"u need to say hi to me"
Badoo, the wildly popular social network where random strangers accost you for no reason.
My own Badoo profile was in need of some goosing, so I bought one of these $1.99 power-ups. Suddenly, my photo appeared at the top of the site. About 40 new visitors clicked on my smiling mug in a matter of seconds. But the horde that descended on my previously sleepy profile seemed completely random. To test out Badoo’s flirtation-enabling powers, I had specified that I was looking to meet women from New York City. But my wave of new visitors included lots of dudes, as well as women hailing from places like Passaic, Putnam Valley, and Berlin. No one within 350 feet of my apartment, Grindr style. And frankly no one I was all that jazzed to even have a conversation with. One guy named Stephen sent me repeated chat messages: “hi. u don’tlook 38. hii. u need to say hi to me what’s the fuck. what do u think i’m stupid. no hell i’m not please say hi.”
I didn’t say hi.
There’s been some skeptical writing about Badoo—including accusations that many profiles are fakes. Fair or not, any business that springs from the id of a “secretive Russian serial entrepreneur” is likely to be trailed by a vaguely sketchy odor. One of my visitors used a profile picture that appeared to be a stock photo of a model. She initiated a chat with me, during which her listed age suddenly changed from 24 to 26. I called her on it. “My age is completely ill-fitting,” she wrote, mysteriously. Not long after, she disappeared.
When it comes to social discovery, we find our own tribe. I’ve been known to paddle around in OKCupid’s waters—it’s a dating site where women of a sort I’m drawn to tend to mingle. Many of the profiles feature witty, in-depth, highly literate self-descriptions. (When I asked Powell how Badoo compared to my dating site of choice, she said that OKCupid is “more upmarket, a little more white, more indie rock” while Badoo is “more mass market, more mainstream.”) It’s free to join OKCupid, which I liked, as it seems to imply a notch less desperation. Paying money to meet people suggests the matter is of some urgency.
But others might feel differently. The fee to join eHarmony could be viewed as a plus—keeping out the half-assed riffraff, and imbuing the quest for a mate with a workmanlike seriousness. Likewise, Badoo’s micropayments system and chaotic chat environment might attract and favor those of us blessed with abundant hustle and chutzpah.
I hope Badoo’s lovelorn find what they’re looking for. But they won’t find me. I’m deleting my profile.
Seth Stevenson is a frequent contributor to Slate. He is the author of Grounded: A Down to Earth Journey Around the World.