It’s the holiday season, so of course we’re talking about incest.
Not since Parenthood co-stars Peter Krause and Lauren Graham announced they were dating have a pair of siblings (in their case, onscreen only) seemed so hot for each other. But the viral Instagram guessing game account Siblings or Dating is here to prove just how many real-life couples look like they’re screwing their relatives.
Siblings or Dating is an interactive Instagram filled with saccharine, innocent, user-submitted photos of two people. Through polls uploaded to its Stories, users guess each couple’s relationship. Are they siblings? Or are they dating? Most of the time, it’s hard to tell.
The account is a rebuttal to the cliche that opposites attract. And — sorry, gay men — it’s more fodder for boyfriend twins to keep dating their replica.
The man behind Siblings or Dating is Sam, who works in tech and requested to remain partially anonymous so this wouldn’t infringe on his job. He first launched the account as a Tumblr page and website in 2010 while bored at work. Siblings or Dating 1.0 lasted only a year, shuttering after he assumed a more time-consuming job.
A decade later, Sam restarted the account to once again pass time — this time in the pandemic and on Instagram. “I was really, like everyone, bored in quarantine and trying to stay connected to friends from afar,” he says.
Bolstered by a shoutout on the Australian radio show Carrie and Tommy in October, Siblings or Dating quickly turned into a viral hit after launching in July. Today, the account has over a half million followers, and each poll shared on Instagram Stories garners about 150,000 votes on average. The enviable growth on Instagram is an anomaly in a year where TikTok became the main social media app for building a large following. “With the polls, stories and photo-based layout, it just felt good on Instagram,” Sam says.
Siblings or Dating’s success comes at a time when faux-incest porn is impossible to avoid. But its popularity on Instagram is partly a result of a leisure-gaming community prospering across social networks. (Even Google Docs — the most rudimentary digital watering hole — now houses a three-part virtual escape room.) Sam says he received a bump in users after TikToker Christian Hull, known for guessing paint samples, posted a video guessing a couple’s relationship as screenshotted from Siblings or Dating.
Instagram may well be the new bar trivia night. You can guess which celebrity is sparking anonymous gossip, troll friends with old photos and memories and debate whether the pair at the table next to you are siblings or fucking. “That’s what’s really fun” about running his account, Sam says: “Coming back after a few hours to see if the results are posted on a poll.”
Then again, Siblings or Dating’s key to success might simply be that everyone knows someone who is dating their duplicate — or a set of siblings who are just a bit too friendly. Since 1987, scientists have studied couples looking more alike over time. “You’re familiar with your own appearance, so seeing other people who share those similar sorts of traits might lead to more liking for that reason,” social psychologist Justin Lehmiller told Time last year. However, nearly every photo on Siblings or Dating is close to a 50-50 split, suggesting that we really have no basis for making logic of attraction.
Even a photo of popular influencer couple Alex Warren and Kouvr Annon resulted in 49 percent of users saying they’re siblings. It’s also a testament to the vast generational differences in who constitutes a well-known celebrity today. “Even though [my millennial and Zoomer followers] may be 10 or 15 years apart, the celebrities they know seem very different,” Sam says.
What generations Y and Z do have in common is a propensity for turning Instagram into speed dating. “Instagram is arguably the best dating app,” Sam says. Thirst traps are now kosher to post on public accounts followed by both crushes and coworkers, and most dating apps encourage an Instagram link to prove you’re not a bot. It’s not unfathomable to imagine finding your boyfriend on an account like Sam’s — and learn that 750 people think he’s already dating his brother.
In fact, comments flood nearly every post on Siblings or Dating with questions like, “Is [hot sibling] single?”
Thirst comments are so common that Sam set up an Instagram Memory titled Date These Sibs. With permission from the lusted-after siblings, Sam encourages his followers to slide into their DMs. He says one couple are already planning to meet in Florida before New Year’s for their first date.
What started as a simple hobby to pass time is turning into a matchmaking service. Still, Sam never expected to become an expert on love and weird family dynamics. “I feel more confused than when I started,” he says. “It seems like opposites attract — but also some people like to French their doppelgängers.”