Young Omanis have discovered quite a unique utility of the social media. They are using the social media network for courtships. The innocent chats blossom into romance and often end up in tying of the nuptial knot.
Parents have hard time separating their sons and daughters from their smartphones. Sometimes they resort to the harsh measure of confiscating the electronic devices, as they feel the device to be causing distraction.
What they might not be aware of is that their children may also be in quest of finding potential partners while they key in. They have a variety of social media applications to choose from. Snapchat and Instagram are among the popular ones; but if one in particular was to be singled out as the courtyard of their romance, it would be the Whatsapp.
Rapid tap in of words starts with a casual “hi”; sets in motion and arrives at “when can we meet?” Emotions intensify, and it finally comes to “we need to make it official”. Between the request of first meeting, and getting serious, are a series of secret rendezvous, at some location, good distance away from their homes.
This is the reason why social media is frowned upon by parents. They tragically (at least for them) come to know that their children, as young as 15, “cuddle” using emoticon signs and share their love, sending heart shapes and kisses, in bed and under the cover of blanket.
Matchmakers having competition
The social media romance is directly clashing with traditional matchmaking. The trend of finding suitors by family elders, and friends is on a rapid decline. Matchmakers who pride themselves for picking the most suitable matches to get them into a happy marriage label the social media romance as “un-Islamic.”
It is also against the local heritage. But the problem is that young people no longer believe in it. To them, “made by matchmakers” marriage is not acceptable. They rather believe in pursuing the one they acquaint with through technology; developing a bond over time.
Parents, on the other hand, want their children to follow in their footsteps by arranging a marriage that is carefully matched up to every last detail. For the ‘perfect match’ they insist the girl must not see the potential groom until all the formalities are through. Apart from the brief “shy glances” in the parents’ presence, potential couples must only exchange words and make physical contact post the wedding.
But young Omani generation seems to have none of it any longer. They prefer exchanging contacts and starting relationships on the social media. To them an arranged marriage is like picking a fruit in the dark. The other person just may not match their expectations.
They also assert their method is not very different from the traditional one. Very often, they are introduced with their future partner through common friends on the social media: friends who may already have made the “calculations” that the two may end up together in matrimony.
But why is it that increasingly the social media friendships are blossoming into romance and the traditional art of matchmaking is losing breath in Oman?
The young generation sums it up in two words: Parental restrictions. As the world gets smaller, with technology playing a major role – effecting a change in values and perceptions by bringing people across multiple cultures and societal elements, which were earlier alien to them: questioning and rejection of the prevailing age old traditions and norms has become very popular.
Many Omani parents never allow their daughters to go out without an escort. But on television the girls see people intermingling freely and feel bogged down that they cannot experiment with that, even if they wished to.
They then find technology up to their rescue, and resort to e-mingling; a path that satisfies both their quest for freedom, and their parents’ restrictions. Chatting on Whatsapp or sharing accomplishments on Instagram proves to be a good and safe substitute.
That way, they can argue that they don’t violate the restrictions, because there simply is no physical contact; they do it remaining within the safety of their homes. Only when things start getting serious, do they begin inventing ways to meet up, mostly with the help of friends.
In many instances, parents do have an idea of what is going on, but they simply choose to turn a blind eye because they know it is impossible to put a stop on it.
However a pressing question in the wake of this shifting trend is: Will the present generation, who finds it perfectly normal to indulge in phone-romance, allow their children to follow in their footsteps?
The famous adage says; “Practice what you preach”, but will the current gen at least preach what they practised? At the moment, they seem to be breaking all the rules of traditional matchup. Maybe, by the time they become old timers – parents to grown-up children, the concept of courtship may have taken an unknown twist; or maybe some other new super-technology; who knows.