'Cyber-flashing' is a horrible dating trend on the rise this summer, but experts say don't lose hope

Here's what's going on with 'cyber-flashing' and how to stay safe when mingling with other singles

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(Image credit: Tim Robberts/Getty Images)

"Cyber-flashing" is not among the welcome 2023 dating trends making the rounds this summer. 

We're anxious for superbloom relationships to sprout and meet their full potential. We're reaching for the sunnies now that blue sky dating is ahead. But cyber-flashing is a less-than-desirable practice that clouds the fun that singles are looking forward to. 

According to new research from Angelic Diamonds, this is one of the top 10 practices we can expect to see on the rise during the warm-weather months. But what is cyber-flashing, exactly? Here's what you need to know. 

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Pippa Murphy

Pippa Murphy is a sex and relationship expert at Condoms.uk which provides access to safe and trusted brands within the sexual health industry, as well as information about your sex health.

What is 'cyber-flashing'?

But what is cyber-flashing, exactly? Just as it sounds, cyber-flashing is when a partner sends unsolicited sexual images digitally to a potential match without their consent, be it a text, Air Drop or dating app message.

"It can be a distressing experience, and it is essential to emphasize that the responsibility lies with the sender, not the recipient," says Pippa Murphy, sex and relationship expert at Condoms.uk. "The sender has violated your personal boundaries and consent—it is crucial to understand that you are not to blame for their inappropriate behavior."

It might not be a new toxic behavior, but it is something to look out for. Here's how to keep yourself safe while mingling with other singles, according to the experts.

Why is 'cyber-flashing' on the rise?

As much as we can't live without a solid WiFi connection, access to the interwebs can be as harmful as it is necessary. 

"Both the internet and the progression within technology have created a certain level of anonymity that gives people the confidence to send an unsolicited image without any thought," Murphy says. 

Since this is one of the toxic trends that has emerged thanks to the online dating scene, the app Plenty of Fish recently coined the term consexting, discussing boundaries and receiving consent before sexting. The brand even launched a new campaign that allows users to add a "No Dick Pick" (NDP) badge, which means they're not interested in sexting.

How to approach the topic of sexting

Provided all parties are trusting and on board to exchanging a few steamy messages, sexting is a way to improve your relationship or take it to a new level. And these expert-backed sexting tips can make the act all the more fun and flirty, provided you're feeling trustworthy of your partner. (Consent is essential.) 

But in order to begin, you have to approach the topic, which could feel a bit awkward, particularly if you're starting something new. 

"I’d recommend having an open and honest conversation with your partner," Murphy says. "To make them feel at ease, you should express why you want to send them images (or receive them) and why you think it’ll be beneficial to you both. Are you wanting to spice things up?  Are you wanting to build your confidence? Or do you just find them so attractive that you want to see more?"

How to avoid a 'cyber-flashing' experience

Let's say you're giving online dating a go or speaking to someone you just met while out on the town. Murphy provides tips for tightening up your safety measures while exploring new intimate connections. Here's how to avoid an unwanted cyber-flashing experience:

1. Change your privacy settings

Whether it's your AirDrop accessibility or the friend list on your Instagram account, Murphy recommends taking advantage of the privacy settings available to you.

"Change the settings so that you can only receive messages, friend requests and attachments or images from people you know," she says. 

2. Limit what you share

Until you meet someone IRL or feel comfortable enough to share personal details, don't feel obligated to be an open book. And don't feel like you have to start texting right away—you can leave the conversation to the dating apps until you're ready to move forward. (That's what they're for!) 

"I’d recommend keeping all conversations with a person from there on there until you’ve met them in real life and get a sense of what kind of person they are," Murphy says. "Also, keeping the conversation in the dating app allows you to report them if they do cyber-flash and over time, if others report them, they won’t be able to access the dating app anymore due to being blocked."

3. Report and block, if necessary

As the adage goes, "If you see something, say something." Blocking and reporting inappropriate behavior does go a long way, even if it doesn't necessarily feel like it.  

"Most social media and dating app platforms have a strict policy against their form of inappropriate behavior and will take action against the sender, especially if they’re a repeat offender," Murphy says.

Though the 'cyber-flashing' trend can feel discouraging to singles, there's still plenty of good to look forward to when looking for love. Have fun, stay safe and go with your gut if something starts to feel off!

Danielle Valente
Digital News Writer

Need a TV show recommendation? Maybe a few decor tips? Danielle, a digital news writer at Future, has you covered. Her work appears throughout the company’s lifestyle brands, including My Imperfect Life, Real Homes, and woman&home. Mainly, her time is spent at My Imperfect Life, where she’s attuned to the latest entertainment trends and dating advice for Gen Z.

Before her time at Future, Danielle was the editor of Time Out New York Kids, where she got to experience the best of the city from the point of view of its littlest residents. Before that, she was a news editor at Elite Daily. Her work has also appeared in Domino, Chowhound, and amNewYork, to name a few. 

When Danielle’s not writing, you can find her testing out a new recipe, reading a book (suggestions always welcome), or rearranging the furniture in her apartment…again.