Do you (successfully) slide into DMs?
Anouszka Tate slides into the tricky world of DMs this week. And by 'tricky' we of course mean 'near-total shit show'...
They say it goes down in the DMs, but ‘it’ can mean just about anything.
‘It’ can mean genuine emotional downloads, unsolicited dick pics, or beautiful beginnings of lasting relationships.
Here are some DMs that strangers have posted through my virtual letterbox recently to illustrate the full gamut of what ‘it’ can mean:
“I saw you on tinder lol”
“Sorry for the random message, just saw your profile and wanted to say hi. Have you got anything planned this week? No worries if you’d rather not chat.”
“You’d love my cock”
“OMG hahaha I’ve never met anyone else who loves this film as much as I do, you legend!”
5.21pm “I said hey”
9.45pm “Fuck you then just trying to be nice bitch”
2.01am “Wow you’re really not gonna reply haha knew you were a slut anyway”
4.58pm “What you up to?”
I’ll let you mull over which of those you might consider replying to, which you’d innocently forget were there, and which would make you feel extremely unsafe.
I love social media; for all its shortcomings it can be a brilliant place to connect with likeminded people you might not otherwise get the opportunity to meet. Real relationships – platonic, and romantic – can flourish. But because dating isn’t the point of social media, it can feel incredibly invasive when a stranger barges into your Instagram / Twitter / LinkedIn / eBay inbox demanding attention you don’t want to give.
(I wish I was joking about the latter two, but alas, nothing is sacred.)
DMs are currently the Wild West of the internet, but there is such a thing as a successful DM slide …we just need to apply a bit of common sense about real world social etiquette to the internet.
Now I’m afraid in order to reach the info on what to do to achieve Successful DM Slide status, we first have to tackle the things we absolutely should not do, so do humour me while I cruelly whip any magic and romance out of this procedure. Will try to restore it later.
The single most important thing to ask yourself before you hit ‘send’ on anything on the internet ever is “how would this translate in real life?” That’s honestly the only rule. Would you say this, or do this, in real life?
Would you flash someone as they left their house? No? Huh, interesting. Then why are you sending a dick pic when no one asked for it?
It follows, then, that you should start with public interaction to gauge initial interest.
In real life you’d spot someone at a party, at the gym, or at that musty but inexplicably romantic book shop on the corner and you’d read their behaviour. You’d look for social clues from their facial expressions and body language that they’re encouraging you to approach. Following, liking and commenting on someone’s public post and watching for a reciprocal action is the internet equivalent. Have they followed you back? Have they replied to your comment? Have they ventured on to your profile to like your latest #transformationtuesday pic?
Public interaction allows time for a base level of familiarity to form, making the object of your online affection more comfortable that they have a sense of who you are by the time you appear in the much more intimate, private DM space.
On that point, you’re more likely to get a reply if you have a public rather than a private profile. Imagine the absurdity of someone turning up at your door wearing a balaclava and casually asking you what your plans are for the weekend. Your recipient has just received a message they didn’t ask for; they at least have the right to know who sent it.
By all means set your profile to private if that’s your own personal boundary, but it’s unfair of you to expect someone to offer up information about themselves to what is essentially a teeny tiny fuzzy blob of a photo.
Another thing that’s unfair is just saying “hi”. You might think I’m being unfair with this rule, but I have your best interests at heart. “Hi” doesn’t start a conversation. It puts all responsibility for any ensuing conversation on to the person who didn’t ask for the conversation in the first place. With the best will in the world, replying might just be a bit too much effort. If you want someone to bite, you’ve got to give them a bit of bait to work with.
A sexual comment doesn’t count as said bait, by the way. An observation about someone’s physical appearance – no matter how authentic – is another conversational dead end. You might get a ‘thank you’, but that’ll probably be the extent of the interaction.
Plus, sex chat is sex.
Sex – both physical and digital – requires consent and respect. Sliding into the DMs with “nice thighs” is no different to shouting it out a car window at someone trying to go about their day. What exactly would you like me to do with this information, good sir? Has anyone in the history of humanity thought “gosh he seems like a stand up guy, I’ll hop straight in that car fully believing this will be the beginning of a magical love affair”?
As in real life, no means no. No reply means no. No does not mean find a thesaurus and repeat your initial point using different words. No does not mean become more explicit because maybe they just don’t realise exactly what it is they’ll be missing out on. No certainly does not mean resort to threats in a desperate attempt to retain some semblance of power.
Try to take what you’re perceiving as rejection like a champ by remembering it’s most likely not personal. They haven’t looked at your profile and thought “GOOD HEAVENS NO, NOT WITH THOSE EYEBROWS PAL!” It’s just that ‘do normal working day’, ‘call mum’, and ‘buy housemate’s birthday present’ are all higher on their priority list than ‘conjure up witty reply to stranger who said “hi” on the internet’.
So then, how to start a successful slide… (I promised you we’d get here eventually).
If at all possible, reply to a story rather than sending unsolicited messages. The benefits of the humble story reply are threefold. Firstly, it allows you to test their level of interest while minimising your chance of feeling rejected if there’s no reply.
You might not be entirely sure of their sexuality or relationship status, but the tone of their reply will indicate how they want the interaction to proceed. (This is putting the ball in their court in a good way).
Secondly, you’re making your own life easier because bam! There’s your conversation starter!
And thirdly, it instantly makes it clear that you’ve paid attention to this person and the stuff they’re interested in (the ultimate compliment) rather than doing a generic copy and paste jobby.
That’s the key: engage with this person. Not just One Of Many Fit People On Instagram, but This Particular Person.
A person’s social media presence is a visual and / or written illustration of their lifestyle. You have an inordinate wealth of easy bait available to you. If you truly believe there’s a relationship waiting in the wings here, it’ll be because something about their values and interests resonated with yours.
That’s your in.
When they post a photo of themselves out on a weekend walk, ask if they have any local trail recommendations. When they tweet their opinion about a band’s new album, reply with your own thoughts. When they story their puppy getting confused by the Amazon Echo, share the weird thing your dog does.
All these conversation starters are super low-key, and provide an easy focus that keeps the flow going. You’re not demanding a stranger open up to you about their darkest fears or deepest desires, neither are you expecting them to conjure chat out of thin air. By sharing a bit of yourself, you’re inviting them to do the same, and so it goes on.
Geeking out over a shared interest is where DMs can feel like a far more organic way of establishing a relationship than a dating app, where the elephant in the room is always going to be that you both know you have deliberate intentions here.
Just remember though that social media can give us a false sense that we truly know this person, and that can make you feel closer to someone than you actually are. You might have been following your crush for months – you know how they like their coffee, the way their cat paws at the sofa for attention, and that they’re waiting on a delivery of a new wardrobe …but they don’t know you at all.
You wouldn’t approach a celebrity on the street and expect them to know your nan’s birthday because you know theirs. Don’t demand too much too soon. Start conversations gently, and give as much of yourself as you’re expecting of them …just like IRL, really.
This needs to be a mutually pleasurable experience; I want to help answer your questions too. What are you confused, curious, or concerned about? Ask me a question in the comments below or on my Instagram page (yes, this is me giving you explicit permission to slide into my DMs), and I’ll do my best to answer in my next column!
Photography by Max Budny.
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