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Gen Z Is Choosing Instagram Flirting Over Dating App Swiping. Here’s How to Find Success

7 minute read

If you’re dating and haven’t found any success on the endless dating apps in the App Store, you may want to consider joining the group of singles using Instagram as a replacement. DMing (direct messaging) on the social platform—with over 1 billion monthly users—isn’t new, but young people are now using it, and Instagram’s newer app features, to find better dating success than from traditional dating apps.

These Instagram users are not alone– successful celebrity couples like Joe Jonas and Sophie Turner, and Simone Biles and Jonathan Owens, haven’t shied away from the fact they’ve connected via the platform’s DMs. Even Meghan Markle wouldn’t have become royalty had her friend not posted an Instagram photo of Markle that caught the attention of her now-husband, Prince Harry.

Shooting your shot in the DMs can seem daunting, so here are some tips for flirting and dating via Instagram, according to the Gen Z users finding success with it.

How to flirt and date on Instagram

Joy Ofodu, a content creator and host of podcast Dating Unsettled who often gives dating advice to her over 200,000 followers, believes the best way to approach Instagram flirting is to first try and discern whether or not they’re single.

While Instagram may not give someone immediate confirmation on a potential mutual interest, like a dating app can, profiles can serve as an indicator of someone’s relationship status, similar to the days of updating your dating status on Facebook. Now, for many, posting your partner on Instagram, even if just a “soft launch,” is the go-to for letting your followers (or those lurking on your page) know where things stand with your dating life.

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If you’re still not sure after perusing their page, feel free to ask for clarity via a DM, but be sure to ask respectfully, says Ofodu. When shooting a DM, be friendly, and if the person is receptive, ask directly in a way that can potentially lead to a real-world connection— whether it be a FaceTime call or an in-person date. And if it doesn’t work out the first time, don’t get discouraged. “Be persistent until you hear no and if you hear no, backup quickly and keep shooting elsewhere,” she says.

But traditional DMing isn’t the only way to use Instagram for dating. For Dave Ramirez, a 24-year-old barista in Atlanta, GA., using the app’s new “Notes” feature (think AOL’s AIM status circa early 2000’s) is his bait for conversation starters. Posting a brief status on how you’re feeling or a question prompt can take the pressure off of a cold-call message, and get someone who is already following you that you may be crushing on to engage in conversation.

Some of Ramirez’s other Instagram flirting techniques require more strategy. If you want to get to know someone specifically, he suggests you add them on your Instagram’s “close friends” list, a separate section of people that have access to more private content. When added, those select followers can assume they’re a bit more special than the rest of the person’s followers only getting main-feed content. Then deliberately post a photo or message that you think will grab that person’s attention, knowing that they will likely see it and potentially “swipe up” with a message. So far, it’s been successful. “It may sound crazy, but it works like a dream,” he says.

Patricia Blanton, a 26-year-old archivist in Los Angeles, CA., also adds people she’s interested in to her close friends list, but one of her favorite hacks is flirting with newer features like liking Instagram stories. “It’s an easy way to show someone that you’re interested,” she says. Blanton is not alone. Over two billion story likes are sent on Instagram daily, according to an Instagram rep.

Raul Martinez, 24, from Washington State, has been on nearly 20 dates via Instagram DM’s and recommends you use people’s Instagram’s profiles as a means to gauge whether your interests and personalities would align. Martinez believes it’s a better gauge than from a simple “match” on a dating app. “I use Instagram to share moments of my life, from fun experiences to my hobbies, so it sets up a good base for someone to see if we’d be a good fit to go on a date together.”

And if you’re still looking to find connections in-person, Instagram flirting can still be for you. Consider asking for someone’s Instagram’s handle before asking for a phone number, says Ramirez. If they have an active profile, it’ll tell you way more about the person than an individualized text will.

Why young people are gravitating towards dating on Instagram

The majority of Gen Z and millennials are online, so it’s no surprise they’ve taken their dating life to the internet. According to Instagram’s 2023 trend report, more than half of Gen Z social media users feel more comfortable being vulnerable online and over text than in person. The hashtag #love is Instagram’s most-used hashtag of all time, with more than 2 billion uses.

But as much as Gen Z and millennials are online, a survey conducted by data collectors Singles Reports found that nearly 80% of the individuals surveyed were experiencing fatigue and emotional burnout from online dating. The burn out may be paving the way for more people to go back to social media platforms, like Instagram, to find more authentic connections. As much as some people may have fallen off of the Instagram bandwagon and joined the TikTok takeover, it’s still one of the most popular apps, and its newer features, like updating your “notes” status, or liking Instagram stories, has become an easier way to flirt and date than the usual Tinder or Hinge, according to users.

Ofodu was experiencing dating app burnout herself. In the span of two years, Ofodu swiped on over 3,000 dating profiles and went on more than 20 first dates. A year ago, she saw her now-partner on a dating app, but instead of just swiping right and sending a message on the app, she saw their Instagram handle on their profile and decided to send a first message on there instead. They’ve been dating since.

“I thought that if I hit him up on there, I would more likely get a response and we would be able to have a bit more of a lively conversation,” she says.

For Barista Ramirez, 24, using Instagram was once just a means of keeping tabs on friends. Now it’s his go-to app for getting to know potential dating prospects and setting up dates. The reason for his preference: people’s profiles can tell more than a handful of photos and prompts on a dating app profile. Ofodu agrees, “Instagram paints a bit more of a rich picture of the world that this person lives and operates in.”

For those who may prefer to meet someone IRL (in real life), consider that your next love interest may just be a DM away. “Ultimately you are trying to meet up, so use Instagram as an avenue to get to know somebody,” says Ofodu. “You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

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Write to Mariah Espada at mariah.espada@time.com