Female-led Facebook groups designed to help women navigate online dating safely are growing across the globe. However these groups are now facing criticism, as new questions are being raised about the best practices for online accountability.
These groups, called ‘Are We Dating the Same Guy?’ (followed by the relevant city), are seeing significant popularity.
A BBC report found that the group ‘Are We Dating The Same Guy Belfast/ Derry/ Northern Ireland’ already has 25,000 members. Women on the group share screenshots of men they’ve matched with on dating apps, asking others if they’ve also encountered him and if they have any insight to share about his potential bad behaviours.
However, the group is now facing criticism from Charity Men’s Alliance NI, a support group for male victims of domestic abuse. The charity is warning that the Facebook group hosts character assassinations, which ultimately lead to mental health issues for the men involved.
One man featured in the Facebook group told the BBC “to think that my face and name was posted up for people to comment on without me knowing – it made me paranoid that anything said would be taken as the truth even if it wasn’t”. Another man in the same situation admitted that the situation is not good for mental health.
There is some agreement that the intentions behind the Facebook group are well-meaning, in helping women potentially avoid abusive or toxic men. However, Joanne Barnes from Nexus, which supports victims of domestic and sexual abuse, told the BBC that these online groups are not the best solution to the problem.
Barnes warns that women who post in these groups could face legal action for any defamatory statements they make. She instead pointed out that the authorities in Northern Ireland could introduce more initiatives to address the issues of online safety and gender based violence.
The popularity of the ‘Are We Dating the Same Guy?’ groups indicate that women still do not feel confident of finding high-quality men online. No doubt online dating platforms have a role to play in addressing this society-wide issue.