Feature Article of Sunday, 23 January 2011
Columnist: Pryce, Daniel K.
What Mark Zuckerberg, Time Person of the Year 2010, and his Harvard University colleagues, Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, began in February 2004 as an intra-collegiate experiment (at Harvard University only) – the trial later became intercollegiate, when it was extended to other universities in Boston, the consortium of Ivy-League schools and Stanford University – would soon become the world’s greatest social-networking phenomenon! At the last count, Facebook.com has approximately 600 million users – a staggering one-tenth of the world’s population! – and the juggernaut is still rolling over its competitors and swallowing them piecemeal. But every good thing, as sages are wont say, has a bad side. The preceding aphorism applies to Facebook.com as well, as a number of gullible Ghana- and overseas-domiciled ladies of Ghanaian ancestry keep falling prey to the lies and infractions perpetrated by seemingly responsible men, men infernally adorned in the habiliments of pervertedness and razzmatazz.
That some of these men are old enough to be the fathers of these damsels is bad enough; it gets worse when these same men promise these impressionable ladies futures ensconced in love, romance and a better life. Today, Facebook.com is patronized by Ghanaians of all backgrounds – rich, poor, literate, semi-literate, male, female, young and old – domiciled everywhere on Planet Earth. Suddenly, those of us with active Facebook.com accounts have been able to locate friends from our old neighborhoods, schools, churches, mosques, temples, sororities and fraternities in Ghana and elsewhere, and the joys these discoveries have brought us defy quantification. Social networking has definitely come to stay!
While many of us employ Facebook.com for the right reasons, there is a chthonic, disingenuous group, composed primarily of older Ghanaian men, that is preying on innocent women, whose fertile hearts have never suffered the droughts of broken promises, lies, intimidations and bewilderment. With their concept of love completely utopian, these virgin hearts surrender themselves to these hardened crooks, the former believing that promises made to them on an Internet conduit designed for social networking, would lead to romantic relationships. Many of these ladies would find out, rather belatedly, that their concepts of love and idealism have meant nothing to these crooks and popinjays.
A woman’s heart is at once cautious and vulnerable. And this explains why even some very educated women are taken advantage of by crooks with promises of love, bliss and, ultimately, marriage. Once a woman’s shell of self-preservation and security is compromised by a fast-talking and convincing conman, her demonstrable actions about love become ever perplexing to friends and relatives who assume that she ought to know better. Well, love has no rigid rules, which is why even the toughest and sanest individuals sometimes become surprisingly gullible. It is difficult to understand why romantic feelings tend to defy common sense – the sort of thing that makes us avoid a ramshackle box on wheels for a reliable automobile, jump over a gaping gutter to avoid breaking our legs and not touch a live wire to avoid getting electrocuted. However, the same logic rarely applies to love, which is why we all ought to be careful to whom we entrust our feelings and emotions.
Let me expose a typical modus operandi of these popinjays. Mr. Crook logs on to Facebook.com and starts a search with certain parameters – name, age, gender – in mind. For example, he may begin with the last name “Agyepong.” Suddenly, 200 “Agyepongs” pop up on his computer screen. He then begins to prune his list down to what he wants: female, between the ages of 20 and 25, university graduate or a current university student, et cetera. Mr. Crook then sends out invitations to as many of the lasses as he possibly could. Naturally, some will accept his invitations. And once Mr. Crook becomes comfortable with these young hearts, he starts to woo them – gradually at first, then more aggressively later. Mr. Crook tells those ladies based in Ghana that he would bring them over to the U.S.A, Germany, U.K., or wherever he is domiciled, a nefarious line that generally works with these young women desperate to leave the shores of Ghana.
Seeking love is not the problem, dear reader. In fact, an older man seeking to dip in the fountain of pleasure ensconced in the loins of a younger woman is not the problem either, provided that she is a consenting adult. What is wrong – absolutely wrong! – is for the man to hoodwink this virgin heart into believing that he is single, has no children, and is in a certain profession that he knows would elevate his “market value.” Soon, his mendacities, like a pack of cards, would unravel, but not before leaving behind a trail of broken hearts …
A few days ago, I got a call from a dear friend based in Western Europe, who told me about one of these online marauders. A middle-aged Ghanaian male, he touts his professional accomplishments on Facebook.com, hoping that it would be the one thing that would break the defenses of these damsels, just in case his fairly advanced age, receding hairline and declining looks do not get the job done. But to prove how incorrigible this man is, he misleads his would-be victims into believing that his wife has been in a mental hospital for decades, and that her “incurable” bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are the reasons for her confinement. Undoubtedly, such lies are the apogee of mischief in a fellow human being: this deliberate and callous character assassination of a partner: a sane wife and mother, for that matter!
The aforementioned popinjay has many like him prowling the Internet, even reputable social-networking sites. We can only hope that there are not too many victims, for my friend’s life was nearly ruined by this conman. Any woman he may have contacted – and emotionally abused – in the recent past is definitely someone’s sister, niece, aunt or friend, which is why we should all care. While many of us know what is right and wrong, not all of us practice what is right – which means that this popinjay probably enjoys dipping in his pool of narcissism. Some may argue that these women may have known exactly what they were getting themselves into, but I refuse to accept such an argument. Indeed, not everyone is savvy, or experienced, enough to spot a falcon amidst doves, which is why we must carry on the crusade of enlightenment. Certainly, if the message comes across as too good to be true, it is likely a counterfeit one. And by enlightening others, we would have severed the trail of broken hearts and rendered the popinjays powerless, for knowledge, we are told, is power.
Daniel K. Pryce