SAN FRANCISCO (AP) The box trolls are out, and the date night is in.
Box trolls, a term that refers to people who post vulgar messages on social media, have become a common sight at bars, restaurants and even a few hotels.
They’re part of a new trend in which people share vulgar or threatening messages to strangers via a social media app called Telegram, often accompanied by the hashtag #datenight.
They’re part, perhaps, of the broader trend of the Internet-fueled era of the modern-day date night, where young people and their peers have a new way to spend their evenings.
While it’s not illegal to post vulgar or sexually suggestive messages, many users will post offensive or derogatory messages without any apparent provocation.
This is partly because of the ubiquity of messaging apps like Telegram and Facebook Messenger, which offer users more than one place to share a message.
The problem for date night boxes is that most of the time, the messages are posted by strangers who haven’t seen or spoken to the sender in over a year.
And unlike other kinds of Internet trolling, they often aren’t taken seriously.
The number of dates has jumped over the past year from about 50,000 a year to more than 1 million.
There are now more than 30,000 such bars and restaurants across the country, and many are using social media to post messages and photos.
A survey last year found that half of American teens were “actively” posting derogatory messages to their online friends, including messages that included sexual or racist slurs.
In one example, a woman posted an image of herself on Instagram, with the caption, “I love my black man,” along with a link to a profile on the dating app Grindr.
She then posted a photo of her phone in her bedroom, along with the comment, “Just to clear things up: I love my Black man.”
In another case, a man wrote a message to his ex-girlfriend that said, “You know that time you were so down on me when you were on the phone with your BF?” and followed up with the hashtag “#datenight.”
In some cases, the comments have been so inflammatory that they’ve even caused serious damage to the victim’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
“The message is always the same,” said Michael S. Sullivan, who runs a dating website called SeekingArrangement.com.
“I’m gonna be brutally honest with you, I was devastated.
I really wanted to cry, but I couldn’t.”
Sullivan said he is trying to get his business to stop posting abusive messages to his clients, but his site is getting hundreds of messages daily.
“It’s really heartbreaking,” he said.
The messages are often sent to women, and some of the messages have been threatening.
A woman who lives in Texas and had received a threatening message recently said she had posted it in response to someone who had said that she could have her own child.
But others have been more moderate.
One woman wrote that she had been “very happy” when her boyfriend invited her to a night out with friends and she was “shocked” to receive a message that read, “Oh, I have a child.”
Another woman who had received messages of a similar nature said, she had texted her boyfriend, and he replied, “Are you kidding me?
You’re such a slut.”
The number one cause of date night troll stories is that they’re not taken seriously, said Kristin DeRosa, who researches dating online for the nonprofit nonprofit Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at the University of New Hampshire.
“People have to be so careful and mature about it,” she said.
DeRosa said there are two problems with the new dating trends.
First, the social media apps themselves have become more diverse and more powerful, so it’s easy for trolls to find a new group of people to post to, and second, people may be more aware of the threats.
“People are looking for ways to be heard,” DeRos said.
People are becoming more aware that a lot of the people posting to social media are not just trolls, she said, but people who are actually looking to have a relationship.
And in some cases these relationships can be harmful.
A woman who works as a receptionist at a hotel said she received a series of messages that were so vile, she posted a screenshot on her Facebook page to warn others.
She also shared the messages with the group she works with, saying, “Please don’t post this.”
“I think it’s pretty safe to say that some people feel really unsafe and feel that they have a right to feel safe online,” she added.
People feel unsafe and want to feel unsafe, and they don’t want to be a part of the problem, DeRoS said.
But she added that she was surprised that people were being as vocal as they were.
“I’ve seen some people saying