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Internet networking facilitates discreet connections, both romantic and political.
CASABLANCA, Morocco — On an early August morning, one avid Facebook user in Morocco posted 49 desperate words: “I am someone looking for love,” he wrote. “I am tired of pretending. I want to be cared for.”
He wasn’t alone in hoping to meet "The One" on this Facebook group designed expressly for Moroccan gays.
Aziz, a 19-year-old college student in Rabat, also posted a hopeful message and soon afterward met his boyfriend via Facebook.
“A guy posted that he was looking for love and I decided that I wanted to know more about him,” he said. “We chatted and then met up for coffee. It was love at first sight.”
In the past few years Facebook has been a key way for Moroccans who want to reconnect with lost friends, keep in touch with others or simply to post daily interactive updates.
As Facebook has opened up to the rest of the world, it has reached an unprecedented level of popularity, especially in countries with fewer individual freedoms. In Morocco, for example, Facebook has an estimated 1.5 million users.
In a place where the majority of people don’t have the option to go to a bar to meet people, or are not allowed to publicly express some of their opinions, Facebook is a gold mine. No need to buy someone a drink, subscribe to an expensive dating site or bravely ask for a phone number on the street — one click for a friend request followed by a quick chat and relationships can bloom.
According to Aziz, an engineering major, who still lives with his parents, it is extremely difficult to meet people in Morocco, especially within the gay community.
“There is nowhere I can go to meet someone,” he said. “The internet is my only option.”
His boyfriend Najib believes that Facebook changed his life.
“I wouldn’t be able to live without it,” he explained. “It is free, easy and the only place in Morocco where I can connect with others.”
Not everyone is necessarily looking for love. Others, like Salim, are using the social network to have some fun. He regularly dates women he meets on the site.
“A lot of girls friend me on Facebook, they’re a lot less shy than they would be in person,” he said. “You look at their picture. If you think they’re cute you add them as friends, you chat and see if you have things in common and then you might meet up."
“Facebook is so popular because one does not need any technical knowledge to use it and it is extremely easy to have all sorts of interactions with others,” said Stephane Koch, a communications professor at University of Applied Sciences (HES-SO) in Western Switzerland, where he specializes in social networks.