Opinion: “Megan is Missing” reveals a disturbing truth in the era of dating apps

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Credit: Pixabay user solenfeyissa

WSPN’s Meredith Prince discusses the danger of dating apps and its correlation to the recently re-popularized film, “Megan is Missing.”

Meredith Prince

We live in an era where a date or a hookup is a click away – literally. Dating apps such as Tinder, Bumble or Hinge allow users to swipe and immediately connect with strangers: finding a date has never been easier. While connecting with new people through these apps can lead to successful relationships – sometimes even marriages – it can also easily lead to danger. In a survey of more than 1,200 women who said they had used a dating platform in the past 15 years, more than a third said they were sexually assaulted by someone they had met through a dating app. Of these women, more than half said they were raped.

Dating apps can be exciting. Many teens hop onto the Tinder train as soon as they turn 18, but the dangers outweigh the potential successes. The recent reemergence of the 2011 film, Megan Is Missing, exemplifies this danger to an extreme but informative extent. Although this film was created almost a decade ago, it has recently blown up on the social media app, Tik Tok, with many users advising teens to watch it, with caution, to understand the danger of meeting strangers online and agreeing to go on a date. However, these users also warned viewers that the film can be traumatizing and cause strong discomfort.

With reluctance, I decided to watch the film in hopes of learning the true dangers of meeting up with strangers that you talk to online. If you decide to watch the film, below is a message from the movie director, Michael Goi, addressing the reemergence of the film after it went viral on Tik Tok, giving a warning to viewers before watching.

“I didn’t get to give you the customary warnings that I used to give people before they watched Megan Is Missing, which are: Do not watch the movie in the middle of the night. Do not watch the movie alone,” he listed. “And if you see the words ‘photo number one’ pop up on your screen, you have about four seconds to shut off the movie if you’re already kind of freaking out before you start seeing things that maybe you don’t want to see.”

Before I continue discussing the film, I would like to emphasize a trigger warning: the film contains graphic scenes of gore, rape and sexual harassment.

The film tells the story of two 14-year-old best friends. One of the girls, Megan, begins talking to a man named Josh through her webcam and agrees to meet him. Unsurprisingly, she goes missing after she meets up with “Josh.” Frantically, the town reports Megan’s disappearance, but her best friend Amy is affected the most. Amy is severely bullied by her peers and blamed for Megan’s disappearance. Even worse, she stays in contact with “Josh” (who we later find out is not actually named Josh), who she suspects may have kidnapped Megan. “Josh” continuously degrades and bullies Amy through their video chats when Amy asks for information about Megan. Later, Amy is also kidnapped by “Josh,” and footage at the end of the film reveals what “Josh” did to these girls.

The footage is EXTREMELY disturbing. If you do consider watching this film, please consider watching it with someone else and not watching it late at night. Please be advised that this description contains unsettling events and spoilers. Those who do not wish to read about these disturbing events should skip to the next paragraph. The final section of the film depicts Amy being tortured, raped and – as you can probably guess – killed. We also discover where Megan has been: dead inside of a barrel which Amy is forced to sit in while being buried alive. Although this is not based on a true story, Megan Is Missing alludes to past child abduction cases. While such events may seem irrational and impossible, psychopaths exist, and this situation could happen in real life.

So, what does this have to do with Tinder and other dating apps? The connection is simple: Megan agrees to meet up with a man she meets online, and it leads to the end of her and her best friend’s lives. Today, millions of people connect every day through dating apps, with Tinder having around 1.6 billion swipes per day, which results in a million dates per week, as of October 2020. Many of the app users agree to meet alone without ever seeing each other beforehand. Dating apps make it unbelievably easy for child traffickers, kidnappers and psychopaths to find their next victims. While Megan did not meet “Josh” through an app like Tinder, she connected with a stranger online, came to trust him and agreed to meet with him. It seems harmless to do such a thing – especially if the stranger provides photos or videos of themselves and seems legitimate – but it is so easy to pretend to be someone you are not online. Megan and Amy’s story is fictional, but it certainly could occur to an unsuspecting teen who is having fun on a dating app.

While this film was extremely disturbing and made it difficult to sleep for a few nights, I am now definitely much more aware of the dangers of dating apps. If you don’t want to go through the terror of watching this movie, just use my words as a lesson: stay off dating apps until they can find a safe way to connect people who are verified and trusted.