‘Hi, I followed you from Tinder. Want to meet?’ -does flirting on Instagram work?

Instagram text message

I recently made an Instagram account for this blog, as part of my incredibly gradual takeover of social media (I doubt Zuckerberg and the Kardashians are worried). It seemed like a fun way to make small, quick and silly posts, find some new readers and participate in a 3 second, highly visual culture. There are also a lot of beautiful, original images on any topic imaginable.

Unicornhuntingblog at Instagram

I’ve found a new social phenomenon here, much more so than on other social media – the tendency for people to follow you home.

Guys are visually thirsty on a zombie level
James, 23

Although it’s easy for anyone to message me on the blog, email me, Twitter message or find the Facebook page, there have only been a few declarations of love via these media. Following to Instagram from Tinder and other dating apps seems to be pretty prolific, however. I’m not blowing my own horn here: I’ve heard the same from a lot of women.

Dark hooded figure

Don’t get me wrong. We are flattered. To a certain point, it might be even considered romantic. The problem is this: it’s like going to a speed dating event, where you are prepared for it and chat with everyone in a consensual way. You finish, head off alone. Then a stranger sees you on the bus and follows you home. Knocks at your door, and asks you out.

Polaroid frame in scenery

I’m probably left feeling less exposed than most by this: after all, my Instagram exists specifically to promote the blog and book. People with a personal Instagram that they have (perhaps thoughtlessly) connected to a dating app and not set to private shows a great deal more of their life than they might normally share straight away with an absolute stranger.

This is point one: the approach via this route leaves us feeling unprepared and exposed.

Eagle hunting

Point two is the imbalance of information. You have seen us, read our profile. Seen our pictures. Know a bit about us and what we are looking for. In my particular case, you’ve had the option to read through all the blogs and the book about my adventures, thoughts, troubles and bizarre sex life for the last six years. If you’ve taken the time and had the inclination, you may have come to feel you know me quite well. Built an image of a person in your mind.

Woman in ballgown

We have not had that. When an instagrammer messages us to date (or hook up; the intention is rarely clarified), there is no background. Usually not even a profile picture. All we have to go on at this point is an IG name and a load of landscape pictures. Are you even in the same country?

Talking basic pickup theory, as can be found in works such as The Game by Neil Strauss or The Pick Up Game by Robert King, there is a step missing. Before trying to ‘close’, or even work up to getting ‘indicators of interest’, one must establish personal value, and get your prospect to attempt to demonstrate value as well. Otherwise, you have no status in their eyes.


Asking someone out, cold, on Instagram is trying to skip forward past all these vital steps. We don’t know you from Adam. We aren’t generally so desperately lonely and devoid of interest as to accept such an invitation from a complete stranger. It says that we have already won you over. That we don’t need to demonstrate value. Whereas you’ve done nothing as yet to demonstrate value to us- to gain our interest, toy with us, flirt. Make us feel like we want to work to deserve your interest.

Woman chasing a man

Point three is that it feels like a violation of our right to choose. Not quite up there with a random dick pic (although I’ve also been sent these via private message- thanks boys. Your mothers must be so proud), but nonetheless.

The option to swipe left without fear of consequences makes the dating world feel much easier. It’s like scrolling through e-bay. Nobody has to be faced, no hurt feelings, no explanations. No guilt. When you break down this barrier to approach us directly where we live, as a stranger, it can feel like an invasion of our personal space. You say ‘Here I am! Why won’t you meet me?’

The answer is usually:

A) I don’t know you

B) Wow that went from 0 to 60 in no seconds

C) You seem to not respect implicit social boundaries, which makes me think you might be a dangerous person to meet. A heightened sense of entitlement never bodes well.

Paper robot with broken heart

Much like the cold calling of robot PPI salesmen, we get these messages pop up throughout the day, without explanation, and an expectant tone that we ought to comply. Why wouldn’t we?

Much as I am flattered by your attention, my collective Instagram suitors, I cannot pursue dating you all. Saying ‘Well what do you want to know?’ When I tell you I don’t know you isn’t very helpful. There isn’t any one simple fact that will make me decide whether or not I wish to brave the dangers any woman faces in the world to come out and meet a stranger, spend time and money on doing so and invest my thought and emotion in the preamble chat involved.

Dark street

Even worse is when I’ve been followed back and messaged there when the prospective suitor has read nothing: not the book, not the blog. Not even my profile. You’ve followed me based on a picture and haven’t the slightest idea of who I am or what I might be looking for. If all you like is the pictures, feel free to follow on Instagram, but don’t worry about trying to meet the real person. The image and the reality will never be the same.

Have I ever met someone who messaged me as a mystery Instagram suitor? Yes. Once. Because I matched with them a few weeks later on the app they’d first found me on.

Woman at dinner with wine

So have a little patience, my baby ducklings. If you are chosen, it is worth the wait. If it’s a swipe left, bypassing the facade of security the app system provides will not turn your answer from a no to a yes. It will just make it an awkward no, which is harder for you to hear and for me to say. I’m actually not a fan of hurting people’s feelings. There is probably absolutely nothing wrong with you- you just aren’t quite my type for some random reason, I’m not offering what you want or I’m just not in the mood to privately entertain you by chat while I’m at work, seeing friends, navigating public transport or otherwise trying to lead my surprisingly unglamorous daily life. It’s pointless to force a meet and waste both our time.

Man holding flowers

If you really must bypass the system? Be aware that you are a stranger at the door. Come softly. Show your face. Tell me everything I would have seen in your profile from the app you found me on. Tell me why you have messaged, and what it is you are hoping for from me. Take the time to establish your value in my eyes, and wait for indications of interest from me. Do this and I promise I won’t follow you to your place of work, face hooded and silent, and tell you to come meet me in the dark.

See? That would be weird, wouldn’t it?

Happy hunting my baby ducklings xxx

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  1. Oh I’m loving this, yes, loving it! You have once again rather eloquently written what so many of us think. I personally thoroughly enjoyed online dating, but it was a steep learning curve, but I am nothing if not a quick learner. I discovered pretty s artist what I truly wanted and what I valued in a person. The one notable point that I found was that despite online dating being a quick, easy and modern way of meeting people in the same boat, for me, there were some men who thought that this therefore permitted them to bypass the old fashioned ‘wooing’ (for want of a better word), practices. I personally wanted a little gentle and delicate flirting, to have some understanding of that person and for them to understand me a little too before I was willing to give them even my telephone number. I had value on myself and was not one to be handing over pictures of my naked body in order to attempt to entice them. I wanted someone who was after all of me, and not just my body. If however all I had wanted was a quick fling with a complete stranger then fine, but for me, that was not the case, to say nothing of the safety aspect. I like to be able to respect a person, know that they have value and for them to respect and understand my own value too.
    I love this subject and clearly could write about it ad infinitum, but suffice to say, fabulous post. Thank you. Katie x

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