Bebo gives youthful users instant access to gossip, music and much more
British social network a hit with Arctic teens
If you don't know what Bebo is, just ask a teen in Nunavik or Nunavut.
They're likely to know about Bebo.com, an internet networking site, which is where you go to learn the latest gossip about who's doing what and with whom, according to one Kuujjuaq teen.
A search on Bebo shows hundreds of young Inuit who are registered users from Kuujjuaq, Iqaluit, Cambridge Bay and Inukjuak.
Bebo lets them communicate through personal pages where they can post pictures, write diary-like blogs and send electronic messages.
Bebo's format is similar to the hugely popular MySpace or Facebook social networking sites. Bebo, the most popular social networking site in the United Kingdom, has been trying to win over more users in North America. Bebo lets users have a say in what advertising goes on their personal pages. As an added attraction, visitors may download music from the iTunes music store through their web site.
Founded in January 2005, Bebo says it now has 32 million users.
The sites registered to users in Nunavik and Nunavut generally feature photos of family members and eye-catching decorations. The texts are peppered with English, French and Inuktitut written in roman orthography. Or sometimes there's a combination of languages – "I would like to buy a used car first so I don't have to bicykugaq around town," says one entry. Misspellings and abbreviations are common.
Here's a sample of words to a rap song posted on a blog:
"Love aint' each but bebo is / My inuit peeps / i will stand by youPEOPLE in any wher / plz don't drink beer plz any more i don't want you to sick all day and don't go party agian cuz you mind sick agian and plz listen to your parents because if you don't listen to your mom and dad, you gonna be in bad day agian plz don't drink agian plz okay! / thru thick and thin / til the day we die / our inuit flag / always stands high."
Information from the profile of a user called "Hyper T" describes him as an "aspiring Inuk rap artist" who is from Chesterfield Inlet and Rankin Inlet. Is he any good?
You can decide for yourself, by listening to Hyper T on his HyperRecords page, www.bebo.com/hyperRecords, which includes several of the band's raps, including "Tundra Party."
Once users register an account on Bebo, at no charge, they can edit and maintain their profile pages using on-line forms. Personal profiles contain information about the users, such as their names and a photo, and they can include slideshows, polls for their friends to vote in, photo albums, blogs, videos and music. Users also can add "widgets," which display information or advertising.
But no nude photos can be posted.
Profiles also include a whiteboard, in which other users can draw pictures with a variety of colors using a system called ffArt, a comments section for messages and a list of the users' friends.
These can be viewed by anyone unless the user selects a "private profile" option, which limits access to the profile to friends added by the user.
As with most social networking sites, there's concern about the potential risks to youth from pedophiles accessing personal information contained in profiles. This can be prevented by making a personal profile private. But many sites aren't private and anyone can read intimate details of the users' lives.
In March 2006, an education authority in the UK ordered all schools under its jurisdiction to block Bebo from school computers, due to it being used for "unsavoury activities."
Some are also skeptical about social networking sites like Bebo because they provide advertisers with a host of detailed free information about users.