Is This Instagram Behavior Sketchy Or Chill?

Photographed by Rockie Nolan.
This story was originally published on March 23, 2017.
You've probably heard that "it goes down in the DM," but what is "it" and what exactly "goes down"? Trolling, sure, but also sometimes flirting. Look, you're probably going to use social media to research your online dating matches anyways, so if you like what you see, going straight for the DM just skips a step. But take caution, for this move isn't as simple as it seems: People are sensitive about their DMs, and sliding requires that your moves be smooth, so it demands a little more effort than just a double-tap or swipe right.
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Ilana*, 24, who lives in New York City, met her boyfriend because he slid into her Instagram DMs. As the story goes, she listed her Instagram handle in her Bumble dating profile, and he found and followed her. "He slid into my DMs like three times, but I didn't see them," Ilana says. She doesn't remember exactly what the messages said, but she thinks it was some form of "Hey" with the hugging emoji. "So finally I answered being like, 'Sorry I never check these things!' and we started chatting." They've been together for the past 10.5 months.
This low-lift, friendly message worked for Ilana's partner, but you could just figure out something that you both have in common and lead with that, says Michelle Hope, a sexologist in New York City. "Use their interests and align it with yours," she says. People put photos online so other people see (and comment, and like) them. DMing a photo of them at the finish line of a running race and asking, "Hey, I was running that race too, what was your time?" makes sense and shows you already have something fun in common.
One perk of DM-sliding is that you can skip a formal greeting, because the person can just look at your profile and see who you are, says Samantha Burns, LMHC, a dating relationships expert. "Just jump right into a comment or question," she says. Your thoughts about a link they tweeted or event they put on their Instagram story will make more of an impression than a generic, "Hey, what's up?" And if you want to send a sexy photo, just think about it before you do, Hope says. Even though basically everyone has and sends sexy photos, your recipient might not be expecting it from a total stranger right off the bat.
Barring the possibility of fate, Ilana's modern love story might have been successful because she and her partner are both pretty open and active on social media. Ilana used to model, and her partner has some 15K followers, so in a way it was sort of a game-recognize-game moment. "Knowing him now and looking back on it, it wasn't creepy at all," she says.
If your goal is an IRL meet-up, Hope recommends having three message exchanges before you ask them out, and be prepared for rejection. "I have to warn people that there's a probability this person [is dating] somebody, so you have to be upfront," she says. And even if you do meet up, they might not be exactly how you pictured them based on their social accounts, although that's a risk you take in any online dating scenario. And don't give away any more information than you would on your social profiles until you meet in person or feel comfortable enough with them, she adds.
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Ilana says she thinks DM-sliding can be better than "traditional" online dating, because her conversation with her boyfriend-to-be felt more organic and less stilted than it would have in the confines of a dating app. Was she creeped out? "It was def weird that he was so persistent, but that's just how he is with everything," she says. "But hey, look at us now." The moral: Always check your DMs; you never know who might slide in.
Here are a few phrases that will help you slide in.
*Name has been changed to protect her identity.
1 of 5

I was at this show, too! Were you able to get close to the stage?

Send it: when someone posts a concert video.

Why it works: It’s not creepy to tell someone you were at the same concert as them, especially if they posted a photo and tagged the location. You might have the same niche taste in music, and can plan your next concert trip together. If you weren't at that show, you can talk about another time you saw that band, or how you've been dying to see them live.
2 of 5

This looks heavenly. I’ve been meaning to try their drinks, were they any good?

Send it: in response to a food picture.

Why it works: It’s a straightforward hint that you would like to go back there and try their drinks… with them.
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3 of 5

Dying to know your perfect winged-eyeliner secrets.

Send it: to someone who posts a lot of makeup selfies.

Why it works: It’s not as direct as, "You are so pretty," but it still gets across the message that you admire the way they look — and want to keep talking about that.
4 of 5

So good! Did you get to see the original cast?

Send it: in response to a photo of a playbill.

Why it works: This question is also a compliment that shows that you share their interest, and perhaps might have a little more insider knowledge about theater than they do, which they will appreciate. It’s also a better question to start a conversation than just asking, "Was it good?"
5 of 5

LOL 😂 you always find the best memes!

Send it: after someone posts a funny meme.

Why it works: People like hearing that they’re funny. After you send this, they’ll start thinking about you and your equally sharp sense of humor.
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