February 21, 2023
When The Doors cautioned that “People are strange when you’re a stranger” in their hit 1967 song, it struck an emotional chord among many listeners. And while the Internet was not available back then; today, many of us resort to Googling just to get the lowdown on a blind date, or a new boss.
In fact, even while choosing a new concealer, we often rely on TikTok reviews to find out about others’ experiences. References and reviews wield the power of personal approval—especially when it comes to people and products with which we are unfamiliar.
It’s no surprise then, that at a time when over 320 million people worldwide use dating apps as their primary avenue to meet new people, some daters are seeking reviews of their dates, reports Mashable.
Enter a Facebook group called ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy?‘—a spot where an increasing number of women can verify if their male partners or potential dates are seeing other people, and can take the opportunity to warn each other of glaring “red flags.”
The group started in New York in March 2022, only a couple months after the dreadful West Elm Caleb debacle. If you haven’t heard about it, early last year, several women on TikTok shared their interactions with a 26-year-old furniture designer who notoriously lied and mass-dated on Hinge, only to ghost them soon after.
While it is common in the dating world to explore connections with multiple people at the same time—and dates often inevitably build to the “Are we exclusive?” conversation—lies continue to run wild on these apps. Often, individuals falsely promise monogamy while seeing other people on the side.
Catfishing is another common problem: Every now and then, women on the Facebook group spot fake dating app profiles and flag them to members.
Clearly, online dating can be tricky to navigate when people aren’t always truthful. The Facebook group emerged as a response to these theatrics—typically for women who date men monogamously and can’t seem to tell their partners’ facts from fiction.
This idea of digital stealth checks has now been adapted for major cities across the globe. There are versions for Chicago, Los Angeles, Dubai, London, Paris, Glasgow, Sydney, Brisbane, and Vancouver; and specific groups for Brown girls and Black girls. While the original New York group currently has 75,000 members; the London counterpart, started a few months back, already has over 25,000.
The groups have a robust pre-screening survey to ensure that new members are committed to the cause and all posts must follow a laundry list of rules. Members are allowed to post anonymously—and, while they can share photos of men from the dating apps, no personal information or last names can be revealed.
Additionally, the group prohibits doxxing (publicly exposing any identifying information about a person online), taking screenshots, bullying, victim blaming, or commenting on anyone’s physical appearance. In fact, the women aren’t even allowed to use words like ‘ghosted‘ or ‘weird’ while describing their experiences.
NAnd the most important order of them all—no man is ever allowed to know that he was posted on the group. Of course, there’s no way to ensure this as members are taken in on faith and a digital promise of compliance that they agree to when entering the group. A typical post includes a date’s photo with the caption “any tea” or “any red flags?” and members share personal experiences with the featured man in the comments.
Despite the group’s comprehensive list of rules, its existence and the nature of the posts raise questions about the privacy and safety of the men being discussed, as well as that of the poster. Even if members refrain from sharing last names, it is all too easy to find someone on social media using reverse image searches, their first name, or any other details like a place of work or the city they live in. Not only could this be damaging for the person in question, but these men have not consented to be discussed and dissected on a forum with thousands of strangers.
A quick scroll through the New York City and London groups reveals a buffet of flagged dates with at least 30-40 comments on each post. In one storya woman was warned against dating a man who allegedly fetishizes curvy bodies and is on the “prowl for fat girls on Hinge.”
Em Rina, the London-based author of dating memoir, Girl Get The Wine, heard about the group on TikTok and joined out of curiosity, hoping to find some entertainment. She was single for about five years and uses Hinge and Tinder quite often, so it seemed like a win-win situation. After months of passively scrolling, Rina decided to verify a man she met online and was surprised by the comments.
“About four or five different women came forward and shared similar stories about dating this man. He seems nice on the first date but would get scarily possessive and dominating right after, often screaming and verbally abusing people,” she explains. While Rina may have dodged a bullet, she confirms there are also serious testimonies on the group of women who allege experiencing sexual abuse and rape threats.
Per a 2022 study conducted by the Australian Institute of Criminology, 72.3% have experienced threats of sexual violence, harassment, or aggression while engaging with men on dating apps. Given the prevalence of violence against women and girls in society, it’s understandable that groups founded on female solidarity are gaining traction online.
Dr. Sarah Bishop, a London-based clinical psychologist believes the power of these groups also lies in forming a community as an important support base when experiencing abusive behavior or simply going through a negative dating ordeal. “To know that you aren’t the only one to have been cheated on or lied to can add perspective to a situation that is otherwise shameful or a huge ego-blow,” she says.
In fact, it’s this feeling of sisterhood that keeps Whitney King active in the North Carolina group. While the 37-year-old has flagged dates who pressure and coerce women for nudes in the past, she loves seeing how the members support and uplift each other. “Even when two women realize they’re dating the same man, there’s no hostility, it’s just everyone hyping each other up in the comments,” she says.
But there is one possible catch: Dr. Jess Carbino, a former sociologist at Tinder and Bumble believes the groups could do more harm than good. “People could be seeking retribution or fabricating the whole story; there is no way to discern the truth. Also, this isn’t the right place to air stories of abuse. Authorities and people who can make real change need to be involved,” she says, suggesting that reporting abuse directly to dating apps is a more constructive action.
Research contact: @mashable