Online begging is increasingly becoming a new means of livelihood, particularly in Nigeria. The internet has many advantages but is also plagued by impediments. One of the latter is online begging – the alternative to traditional street begging.
Nigeria has been battling economic downfall for years. Every year, it seems things are getting worse. Many people, especially the youth, are unemployed or have lost their jobs. Those who have jobs are either underpaid or owed salaries or months. Some of the country’s youth, who make up the majority of internet users, have found a way to survive and that is online begging.
With this sophisticated form of begging becoming increasingly popular, let us discuss the concept and how to deal with it, especially in Nigeria.
What is online begging?
Online begging is the act of going on the internet to beg friends and strangers for money to meet some needs. It is also called internet begging, cyber-begging, e-begging and internet panhandling.
Online begging is mostly practised anonymously, which is probably why it is becoming so popular these days. Unlike traditional street begging, which is more open and forces some people to have shame to physically beg in public, there is no physical presence in online begging. This means there is reduced shame in this sophisticated form of begging.
According to Wikipedia, the history of online begging can be traced to the early days of the internet in the form of personal advertisements for help on local Bulletin Board Systems (BBS). As websites became popular, individuals began to advertise their personal needs using the available features on websites. In addition, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) offered a free homepage, along with a basic dial-up connection service to the Internet. Thus, individuals took advantage of the opportunity to create cheap websites as platforms to share their personal needs with the public.
However, internet begging gained notoriety in June 2002 when Karyn Bosnak started SaveKaryn.com to beg the public to help her pay her credit card debt. The credit card debt was partly caused by her love for designer clothing and Starbucks coffee. Her plea got a massive result, which included traditional media attention, appearances on popular television programmes and a book. Bosnak’s website is said to be the first to get wide exposure and set a precedent for the online begging that we know today.
Why do people engage in online begging?
Begging is part of every culture. There is no escaping it. Every individual has one need or the other that they cannot meet up with. However, there are reasons why people beg online. Let us take a look at some of them.
As previously stated, Nigeria has suffered economic woes for years. The common man is suffering. Jobs are scarce and even those who have jobs are either underpaid or owed their salaries. Many have taken to the internet, especially social media, to beg for money to provide for their basic needs such as food, shelter and clothing.
Abisola, a Nigerian guitarist told the Independent why online begging is now so rampant: “Let’s just put it this way; the economic meltdown in the country has melted away the shame of most people.”
The truth cannot be further than that.
Lack of shame
As Abisola said, online beggars have no shame. This may be due to the fact the internet makes them somewhat anonymous and they do not have to contend with embarrassment from the public and security officials, unlike the traditional street beggars. Also, we live in a society where moral values are on the decline. People are no longer ashamed to do what they want, damn societal demands. The anonymity the internet provides does not help matters.
Laziness and greed
Jobs are indeed scarce. But some beg purely out of laziness and greed. They will rather beg for “urgent 2k” online than go out there to earn it. Also, the get-rich-quick syndrome has made a lot of youths lazy. Nobody wants to work again. Since online begging is becoming a profitable business where all you need is a phone that has internet, it is no wonder that many have taken it as a means of livelihood.
To save lives
Some beg online not for themselves, but for others who are in urgent need. Celebrities mostly belong to this group. They will use their celebrity status to beg the public to donate to save someone who has a serious health problem or other serious issues. Go-Fund-Me accounts are often the go-to sites to ask for help. These are genuine people with genuine causes.
Online Begging in Nigeria
Begging is part of several cultures and traditions in Nigeria. The economy is also forcing people to find alternative means of survival. Those who know how to use the internet, especially the youth, have taken to begging online for their basic needs. They send chain messages on social media platforms, begging for money. These online beggars are often alleged single mothers with hungry babies, final year students about to be kicked out of school, widowed pregnant women kicked out by wicked in-laws, abroad men who need money to send to their mothers in the village to treat their sick children and good looking men looking for who will buy them lunch to surprise the givers, amongst others.
Funny enough, most of these online beggars have clean profiles on social media. They do not look hungry as they seem to wear good clothes and generally look too good to be beggars. The people on the receiving end are often billionaires and celebrities who have verified social media accounts. Most of these celebrities’ pages are often flooded with followers asking for giveaways or begging for money. Their DMs are filled with requests from fans.
Comedian, actor, host and presenter, Gbenga Adeyinka, confirmed this trend to the Independent: “I don’t just get such requests, I ‘overget’. Some of them, we are forced to do because we don’t know if the person is telling the truth or lying. For some others, you just go to the person’s page and check out the kind of lifestyle they lead. But the truth is that the trend is a troublesome and problematic one. It is ‘over-rampant.'”
It is not uncommon to find DMs of men filled with “urgent 2k” girls who pretend to love them but have not paid their rent or their gas is finished or they do not have enough data and credit to call them. As for the guys, they go to ladies’ DMs and pretend to be living abroad but want to marry a Nigerian girl. When they gain their target’s love and trust, they suddenly want a “loan” to solve an “important” problem.
Also, trends have become a “normal” way to beg for money online. For instance, online beggars can make demands from artists or companies to help them “retweet” their brands in exchange for financial favours and other stuff like that. These brands may have no choice but to comply to create a trend.
Most times, those who do not comply with the requests of online beggars are subjected to emotional blackmail and virtual tongue-lashing. You will hear comments such as “God will judge you for not helping me in my time of need” or “nawa bros, this money no dey enough na. But thanks, sha” or “You are a wicked person. May worse things happen to you that will force you to spend that money that you have refused to give me”.
It is a worrisome trend among internet users that has made givers shut out their beneficiaries.
How to deal with online begging
Everyone has one need or the other. There is no monopoly to begging. However, when it is beginning to get out of hand, something has to be done.
Below is how to deal with online begging.
- People should look inwards to develop themselves. They do not have to wait for the government to give them jobs. There are opportunities everywhere.
- Chronic online beggars should be called out or reported to social media platforms.
- Social media platforms should create block buttons to limit chronic online beggars.
- Government should create a conducive environment for businesses to thrive and attract investors into the country. More businesses mean more jobs and online begging will be greatly reduced.
- Government and private organisations should create awareness campaigns against online begging.