Lagos — Nigeria is among the top ten countries with the fastest increase in Facebook membership, currently put at some 1.2 billion worldwide. Nigerian politicians are now also joining the ranks of Facebook fans.
In Nigeria, one need not go far to see how popular Facebook is in Africa's most populous country.
As music plays in the background in one cybercafe in Lagos, virtually all those browsing there are on Facebook. Many of them like Joseph Ibe are fans. "It's been a way of meeting new friends and getting to know people and it is very easy for me to get in touch with my friends who are away from home and outside the country," he told DW.
Nigerians use Facebook for several reasons. For many like Paluma Emmanuel who was browsing at the same cybercafe, they hope it will help them find life partners. "On Facebook they have chat, they have fun, from there they meet up, they will get married from there," Emmanuel says. This, he said, is particularly inviting for those who are initially shy about expressing their feelings in person.
Ibe and Emmanuel represent the large number of Nigerians who believe Facebook has changed their lives. Both would like nothing more than to meet Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. "I am saying 'thank you' to the guy," Ibe said with a sense of appreciation.
The influx of a large number of cheap handheld mobile devices into Nigeria has made access to Facebook easy. Social media expert, Yinka Olugbade says Facebook has directly affected the lives of many Nigerians as its use is now so widespread. In his opinion, the influence of Facebook on Nigerians has been positive in most cases. "A lot of people are using it to advertise themselves especially in the areas of their skill and profession and trade," he said, adding that "a few politicians are also imbibing the Facebook culture. They are online, they are showcasing projects and all of that."
But some Nigerians are concerned about the content that gets on to Facebook. Ifeanyi Ibu has reservations about nude pictures that find their way on to the site even though Facebook has a policy prohibiting the use of such pictures. "That is one big disadvantage of Facebook," he said.
'A new culture is evolving'
Such concerns are not surprising in a country like Nigeria where the majority of the population are either conservative Christians or Muslims. But Olugbade says, in spite of the criticism about some of the content on Facebook in Nigeria, its positive contribution in the country by far outweighs its negative role. "When you look at that and sum it up , it shows that a new culture is evolving."
It is expected that the evolving Facebook culture will grow even further in the coming years as investment in Internet broadband connections is stepped up across Nigeria.