One Question Quiz
showing screenshots of "do we have the same boyfiend" groups in different location
In fairness, these groups were publicised on TikTok Image: Tina Tiller

InternetMarch 27, 2023

Inside the rise of ‘Do We Have the Same Boyfriend’ Facebook groups

showing screenshots of "do we have the same boyfiend" groups in different location
In fairness, these groups were publicised on TikTok Image: Tina Tiller

Thousands of women across the country are joining Facebook groups that seek to answer one simple question. 

This article contains reference to domestic violence and emotional abuse, please take care.

A quick scroll through the biggest “Do We Have The Same Boyfriend” Facebook group in the country reveals a sea of literal and metaphorical red flags. “Ain’t it a red flag when a mother fucker has a snap score over 100,000,” one women posits to a chorus of cry-laughing emoji and red flag emoji. “Saw my bd [baby daddy] on here, now hes packing his shit crying,” cackles another. Other posts serve pure empowerment: “Reminder to all my baddies out there getting played and getting treated like shit: DO YOU BOO! SIT THAT CROWN STRAIGHT.” 

The group is just one of dozens across the country and hundreds across Australia and the Pacific Islands. Women can request to enter, and once inside can be approved to post their partner’s photo or social media profile as a sort of “loyalty test” to see if they are chatting to anyone else. In actuality, the constant stream of posts fluctuate wildly from light-hearted observations about modern dating, to screeds of Instagram DMs, to dodgy secret Snapchat accounts. Between the moments of levity and eye rolls, there are also casually devastating anonymous stories of abuse, manipulation and lies. 

Anna is one the admins for the New Zealand group, which currently boasts 16,500 members. She saw similar groups popping up in Australia on TikTok, and wanted to make an online space for women after her own relationship fell apart. “I went through it myself with my daughter’s father,” she says. “He was cheating on me with four different girls – two who were my friends – for a whole year.” She says she was too ashamed to tell her friends about it for a long time, and knew there would be other women in her position that might need support. 

TikTok was quick to pick up on the gossip-filled FB groups

Less than a week after she made the group, it started getting attention on TikTok. “There were all these girls talking about all the tea on this page, and it just went crazy,” she says. Someone who first spotted the group on TikTok was Izzy, now also an admin of the page, who admits she joined “just for a nosy” at first. “It was when I started seeing posts from these women that were really wanting answers that I wanted to get involved,” she says. Plus, with hundreds of member requests every minute thanks to TikTok, Anna admits she got “overwhelmed” and was grateful for the help.

Since then, the pair have been spending hours a day trying to keep the unwieldy, gossip-hungry group and its members in check, while still trying to assist the anonymous women out there who are genuinely looking for help.  “We’re screening people, doing post approval, I’ve basically gone into full FBI mode,” says Izzy. In the short time the group has been active, the admins say that multiple cheating men have been discovered through the community, but it isn’t a common occurrence. Anna recalls one instance where a woman posted a man with a “full ass wife and kids” who was revealed to be cheating with another woman in the group. 

Sometimes, the stories the admins get sent can be even more serious than infidelity. “I had a woman send me her situation and I had to say to her ‘I can’t post that for your own safety’”, says Izzy. “She had been trying to get away from this dude who had been threatening her and her kids for years.” Removing any identifying details, she posted the situation to the group, who quickly wrapped support around the woman. “We managed to get her away from him last night. She’s safe,” says Izzy. “If I hadn’t posted anything, other people wouldn’t have been able to help her hash out an exit plan to get her away from this complete shitbag.” 

Even with the strictest admin, Facebook groups are a minefield. Image: Getty

But for those moments where the group has helped women flee dangerous relationships or leave their cheating partners, there remains a lot of collateral damage. Izzy runs me through just some of it – scorned men making rival groups, profiles screenshot and posted to Discords, personal threats and even rumours of gang involvement. It’s a reminder that, despite the strict admin rules, the group still exists in a liminal and largely lawless online space, one which regularly sees people unknowingly presented to a hungry jury of sometimes tens of thousands. 

Samantha Floreani, a digital rights activist and writer in Australia, has approached similar “Do We Have the Same Boyfriend” groups with feelings of both fascination and trepidation. “I do think that having technologically facilitated environments where you can have community forms of accountability has a lot of potential to be a good thing,” she says. “They are also potentially really beneficial for those women who are more isolated, don’t have support networks, or don’t feel like they can talk to their friends or family about these sorts of things.” 

That said, she’s also noticed how the behaviour in the group reflects a more concerning online trend. “Social media platforms, in and of themselves, incentivise and reward this kind of lateral surveillance – where we are all simultaneously watching and being watched all the time while we’re online,” she says. “These groups take that to the next level, where the explicit goal becomes to police each other’s behaviour. Some of the things I’ve seen posted even encourage a kind of open source intelligence, which also starts to make me nervous.” 

The FBI jokes are fine until they aren’t…

As one TikTok use has already pointed out, groups such as these raise questions around defamation and privacy. Sean Lyons, Netsafe’s chief online safety officer, advises that those posting in these groups should “familiarise themselves with the community standards of the platform and the legislation around harmful content online” to ensure that their post does not lead to “problematic consequences”. Anyone who wishes to complain about the content within private groups should report directly to the platform hosting the page, and can also contact Netsafe if they feel there been a breach of the Harmful Digital Communications Act

For Floreani, the sheer scale of these groups represents what she calls “a breaking of a social contract” when it comes to disclosing private or personal information. “It’s nothing new to vent to your friends about shitty behaviour, or ask them for help if you think your partner is cheating on you,” she says. “But suddenly having thousands of people who you can call upon to check up on your partner or your potential date? That is wild.” What could explain this sense of large-scale suspicion is the proliferation and convenience of apps such as Tinder and Bumble. “It definitely does feel like there’s less trust in modern dating,” she says. 

“You have to wonder, if because these apps have made it easier to get dates, they’ve also made it easier to cheat.”

It’s a good point. In an era full of Fuckboy Islands and Tinder Swindlers, perhaps it is natural that heterosexual women might be more than a little suspicious of their potential partners and their true intentions. Auckland psychologist Dr Aramis Dennan wrote his PhD about the connections between dating app use and gender-based sexist ideologies, and refers to apps like Tinder and Bumble as a “mysterious puzzle” to solve. What he can say for sure is that these platforms tend to attract and reward particular types of behaviour and attitudes in men. 

“Research shows that for those who hold strong, hostile sexist beliefs, men are valued and even celebrated for sexual experience and relational prowess,” Aramis explains. “Those men, especially those of university age, then find themselves in a system where they are encouraged to have more hookups, shorter relationships, and to potentially have multiple relationships going on at once.” He believes that the rise of these groups suggests that our hyper-modern dating apps might actually just be perpetuating age-old beliefs about gender roles in heterosexual relationships. 

Old forces still act upon modern dating platforms. Image: Archi Banal

Aramis is not surprised to hear that these Facebook groups are attracting large numbers of women in New Zealand, and says it speaks to how men and women are socialised into taking on particular beliefs and roles in relationships. “Women are shaped by society to value committed, long term relationships. Men, almost the opposite. So women may be more likely to worry about men being unfaithful, and use things like Facebook groups – really fast, powerful ways to gather information about people – to evaluate their safety in their relationships.”

These Facebook groups serve as another example of how people are turning to technology to combat very complex social problems, says Floreani. “I just wonder, without judgement, how much are we outsourcing to these tech platforms instead of just, you know, building trusting relationships with one another?” Aramis agrees. “The clinician in me screams ‘talk to your partner’ – infidelity is a really tricky and painful thing to navigate in a relationship,” he says. “But my suggestion would be to lean into the fear and to engage partners in a healthy dialogue.”

Although Izzy admits that being an admin of the group can be a “full on” job, she has no plans to abandon her post anytime soon. It’s those stories that go beyond cheating, those that reveal situations of violence and control that keep her there. “Being admin doesn’t bother me – it would bother me more if I couldn’t help these women,” she says. “There’s a few posts that I’ve come across where you can tell they’re really in a bad situation, just from how they are messaging. You see shit like that on the news and you think to yourself ‘if only she could have got help’. 

“So I just think if I can help somebody, even if it’s through what some people think is just a fucking gossip page like this, then why not?”

Where to get help:

  • Women’s Refuge 0800 733 843
  • Shine Free call 0508 744 633
  • Free call or text 1737 to talk to a trained counsellor.
  • If you or someone else is in immediate danger, call 111.
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