If you’re sliding into his DMs, baby, you are flirting.
I’ve been there too, shooting my shot without realizing I was on the free-throw line. When the cute guy from high school posts a shirtless bathroom selfie on his Instagram Story and captions it, “Wish the turkey wasn’t the only thing stuffed at Thanksgiving,” my fingers move faster than my brain can intervene. Before I know it, I’ve typed out “Looking good 😜” and sent it off for him to inevitably ignore.
For the extremely online, flirting over social media’s private messages can provide a higher success rate for hooking up than apps like Hinge or Tinder — the ones explicitly designed for that. On Twitter and Instagram, I get a better sense of who might actually be a match for me: I get to see who also stans Lady Gaga, who the Reply Guys are and who is a certified Oklahoe. This is where potential partners put a more honest foot forward. Their real personalities are front-and-center.
Of course, flirting is inextricably linked to social media. Don’t forget Facebook started as a way for Mark Zuckerberg to judge the hotness of Harvard women. But Facebook changed the game again in 2016 when Instagram introduced Stories. “Instagram Stories make a great segue into DM conversations,” says Parker Ramsey, a nurse in Charlotte, North Carolina. Then came the Close Friends feature, letting you indicate you want to be DM’d without Aunt Carol seeing your thot pics.
Twitter DMs are similarly straightforward. If you slide on Twitter, it’ll seem like you’re trying to flirt. “I feel braver in Twitter DMs for some reason. The well-documented phenomenon of sliding into someone else’s DMs emboldens me to be more flirty, because if someone DMs you back — in this climate — there’s a feeling of implicit consent,” David Vázquez, a friend and Gay Twitter personality, tells me.
Though Twitter is quickly replacing Tumblr as the digital haven for amateur queer porn, the app is primarily text-based. So if you’re sliding, it’s usually because you find someone’s personality sexy. “On IG, people are like, ‘You’re hot. Let’s get a drink,’” says Khalid El Khatib, a writer and marketer in New York. “On Twitter, it’s like, ‘I loved this piece’ or ‘This was funny. When’d you move to NYC?’”
Both Instagram and Twitter are far ahead of other social apps for the digital flirter. “I’m too young for Facebook and too old for Snapchat,” Khatib says. “Twenty-five-year-olds on Grindr are like, ‘U got snap?’ and 55-year-olds on Facebook are like, ‘Hey cutie.’”
But don’t count out Facebook Messenger. The messaging app had 106.4 million unique monthly viewers in 2019, making it the third most popular mobile social media app this year, after the main Facebook and Instagram apps. When you’re home for the holidays and looking to shimmy down a chimney, Messenger can work wonders. “Facebook Messenger is only for hot guys from high school who recently came out,” says Ryan Khosravi, social media editor at Glitch. Insta he calls “confusing … you can reply to someone’s story, so it’s hard to gauge interest.” But if he gets a DM on Twitter, “it usually means they’re down to clown.”
But there’s no greater litmus test for a social app’s viability than its use among college students. After all, those collegiate friend (and rival) groups are where Facebook and Snapchat originated. So don’t be surprised if LinkedIn becomes the next most popular service for networking your way to a hookup — it’s already happening.
Daniella, a political strategist and friend of mine who asked to remain anonymous (so her dating history doesn’t become the latest political scandal), was a student at Miami University of Ohio when she first received a LinkedIn date DM. “He had known me from class. We had a little banter, and he slid into my LinkedIn,” Daniella tells me. She was into it. “I thought it was weirdly hot in a businessman-vibe way.”
Now before you risk an HR harassment lawsuit and slide into your co-worker’s LinkedIn, Daniella is quick to note her favorable response was an anomaly. “I’ve been hit on multiple times on there — especially in college, among frat douchebags,” she says.
There’s also a difference between flirting miles away and flirting with the guy down the block. Wolfgang Ruth, a senior at Michigan State University in East Lansing, spent his summer interning in New York chatting with cute gays on Instagram and Twitter DMs. When his plane landed back home in Michigan, he reluctantly switched to hookup apps like Grindr that are focused on proximity, not mutual likes. “If I message someone on IG now while at home, I usually dread explaining how I’m still in school,” Ruth tells MEL. “In NY, I don’t immediately need to think ‘download an app’ if I’m interested in dating or meeting someone or being flirty.”
No matter your avenue of sliding, there’s one rule that holds true: Make sure you’re not a creep. It’s not the platform of choice that says the most about you, it’s how well you take to rejection. “My favorite thing about the Twitter guys is when I say no, they always unfollow me,” Khatib says. If you hurt his ratio, you hurt any chance of meeting him IRL.