Illustration via Max Fleishman (Licensed)
Flirting can be difficult all on its own, but flirting with someone digitally through a messaging app with photos and videos that disappear after a few seconds can be downright frustrating. Once synonymous with sexting, Snapchat has evolved into a stalwart in our app arsenal, leaving behind its reputation as a tool used strictly to send salacious snaps.
Still, as with any digital social space, we want to engage with our crushes, partners, or perhaps even strangers in flirtatious ways. The unspoken rules or standards of how exactly to execute and interpret those behaviors are malleable and can vary on different platforms.
Because Snapchat is so fleeting and encourages sharing in the moment as opposed to crafted images that live on the internet forever, snapping can be a playful, creative way to get your flirt on.
Take the perfect selfie
Playboy sex columnist and comedian Bridget Phetasy knows how to take a perfect selfie, and she's sent plenty of flirtatious photos.
Sending a selfie to someone is like saying "Hey, I look cute for you." Snapchat's camera and lenses are clutch for selfie-taking and you're probably already sending your best photos to the person you're trying to flirt with—but you might be doing it wrong.
Phetasy said that a crucial mistake people make when trying to take a selfie is they look at themselves instead of into the camera. It looks narcissistic if you're looking at yourself in a mirror or very obviously at your phone screen, she said. The subject of an appropriate flirtatious selfie should be the person receiving it, not the one taking it.
"You’re taking a selfie for someone else," she said in an interview with the Daily Dot. "It should look like someone else is taking it, not you. And try and keep the camera out of the shots." Like all good selfie-takers, Phetasy knows her best angles and said that a photo angled down is usually more flattering for women.
Flirtatious selfies can be seductive or playful, and if you are being more frisky than flirty, don't reveal yourself all at once, she said, and be creative. And absolutely make sure your mirror is clean if it's going to be in the photo.
Successful flirting isn't all about what's in the photo, either. A piece of advice from the woman who's written a comprehensive guide to sexting? "Learn how to take photos with your non-dominant hand," she said.
Snapchat is unique in that it's possible to send people content both personally and publicly through private snaps and public stories. Flirting via private chat is naturally more intimate, but because you don't know who else is getting the particular snap, it can often be confusing.
Is this person actually flirting with me?
If you are sending flirtatious snaps to someone special, make it obvious in the snap that the content was meant just for them, either through a caption or accompanying text chat—otherwise, they might think the photo you sent was also sent to other people in your contacts, thus placing them squarely in friend-zone territory.
Former Miss Ireland and lifestyle blogger Holly Carpenter published a helpful guide translating flirtatious snaps—what the caption says versus what the caption really means. And while they're certainly not hard and fast rules for each and every snap, Carpenter humorously and helpfully shows how people can send and interpret flirty photos and videos without being totally obvious.
For instance, you might send a snap that says "Just made this!" with a photo of tonight's dinner. That actually means "I can cook, which is a desirable skill to have in a partner!" And of course captioning a photo with "singles night!" alerts your love interest that you're want to be exposed* available.
There is one rule that you should never, ever break, especially when flirting: Don't be that person who snaps a snap privately and also adds it to your Snapchat story. No one likes to be on the receiving end of a snap that they'll see in your story later.
Flirting with stories
The ultimate Snapchat love story blossomed through the public feed of the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Snapchat. A female student saw a handsome guy in the library, and added a public message to the university's story, hoping somehow it would find its way to him.
Miraculously it did; and they commenced a playful back and forth that roped in the entire campus to help the modern day Romeo and Juliet—Vikings Fan and Mystery Girl—find each other.
Though their relationship grew in an unusual way, stories can be used to show your crush, and the rest of your audience, that you're interested in that special someone.
If you're close enough to the person you're flirting with, add something to your story that only they would understand, like an inside joke or a nod to a conversation you had earlier. You can also take Mystery Girl's lead and add something to a public story, though there's less of a chance your intended recipient will see it.
Private snaps are usually used for flirting on Snapchat, but posting on your story with encrypted messages could add some spice to your flirting game. It also might also draw in a new candidate, too.
Slide into the DMs
Pictures are great and all, but as long as you and your love interest have a streak going on, sending a private message can be equally effective. But when flirting with Chats, it's important to keep a few rules in mind.
Do not use Chats as an alternative form of texting. Chats are there for quick flirtatious messages, like “Oh, I like that” or “You aren’t too bad, I guess (wink face)”—not as a way to actually get to know someone. When the conversation gets too long, be assertive and ask to take the conversation to a local coffee shop or bar.
Snapchat tells people when someone takes a screenshot of snaps. And because the whole point of Snapchat is that communication is fleeting, screenshotting can feel like a violation of a social contract, and it could turn off the person you're communicating with. If you want to see a photo for more than 10 seconds, and you feel like the relationship has reached a level of appropriate comfort—then ask for one.
No one wants an unsolicited dick pic. No one. Don't do it. I promise, no matter how good you think you look, sending one without being asked is inappropriate and unwanted.
Phetasy also notes that with Snapchat flirting—and sexting in general—you shouldn't share something with someone via digital services that you wouldn't want to be exposed to other people.
You should also recognize and understand boundaries. Flirting in person is often unwanted, and the same extends to Snapchat. If someone tells you they're not interested, respect that decision.
If seriously flirting just isn't your thing, you might want to check out Bustle's advice and stick to silly faces and selfie lenses. Ultimately, flirting on Snapchat should be fun and not stressful—if you're overthinking your snap stories or stressing about whether your crush gets it, then try being more straightforward about your feelings. Rejection might last longer than 10 seconds, but at least you won't be wasting any more of your time.
Looking for more help? Check out our guide for the best Snapchat hacks, tips, tricks, and secret functions.
Additional reporting by Kristen Hubby
Editor's note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.