Dating apps occupy a uniquely ordinary yet distinctly dangerous space in modern life. The normalized risks associated with online dating has laid the groundwork for Afterglow, a new safety conscious dating app specifically for students.
Dating apps occupy a uniquely ordinary yet distinctly dangerous space in modern life. Anecdotally, I know a few long-term couples that met on Tinder, which shows that dating apps are not only an aspect of “hookup culture”, but materialize as useful places where people met partners. However, the risks posed by such apps have been made clear by the murder of Grace Millane.
Grace Millane was a British woman on a two week stay in New Zealand after graduating from the University of Lincoln. Grace was strangled to death, having met her killer on Tinder. The normalized risks associated with online dating has laid the groundwork for Afterglow, a new safety conscious dating app specifically for students. The app has emerged from a student start-up initiative at the University of Southampton, could this represent a new form of dating for students in contemporary society?
According to the CEO of Afterglow, Aycha, Afterglow “is a safety-focused dating and wellbeing app for university students and our main focus is promoting safe dating and safe relationships”. Afterglow has prioritized the safety of its users through “working to develop features to try and help protect users from domestic abuse, violence and sexual harassment and has installed features to prevent the misuse of dating apps”. The app also provides information to its users about identifying domestic abuse, violence, mental health support, as well as features to assist users in the event of an emergency on a date. However, it is not only for finding potential dates, but also for socializing and finding friends.
The app prevents non-university students, minors and criminals for accessing it, ensuring only university students can have access by requiring a simple 3-step verification process. In an email conversation with the CEO, I asked if they had plans to expand to include users who were not students at university, Aycha replied that the team had been in discussion about branching out in this way, but “At the moment a decision has not been made but we will be looking to discuss with the wider community and our users to hear their opinions”.
The app was started by two university students, Bilaal and Aycha, who wanted to keep their friends safe while dating. On their website they cite that the UK experiences over 20 Tinder related crimes per week (Rushton, 2019) and have been used in over 30 cases of child rape since 2015 (Quinn, 2019). They identified the issues with current dating apps and the lack of safety features, which propelled them to create an app specially for university students, they say “Our big vision is to prevent minors, fake users and registered offenders from misusing dating apps”. I was also interested in the measures that prevent criminals from accessing the app, Aycha stated that “It is up to the person upon registering to disclose that they have a criminal record or criminal convictions”. She told me that at the moment they are testing whether this will be a blanket ban on people with criminal record and criminal convictions or not.
Afterglow has an easily accessed panic button, the option to add emergency contacts and ability to share live location while on dates. The idea of putting measures in place to help individuals in need on a date, is not a new idea. The Metropolitan Police initiative of ‘#askforangela’, allows people to seek help discretely by using a codeword, and asking for a member of staff called Angela to alert the staff that they feel unsafe or threatened. This allows the individual to seek help without drawing attention.
The campaign is communicated though posters in toilets and helps prevent and reduce sexual violence and vulnerability. #AskforAngela was initially used in Lincolnshire and then launched in venues across London and other counties including Sussex. The Brighton and Hove Business Crime Reduction Partnership announced the official introduction of the campaign on 2nd May 2018. This shows that there is widespread acknowledgement of the dangers of dating, specifically when you met a date online. While #askforangela and other initiatives aim to minimise these dangers, Afterglow is the first of its kind centre the app around safety features, with the main aim of the app to keep its users safe.
The app has won the 100 big ideas award, a student Foundership grant and is a member of the Future World’s Dragons’ Den cohort 2020. It has clearly been identified as a brilliant and necessary concept that aims to prevent dangers associated with online dating. It aims to expand to other universities, including Brighton in September.
You can download the app and read more about it here https://www.afterglowdating.co.uk/
And find the Facebook page here https://www.facebook.com/Afterglowtech
And Instagram here https://www.instagram.com/techafterglow/
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