Creation of online personas questioned with new dating websites

Image sells.

Badoo, an online dating website, is the new go-to site reminiscent of an early Facemash with its rating features and a later Facebook with chat rooms, profiles and social interaction. According to the site, there are now 127 million users worldwide and counting with a growing community of 50 members listed in the Champaign-Urbana area. On Badoo, users can build up their popularity measured on the radar in the upper-right hand corner of each page and create an image for others to see.

Another site that connects strangers without any commitment to the site is Omegle, launched in 2009. Users of the site do not have to share any personal information or even register. They are placed in a chat room with other people and left to discuss whatever they please.

“It feels that on Omegle everyone is lying about everything including about who they are,” said Maseeh Moradi, junior in Business who visits the site out of curiosity.

Although Omegle may not be geared towards the same audience as Badoo, the site encourages the building of a personality in a short period of time when two strangers are in a chat room — just as Badoo does. Benson Gao, freshman in Engineering, identifies with the process of manufacturing an online persona.

“You can create your kind of person and be whoever you want to be and mess around with others,” Gao said.

Similarly, Badoo promotes that with personality or the money to pay for popularity, members can create a larger person

al group of friends.

For instance, if a member gains popularity he or she appears at the top of the search page with a picture and a brief profile via a feature called Spotlight. The site also offers Super Powers: a set of potent features available to an individual. A member can pay for Super Powers which will guarantee him or her space at the top of the search page.

Despite the resemblance between Facebook and Badoo in terms of the way members interact with each other, some do not feel comfortable with the idea of friending or dating someone online. Sugunasindhu Gudala, freshman in Engineering, said she’s friended people she does not know on Facebook. Yet, she would never trust a site like Badoo to date or make “legitimate friends.”

“Friending on Facebook is better than friending online because you can see their social interactions and pictures,” Gudala said, “But on a dating site, you talk with a person you cannot imagine meeting.”

In contrast to Gudala, Moradi believes that the contrast between Facebook and sites like Badoo might be slimmer than they appear.

“At the end of the day, people only see what you decide to put out,” Moradi said. “Facebook and Badoo are not going to investigate private information.”

The question is whether or not college students would trust sites like Badoo or Match.com to find a date. Although Gao is not ready for that kind of commitment right now, he believes in the reliability of dating sites.

“(Dating sites) have whole teams dedicated to each person who try to figure out what kind of people they would like to meet,” said Gao.

Moradi has developed confidence in dating websites after an encounter on Chat Roulette, a web-cam based matching site. After holding a conversation with his match, he says that at the time he may have considered the person on the other end of the line a friend.

“When we said our goodbyes, it gave me faith in humanity and the fact that any two people can be together for three to four minutes and something can be created,” Moradi said.

Gao and Moradi both believe that although they will not embark on a search for true love on a site like Badoo now, they might in the future.

Regardless, Moradi thinks that developing a relationship online is not healthy. A dating site can only be a springboard to finding dating potentials.

“The site is just like a broker who is going to exchange our information,” Moradi said. “Creation of a bond happens in person.”