Welcome to the World of "Are We Sharing Boyfriends?" AKA City-Specific Facebook Groups Designed to Catch Cheating Partners

·8 min read
Photo credit: Claire Brodsky - Hearst Owned
Photo credit: Claire Brodsky - Hearst Owned

Part of the Shared Human Experience is scrolling too much, clicking too far, and ending up in The Seventh Circle of Social Media Hell—stumbling upon stuff you didn’t want to know about a prospective love match. (Please see: Your ex’s Twitter likes, your partner's Venmo transactions, or updates to your Hinge crush's profile.) Nadia*, 25, used to pride herself on not engaging in this level of internet sleuthing, until she joined her local “Are We Sharing Boyfriends?” (AWSB) Facebook group.

If you’ve never heard of AWSB, let me fill you in. They’re city-specific groups where women post photos of the people they’re dating, either because they have a hunch that their partners might be cheating, or because they want the inside scoop on the person if the relationship is new. The groups boast an impressive number of members—there are three Las Vegas groups that, combined, have over 11,000 members. Seattle, Bakersfield, California, and Philly have nearly 3,000 members each. Some groups, like Little Rock, Arkansas, are harder to find—you can only join if the admin invites you—and some city’s groups have rules upon joining, like, “No snitching and NO starting drama.” There's even a group in Lexington, Kentucky, with 2,200 members.

You have to request to join and admins have to accept, but once you're in, you unlock a John Tucker Must Die-style paradise where women band together against the modern dating hellscape to expose one philandering partner at a time. All it takes is a single photo of a potential cheater and a quick explanation that covers why you think they’re sus, and group members will flock to the comments to reveal all the dirt they can find. At times, even a simple “Does anyone know him?” will spark hours of commentary. At least, that’s how it went for Nadia in the Las Vegas group.

As a busy grad student with a packed schedule, she didn’t really have time to look up her boyfriend of three years online, and she says he never gave her a reason to. Then came TikTok. “All of a sudden, my algorithm started feeding me ‘Is he cheating?’ videos,” Nadia recounts, admitting that, while it was strange, they didn’t really get to her until her For You page also started filling up with posts of tarot readers and energy healers talking about someone in her life being untruthful. She took it as a sign, and then the universe delivered one more: a TikTok video about AWSB went viral. She joined one of the Las Vegas groups shortly after just to, you know, “see if she knew anyone posted in the group.” About two months later, she ran into a picture of her boyfriend.

Spending time on this sort of Facebook group is only human, explains Andrea Dindinger, MA, MTF, a San Francisco-based psychotherapist who specializes in creating healthy intimacy and relationships. It basically taps into an itch that is really damn satisfying—and a little bit terrifying—to scratch. “There's an intense hormonal response due to cortisol and dopamine increase when you post something like this. Even in terms of, say, the number of likes you get on a regular social media post, it can trigger that same rush of adrenaline. But with groups like these, it’s even more magnified,” says Dindinger. Why? Because the stakes are so high. These are real relationships. Naturally, you’ll tune in obsessively, even if it stresses you out and gives you anxiety.

That might be why Nadia still remembers the day she found her boyfriend so vividly. There he was, with his cartoonish grin, broad shoulders, and pale eyes, staring back at her from a screenshot posted by a stranger. She felt frozen, like the world had stopped, where four words—“Does anyone know him?”—swiftly dismantled her three-year relationship. She couldn’t stop looking, refreshing for more intel. Who was this girl, and why was she posting about her boyfriend? No one else in the group commented anything helpful—they didn't seem to know him. But that didn't matter, because Nadia sure did.

"I guess the algorithm knows before you do," she said. "I owed it to myself to confront him face-on." So she did, and he didn't deny he'd cheated. She hasn't spoken to him since.

On the opposite coast, in Philadelphia, Savannah*, 23, and Danielle*, 27, joined their local AWSB group after finding the page through another Facebook community that connects twenty-somethings in the city. The women were some of the group's first members, though their motives to join weren’t the same. Savannah had been in a situationship with a guy for about six months. After getting love-bombed for the first half of their fling, she admits she “knew something was up,” though it wasn’t just his (alleged) lack of social media that sent up red flags. He was emotionally distant, overworked, and typically only offered up the occasional Thursday to hang. “I know, it’s like, ‘How could you stay?’ but he was so good at making me feel like I was just overthinking it,” she said.

Dindinger said feeling like “something is up'' is the main reason women turn to groups like AWSB in the first place. Intuition has, for decades, caused people to search through their partners’ bank statements or emails, and social media cohorts like these are no different. It’s driven by fear, anxiety, and insecurity—the feeling that something isn’t safe in the relationship, or that something’s not right. “You’re having that kind of intuitive hit,” she says, explaining that most posters already feel that pit in their stomach for a reason—even if they don’t quite know what it is—and are probably looking for confirmation to leave.

Savannah remembers everything about the day she posted a few pics of her man on AWSB, along with a comment that went something like, "Hey, here’s this guy I’m exclusive with, he says he has no socials, but I’m not buying it." Then, Savannah relentlessly refreshed and refreshed again, until eventually, Danielle’s best friend commented that she knew the man pictured—he was her friend Danielle's boyfriend of three and a half years. Even though it ruined her relationship, Danielle says she’s thankful for the post. She even joined the group shortly after to connect with Savannah and others who had gone through a similar thing. “Nobody fucking expects that! I didn’t even know these [Facebook groups] existed.”

But while the true purpose of AWSB is to help women catch their cheating partners when they feel like something’s off, some posts are from people in non-committed relationships seeking information about whether or not their new, casual partner is sleeping with other people. Dindinger advises against using AWSB for this purpose, calling it an unhealthy way to avoid vulnerability. (Admit it: It’s so much easier to stalk their recent followers than say, “Hey, I like you and I don’t want you to have sex with other people. Thanks!”) A much healthier alternative to posting on a group like AWSB is to open up and create boundaries with the person you’re dating, says Dindinger. If the idea of them seeing other people makes you uncomfortable to the extent that you’d be willing to post about them in a public forum, the best healthy next step is to communicate your feelings directly, so you can ensure you’re getting the kind of relationship you want.

And if you feel like you’re in an unhealthy relationship, or that your partner might be cheating—whether because of intuition or the TikTok algorithm—Dindinger suggests talking to a therapist to help navigate those feelings and work on confronting your suspicions and anxieties with honesty and sincerity. A therapist can give you the tools to do that, and to talk to your partner openly about what’s bothering you and why. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate the terms of your relationship: Does your partner make you feel secure, happy, and valued? These are all questions you can and should be asking yourself regularly.

Whatever your opinion is on the 21st century sisterhood of AWSB, forming a community of like-minded people who share similar experiences is always helpful when it comes to healing. That’s the way Danielle and Savannah view it, anyway. Now, meetups with the members of their city’s group have become routine. They’re typically scheduled outside of AWSB, mostly coordinated through their “Men Ain’t Shit” text group chat.

On “Men Ain’t Shit,” people text about Hinge horror stories, ask for recommendations for second date spots, and, of course, share cautionary tales of men to avoid in the city. Their most recent hangout took place at a quaint restaurant where, under a string of lights, the women discussed their dating lives under a more detailed microscope. Danielle and Savannah were there, and described a special feeling of both friendship—"Do not reply to that!” and “Um, he made you meet his family on the first date?”—and transparency. When I asked them what they learned about each other after becoming close IRL, Savannah shuddered, recalling that earlier in the evening, Danielle had ordered an Aperol. “We don’t have the same taste in anything. Well, except men.”

*Name has been changed.

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