The world has gone social. Once that happened, the usage of social media tools branched out from basic conventional use to more experimental, experiential and innovative usage. And, that was how conversations trended, social ventures birthed and digital products have continually improved to appeal to the teeming number of millennials.
In Africa, especially in Nigeria where mobile connectivity and social network communication have caught on in business, governance and conversational transaction, social media penetration could be graded on the same level with other advanced nations; especially in terms of awareness and usage.
The last time I assessed my point of view, I believe Nigerians who use the social web productively far surpasses those who don’t. Correct me if am wrong but these tools have improved journalism, E-marketing, governance, knowledge acquisition and empowerment (we now have social media overlords and self acclaimed Influencers who probably would have easily been unknown without their social voices), ease in information access, amongst other very useful ventures.
Generally, communicating on the social web empowers you to be democratic, free and anonymous (if you choose to). One of the most popular social platforms known for the power of anonymity happens to be the popular badoo (wait, how popular is badoo by the way when compared to twitter and facebook?), not that popular I guess. But again, it does depend on your “social motive”.
Badoo was launched in 2006 and quickly became a popular dating, networking and chat platform amongst Nigerians. Headquartered in London, most Nigerians often miss the fact that the platform, founded by a Russian, is actually being used in 180 countries across the world.
People could easily miss this fact of course: first of all, “badoo” sounds Nigerian (am sure we know what the ‘slang’ means) and, secondly lots of people have taken it upon themselves to be religiously active on this platform for a myriad of reasons.
Badoo is configured as a location-based system which allows for location-based interactions with prospective friends whose profiles have been segmented to show their interests and intentions on the social network.
So, are you here to date, flirt, make friends or chat? Do you like ‘em young, old or middle-aged? (Note how funny it is that most ladies listed as 18year olds actually indicate their preference for dates between ages 35 – 70!). Need a rock music buff, an R&B addict or a hip-hop fan? Are you a student, a business person or you just an amazingly rich individual? On badoo, there seem to be something for everyone.
My research-driven sojourn into the ecosystem of Badoo revealed what most users have probably experienced on the platform: anonymity, impersonation, fraud and prostitution. At one time or the other, I believe most Badoo users would have encountered one or all of these “manifestations”. Over 80% of the time I have logged in via the various accounts which I used as test accounts, a number of things has happened:
- You will be Solicited!- Pretty-looking ladies with funky names kicks off the conversation, takes it slow to assess how penetrable I was and then gradually graduate towards making demands. These demands range from requests for recharge cards to requests for money (which they expect to be wired to a suggested account, of course).
The most used lines I encountered ranged from “I am a student, in school and I need your help to purchase some exam materials”, to “Please could you do me a favour and send me recharge card no matter how small, I want to call my mother”, or “if you want to see me, it depends on you. You can make it happen, just send me transport and I will come to Abuja”. The list of well thought-out lines could go on and on.
From my assessment however, I believe that most of these “ladies” are actually not who they say they are; they mostly hide under the veil of anonymity or other peoples identities to make a buck or two with the belief that they remain safe with the way Badoo is structured.
Another possibility remains the fact that these are actually ‘guys’ who have designed profiles using pictures of catchy girls with the aim of ripping off unsuspecting users. And with the way they go at it, I am sure they would have hit their targets several times.
- Online-to-Offline Prostitution – Now, this is a funny one innit! lol. Several users have given account of how badoo is a platform for “runs girls” (prostitutes, rachets). My proof however doesn’t come from those accounts but from my own experience(s) during my research. I happened to have “solicited for sex and company” with several users through different accounts and I can assure you, real-life prostitutes try out their luck for clients on badoo and it seems to work perfectly for them.
For most of them, their strategy involves getting a hotel room on lease and staying there for speicifc days within the week. Then, once they get interested prospects, they give address of their hotel location and then the rest is history.
- Relatively sane users/”Hangouters” – Pardon my usage and preference for the term “relatively sane”, but it seems to me that the sanity level and motive of users on badoo must always be probed. This 3rd and last group as far as my research goes, is the better of the first 2 groups.
I managed to find real people on Badoo who are everyday people. Some of them even reside within my neighborhood! Users in this group, from my experience, are however interested in the excitement of meeting people “accidentally” online and getting to meet them offline, in person.
My experience with these types actually ranges from the good to the not-so-good. But, generally individuals that I have cramped into this 3rd group gave me a little bit of hope that not all badoo users are out to get their hands in people’s pockets.
From my experience, I found out it is often very easy to tell frauds from real people on badoo behind the pretty profile pictures, kinky names and sweet tones. First of all, most frauds will never allow the conversation to go beyond badoo. Badoo is robust and safe enough to protect their anonymity.
So, a request for their mobile phone numbers, BBM Pin and emails will always be met with a “NO” or the “I am not on BBM/My BB got spoilt” line. Also note that some fraudsters have just a single picture uploaded while prostitutes have a wide range of raunchy pictures, some of which were taken in hotels or on outings. Normal people? Well, they basically just have a buffet of pictures showing them alone or with friends. Remember however that the definition of “normal” is relative.
Generally, amongst all popular social media platforms, badoo should be a platform to be threaded with caution. On badoo, security is barely assured. Continuing a transaction which was started on badoo, off badoo is even more dangerous when compared to incidences that have been recorded on platforms such as facebook and twitter. My parting words is to be cautious, assess your motive for the usage of the platform, read between the lines during conversations and stay safe on our ever complex social web.