When you apply for a new job or for a spot at university, a reference letter is a common ask. We are prepared to have other people vouch for us, and other people’s opinions and experiences have immense power on the decisions we make. In fact, even while choosing a new concealer, we often rely on TikTok reviews to get the low-down on others’ experiences. References and reviews wield the power of personal approval, especially when it comes to people’s character. It’s no surprise then, that at a time when over 320 million people worldwide(Opens in a new tab) use dating apps as their primary avenue to meet new people, some daters are seeking reviews of their dates. Enter: ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy?(Opens in a new tab)‘, a Facebook group where women who date men can verify if their male partners are seeing other people and 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. 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 a connection 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.
What does ‘casual dating’ mean these days?
This idea of digital stealth checks has now been adapted for major cities across the globe. There are versions for Chicago(Opens in a new tab), Los Angeles(Opens in a new tab), Dubai(Opens in a new tab), London(Opens in a new tab), Paris(Opens in a new tab), Glasgow(Opens in a new tab), Sydney(Opens in a new tab), Brisbane(Opens in a new tab), Vancouver(Opens in a new tab), and specific groups for Brown(Opens in a new tab) and Black girls(Opens in a new tab). While the original New York(Opens in a new tab) 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 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.
Want more sex and dating stories in your inbox? Sign up for Mashable’s new weekly After Dark newsletter.
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. And 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.
In one story, a wife discovered her husband was seeing three other women across the U.S. — all of whom posted about him on the group after having an odd “gut feeling”.
Despite the group’s comprehensive list of rules, its existence, and the nature of the posts raises 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 NYC and London groups reveals a buffet of flagged dates with at least 30-40 comments on each post. In one story, a wife discovered her husband was seeing three other women across the U.S. — all of whom posted about him on the group after having an odd “gut feeling”. In another, a woman was warned against dating a man who allegedly fetishises 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(Opens in a new tab), 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.
How to move on after a situationship ends
“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 percent of their female respondents(Opens in a new tab) 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(Opens in a new tab), 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 behaviour 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.
“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.”
In fact, it’s this feeling of sisterhood that keeps Whitney King active in the North Carolina group(Opens in a new tab). 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 realise they’re dating the same man, there’s no hostility, it’s just everyone hyping each other up in the comments,” she says.
The Facebook groups have also become a space to seek advice on broader dating questions: what to wear to a first date, how to feel more confident, or where to meet new people. But as the members grow in number and the groups find fame on TikTok(Opens in a new tab), Twitter(Opens in a new tab), and Reddit(Opens in a new tab), they are quickly evolving into spaces for voyeuristic scrolling. Some posts called it an “entertaining wild ride(Opens in a new tab)” while others claimed “no men are safe anymore(Opens in a new tab),” implying that such spaces should scare men into staying true to their word or they would eventually be exposed. As a result of this growing online clout, several women began joining the groups just for fun content(Opens in a new tab). This not only dilutes the purpose but also makes it unsafe for the members who share their personal narratives, especially as several stories have found their way back to men who have been mentioned in the groups. “One of the guys found out he was being posted and sent the girl a really abusive and threatening message which she then shared on the group,” confirms Rina.
What to do when body image is affecting your sex life
There is no way to verify what a member posts, and these public accusations can have an impact on a person’s reputation. This seems to be the whole point, for better or worse. Additionally, phrases often used like “red flag” or “toxic” can be highly subjective — for one person it could mean not splitting the bill at dinner while for another it could be pressuring into sex on the first date. At a time when therapy-speak infiltrates everyday conversation, loaded labels are used all too lightly. Instead of calling an impolite, arrogant, or uninterested date just that, people use terms like “narcissist,” “gaslighter,” or “abusive” to describe them. These words often incorrectly categorise sloppy dates as abusers and dilute real stories of abuse and trauma by using powerful descriptors in frivolous conversation.
This is why Dr. Jess Carbino(Opens in a new tab), 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.. Dating apps are constantly updating their platforms with new features, tools, and monitoring systems to detect abusive behaviour and make it easier for users to report sexual harassment. In 2022, Tinder partnered with RAINN, an American anti-sexual assault organisation to redevelop its trauma reporting process in order to give survivors more agency.
A Facebook post may not enforce necessary action and if members feel comfortable, they could issue complaints to the authority or employ in-app features created by dating apps. Of course, statistics(Opens in a new tab) (and experience) show that reporting issues of rape and abuse rarely result in conviction — especially for survivors of colour — so the hesitance to approaching the authorities is understandable, to say the very least. While the groups hold the power to behave as modern day whisper networks, they also feed into the ever-growing surveillance culture in the digital world. Every tweet you share or TikTok you post has the power to go viral and make you popular, but it can just as easily get you cancelled on the internet with longstanding consequences. Extending the same scrutiny to romantic relationships or even friendships can be tricky. Most of us have made mistakes in past relationships that we learn from as we grow, but very few people would want their exes to weigh in on future dates.
What if someone is my BFF but I’m not theirs?
Similarly, the need to confirm your partner’s loyalty through a Facebook group also reveals a bigger struggle with communication. Ali Ross(Opens in a new tab), a London-based psychotherapist says, “Being in a relationship implies you trust someone with your vulnerability and that can be scary. If you doubt your partner, speak to a therapist to understand how you can communicate instead of relying on strangers online for the truth.” While there’s no doubt that ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy?’ can create a supportive community and has indeed warned people about abusive dates or serial cheaters, in its current form, it doesn’t hold the capacity to bring real change in the online dating space.
But perhaps its function does not have to be that far reaching, and is already served by its very existence. Taha Yasseri,(Opens in a new tab) an associate professor of sociology at the University of Dublin researches content moderation and online dating. While he agrees that these groups cannot bring direct intervention, he sees them as a powerful tool for advocacy. “The emergence of such groups should alert dating companies, policymakers, and other stakeholders to take the issue of dating safety and domestic abuse more seriously,” he explains.
Flawed as it is, ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy?’ brings to the forefront issues many women and marginalised genders face with online dating. Whether you have shared your live location with a friend or done an Instagram deep dive of a date before meeting them, there’s always a little voice in the back of our head screaming, “I hope he’s not a serial killer.” Instead of trying to classify the group as an empowering movement or a toxic internet phenomenon, maybe it should be seen as a reminder to demand for safer structures and as a call for action from larger institutions.