended in a wedding in June 2020.
The couple, it was learnt, had a Zoom wedding, which had family members in attendance and close friends who attended via a video link. Fagunwa further submits that social media has bred a great number of ignorant Africans, who have lost their cultural identity.
According to him, it has exposed more persons to the tragedy of dominance of Western culture and also that of the Arabic culture, especially on issues that centre around marriage.
“Social media has led to the creation of ignorant people. We think we know so much but what we know is the expression of the cultures of other people. We don’t understand our own cultural identity. What does our culture say about marriage institution in Africa?
It has exposed more persons to the tragedy of dominance of Western culture and also the dominance of the Arabic culture particularly around the marriage institution. No one today is interested in what the traditional African society says about marriage.
How are you supposed to get your wife? How are you supposed to get your husband?
The marriage institution in traditional African society is a sacred one. You are going into it to develop the home. It has its own purpose.
That’s why in traditional African society, before you take a husband or wife as the case may be, the gods are consulted. Consultations will be done to be able to ascertain if this would be a good home or not.
In traditional African society, you don’t go into a marriage because you supposedly think you love. You go into marriage because you see the potential of building a home economically. Whether you are a man or woman, affection is secondary. The primary thing is: does the person have the potentials and ability to contribute to the development of the home economically?
That’s why our ancestors would take more than one wife. It’s largely economically driven. But economically driven through the right path with the right ideology and the right understanding.
Not today where the man must be seen as the Alpha and Omega of the home. It doesn’t matter what the woman does. The traditional African marriage institution speaks about collectivity. The home is incomplete without the man and the home is incomplete without the woman. Not that one is above the other. It’s complementarity.
As a man, there are things you cannot do – biologically, naturally- our ancestors understood this. It’s more of a misconception that Christianity and Islam have enshrined into the consciousness of the society that the role of woman is subordinate. That the woman is inferior. In the traditional African society, there’s no inferiority, no superiority. It’s complementarity.
That’s what it is,” Fagunwa told Sunday Telegraph. Speaking on what the traditional values of Africans bring to marriage,Jeje said,” The roles played by our traditional values in bringing security, stability and commitment to marriage cannot be overemphasised.
It is the responsibility of parents and guardians to ensure the influence of modernity (or social media, if you like) does not eclipse the values that cement our marriage in this part of the world.
It’s the way to go to save our marriage here. Our culture has given us everything we need to live happily with ourselves