I don’t date. I haven’t had a crush in years, unless you count my occasional flirtation with the cute waiter at my favourite pizza joint. To be fair, my reservations about dating at times feel warranted. I’ve spent some time on dating apps and have been on dates that range from boring to somewhat harrowing. My hesitations were magnified when I heard about a Facebook group in Toronto called “Are We Dating the Same Guy?” where women can warn other women about the terrible men they’ve been seeing or solicit advice from fellow single women. Imagine a gossip session with your friends where everyone discusses potential dating app matches, magnified by 1,000 — instead of two or three people to consult with, there are 21,800 members from across the city to tell you if they’ve had an unfavourable experience with your men of choice.
Women will post a first name, general location and one — or several — red flag emojis and, once approved by an admin, a missive in the comments explaining their concerns. Although these comments are often terrifying to read, there are some posts simply soliciting advice from the community about dating, and the responses can be heartwarming. Many conversations turn into something along the lines of “If I were her, I would want to know.” Cheating seems to be as common an offence as not getting a text back.
The existence of the group spreads through word of mouth. One user who spoke to me anonymously says a friend mentioned it to her. “Around the summertime, a friend suggested it to me because I went on a few dates with guys who lied about their relationship status,” she says.
That wasn’t her first post, though. That came much later when she wanted to warn other women about a catfish she ran into on the apps. She’s an active user, commenting a lot, since, as she claims, “Some [of these] girls and I have the same taste in men!”
The group’s ultimately been helpful, she says. “There are a few guys I’ve dodged. Saves me going through horrible dates and finding out the hard way!” She says she once even made a friend by unknowingly seeing the same guy.
It’s understandable that for women in Toronto’s dating scene looking for eligible men a group like this one might seem like the only option. Members are seeking red flags across a wide spectrum — from men who are simply bad communicators to serial cheaters. And although the first offence — a couple of days without a text here or a few late night hook ups there — might seem overblown, once you’ve dealt with enough of these kinds of men, the ones who disrespect or manipulate you, it’s hard to resign yourself to doing it all over again.
My friend Amy, for example, has had her fair share of red flags. We were out one Friday night in December when the guy she was seeing pulled her aside and told her she was, “wifey material,” (someone he can see himself marrying), only for her to be told the following week that he didn’t see a future with her.
“He told me, ‘Let’s just date casually,’” she says. But to him, dating “casually” meant going on dates, meeting his mother and hanging out without having sex.
This isn’t the first time she was misled. Amy lent her car to a man she was dating for what she assumed would only be a handful of hours. “After all, it’s impossible to get around in the city,” she says she reasoned to herself.
She didn’t hear from him for over 24 hours, essentially holding her car hostage with no word of his whereabouts. Now? She’s sleeping with his good friend. “Homie hopping is the way to go,” she advises.
At a time when it seems like every far-flung acquaintance I know is meeting the love of their life on some app while I’m slogging through scary DMs and frequent ghosting, it is difficult to have hope that the right person is out there.
Founder of Match Me Canada, Rebecca Cooper Traynor, says there’s a way to avoid getting burnt out by the apps.
“Get organized with a dating plan, such as setting specific days to log into dating apps and making a list of non-negotiables in a match,” she says. “Do your research before meeting up with someone, like having at least one phone call. Only meet with matches you’re truly interested in, and if you’re still feeling burnt out, take a break to focus on yourself and recharge before diving back into the dating scene.”
For many in the Toronto dating scene, “situationships,” or relationships that remain undefined, are a real challenge. “If you are searching for a serious commitment, make sure to communicate your intentions from the get-go. If you suspect your match is more interested in something casual, bring up your dating goals with them early on to ensure you’re on the same page,” Traynor says. “And if you’re not, don’t force the issue; don’t think you can change someone, you can’t. You’ll only waste years going through heartbreak.”
A recent Bumble report on dating in 2023 found that guardrailing, or setting more boundaries from the beginning, is a major trend among Canadians: setting boundaries and communicating emotional needs has become a priority for 66 per cent of Canadian respondents.
Using “Are We Dating the Same Guy?” may be a strategy for Torontonians to set those boundaries in advance — women are crowdsourcing information from other women about what potential matches are looking for instead of waiting on the men to be honest. Take the anonymous poster who asked for the scoop on someone they were thinking of dating, only to find out he was only interested in a friends with benefits situation despite never communicating that clearly.
When I ask for universal advice for young women who are trying to date in this godforsaken city, Traynor cuts to the chase. “It’s time to put yourself first! Prioritize your own needs and wants over those of potential matches. Be honest with yourself, bring up your concerns, and if they can’t meet your needs, it’s time to move on and find someone who can.”
Spending a short amount of time in the Facebook group caused me to go rapidly from jaded to terrified. All these men to look out for? Scammers à la Tinder Swindler abound! And I’m not alone — an anonymous poster asked how to trust a man they really like on Tinder after seeing all the group’s posts and becoming fearful. It’s surely an imperfect system, maybe one that scares Toronto daters more than it prepares them. But in a world where it’s a scary time to be a woman (hasn’t it always been?), it’s pretty great that women are coming together to look out for each other. If we don’t, who will?