Love at first click is already a rising reality. The amount of people that make money, build credibility and their target audience tends to overshadow the main reason are actually on social media – social networking. Time and again there is the need to weigh in on social issues as this as the level of crime being committed online is requiring the need for public education. As far back as 2012, the YouTube video ‘Did you Know’ asserted that social networking had overtook porn as the longest activity people spend time doing on the internet. In fact, more and more people are admitting now that adverts on websites like Facebook and LinkedIn are not converting because it is distracting people from what they spend more time doing online; snoop on what their friends are up to, fuelling the secret fetish for envying others, connecting with old and lost friends and finding that magical ‘true’ love. Time and again you hear of people who met and got married through interactions which started on social network platforms like Blackberry Messenger, Whatsapp, 2go, Naij, FriendFinder, Facebook and they should consider themselves very lucky.
It is no crime to search for love and for the married, it is unacceptable to find new love adventures. However and for both, social media presents a platform to search without attracting the scrutiny of parents, vigilant friends and loved ones. That is where the danger lurks. In an environment where a large number of youths are exploring social media to make a living may be wadding in dangerous waters. In fact it may be too expensive not to be street smart. You may lose cash to some dude looking for ways to rob you of your hard earned cash. You may lose your peace if you make promises, deals or engage in activities you may spend the rest of your life regretting. In fact, the price of learning what not to do may cost lives. Everyday more and more people are falling victims.
Recently the story of one Kelvin (34) surfaced. He had struck up a conversation with a lady (25) on Facebook. After getting her interested in him through Facebook chats, he got her to come visit all the way from Benin to Lagos where she was detained in his house, robbed and raped over 5 days. The case of Cynthia continues to come into mind. She was an industrious post-graduate student of Nasarawa State University and a clothing retailer who was lured by some guy whom she met through a Blackberry group. With phony promises and real pretences she travelled by air from Abuja to Lagos where she was lured into a hotel, drugged, robbed and eventually murdered.
A recent account of these events one gives you a snapshot that this is already a silent epidemic. Iweka operates ‘his spin’ where he acts as an agent for important personalities or job recruiting agencies. While using fake Facebook accounts and phony profiles, he calls for job openings, contracts and models with a focus on women. On meeting them, he proposes the opportunity in exchange for sex. If you fell for the scam and he gets lucky, and he arranges a hotel to get the deal ‘signed’. Unknown to his victims, he has the room fitted with cameras to record the entire ‘transaction’. He then moves into full scale blackmail demanding for money in exchange for the video. One of the operations turned sour and he is presently being tried. He admitted this has worked with several categories of people; bankers, university students and married women. Of these people only fourteen have refused to pay leading to their videos surfacing online. More and more of these vents are happening and the need to be conscious about how we go about networking needs extra caution. For everyone story that made into the press, thousands do not; leaving their victims to bite fingers in silence and regret of the things they dare not share with others.
While I am not an advocate of relationships by the clicks, these things still do happen and we cannot deny some have succeeded. How do you then stay safe from danger?
First things first, real relationships are better. You cannot replace the benefits of seeing the person. While the internet offers fantasy island. Do not look online with rose-filled eyes.
Second, run a background check. The internet provides a huge data bank to cross check any information you require. You need to remind yourself that any oil contract that only someone online knows about is rather strange. the fact that the person contacting you know a lot about your already puts you at risk.
Third. lf you must meet anyone for business, relationship or networking, your first meeting should start and end in a public place. Since everyone can pretend to be anyone, the person you are scheduled to meet with can be someone else waiting in the distance for you to show up. Iweka lured his victim into hotels where he had fitted cameras in already. Public places provide safety in numbers. Avoid personal homes, hotels and never invite strangers to your house.
Four. Let at least someone know. Crime thrives in secrecy and especially for people nurturing a love relationship they may get too carried away to even think objectively but a trusted friend can be your standing eyes when you fall in love. In fact you can plan for a friend to check up on you during your dates.
Five. Watch your drink with eagle eyes. Avoid alcohol like a plague. In fact irrespective of the kind of drink, if you didn’t watch the drink being bought, it is not meant for you. According to reports, smart Cynthia refused a drugged Moet bottle but accepted a drugged Ribena one. There are scallywags who look to drug their victims into submission and you need to be aware. In fact there are ‘date rape’ drugs they not only knock you out, they wipe away your memory.
Six. Trust your instincts. The key here is that it is better to be paranoid than to be lost. There is the possibility to get confused by chemical attraction or the connection we feel for another person “as if we’ve known them all our life” . If you have a bad feeling about this, you are probably right.
Seven. Don’t be a fool in love. It is instructive that when people read or hear these stories, you could not believe what a fool the victim had been. However, when you are right in the midst of these events, it’s hard to be objective. Even when you feel the you have met the “right” person for you, or this is a business opportunity that you cannot afford to miss, please tread carefully and put precautions in place.
While social networking has its clear advantages and the need to be aware of its safety precautions cannot be discussed in hush tones. Transferring online connections into physical reality needs to be undertaken by people willing to explore opportunities and when it comes to building relationships, remember that building trust and credibility is also a key strategy for online scammers.