In the age of Instagram, flirtation has evolved into a more delicate art. Thanks to a bevy of dating apps and social media platforms, your crush’s phone is constantly being inundated with push notifications from potential suitors, which makes it impossible for you to stand out from the fray.
So how do you get bae’s attention this? You need to make a strong social media play. It requires a delicate balance of subtlety and shamelessness. Luckily for you, we got notable experts to deliver the ultimate guide to Instagram flirtation. Follow these simple steps and you’ll find yourself #taken in no time.
How to flirt on Instagram
1) Keep your selfies fresh
If Catfish has taught us anything, it’s that carefully curating your digital image is key to luring your beloved. Compose a siren song of snapshots that highlight your best features, and then filter the hell out of them. Since it’s likely that your crush will be clicking through from her Activity page to see who this mysterious liker is, make sure that your profile photo is as enticing in thumbnail as it is full-size.
Remember, there’s no shame in deleting a selfie if it doesn’t get the likes you were hoping for. You want to send a message that you are sought-after and highly desirable, so avoid tagging your photo with self-deprecating, unfunny hashtags. No one wants to date someone that refers to themselves as an #instagay or #singlelife. —Greg Seals
2) Thirst responsibly
There’s nothing more thirsty than liking a bunch of your crush’s photos in succession. While that kind of desperation might be helpful when you’re at a bar waiting for closing time to see what drunken mess you can drag home to bed, it is not going to help you get laid on Instagram. On social media, you have to “thirst responsibly,” as Bradley Stern, the editor of music blog MuuMuuse.com, puts it.
As journalist Marisa Kabas reminds us, Instagram liking is a balancing act. While you want to make your presence known to your crush, “there’s a very fine line between flirting and stalking, so you have to pick and choose your spots,” she suggests. I’d recommend liking anywhere from three to five photos, or else run the risk of having a restraining order filed against you. —G.S.
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3) Only like recent photos
Whether you’ve just followed someone or you’ve been lurking in his photos for quite some time, resist the urge to broadcast your presence by liking the first photos he posts to Instagram. Yes, it’s important to familiarize yourself with your future soulmate’s back catalog of pictures, but it’s imperative that your finger not slip while you’re scrolling, or risk looking too desperate. (See rule No. 2.)
When it comes to checking out your crush’s photo anthology, Amelia McDonell-Parry of the Frisky recommends what she refers to as the rule of “look, but don’t touch.” If you like a photo that’s more than six months old, she says, you might as well be announcing, “I drank a bottle of wine and spent my entire Saturday evening immersed in your Instagram feed, imaging our life together.” —G.S.
4) Send a message with selfies
I polled a wide range of both men and women on the topic of Instagram flirting, and if there’s one thing we could all unanimously agree on, it’s this: You must like your crush’s selfies.
But don’t limit yourself to solely liking your crush’s selfies. “ONLY liking selfies is kinda the Insta version of always complimenting someone on their looks, instead of their mind and talent,” says the Frisky’s McDonell-Parry. Win your crush’s affections by liking a few underappreciated photos that seem to speak to her interest, such as her love of dogs or the beach. —G.S.
5) Comments are key
Sure, you can go on an Instagram-liking spree till your thumbs are sore, but if you really want to make your intentions known, leave a comment on a photo. “A well-timed, clever comment is worth 1,000 likes,” Taylor Lorenz of the Hill tells us. But keep the comment simple. Even if you just post a funny emoji, the impact will still be the same.
With Instagram’s new update, you can show your appreciation by liking clever comments from your crush. This not only shows your approval, it encourages them to keep the flirtatious vibes coming your way.
While this might seem like a bold move, commenting will add a human element to your Instagram interactions, which tend to be brief and impersonal. If liking a photo is tossing a casual nod to the sultry vixen across the bar, then commenting on a photo is walking up and offering to buy her a drink. —G.S.
7) Create a story
Just like Snapchat, Instagram offers a cool feature that allows you to post pictures and videos as a “story,” and the feature is officially more popular than its rival. This is a great tool to use to show what you are doing throughout the day, in a more refined manner than flirting on Snapchat.
Posting a lot of selfies on your Instagram profile not only comes off as narcissistic, but it is pretty off-putting as well. The limit to selfies is endless when it comes to posting a story, so embrace how you look each day and take a selfie that will make any potential crush catch butterflies. If flaunting what you have isn’t typically your style, use stories to show your crush that you have things in common or are always bustling around town. —Kristen Hubby
8) Be careful with emoji
Sometimes it’s fun to let the emoji do the commenting for you, and with them, you can easily ramp up your affections. Commenting with one of the smiley faces is always a nice reaction, and as your relationship builds, adding in a thumbs up, raised hands, or fireworks can be encouraging and cute. If you want to make your intentions a bit more clear, using face with heart eyes or one of the kissing faces can get your point across. However, be sure to use them sparingly. Posting 14 emoji in a row will just make you look like a hyperactive teenager.
Also, be careful you don’t accidentally become too forward in your emoji flirtation. The eggplant, peach, cherries, and sweat all carry extremely sexual overtones, and some even use them to find porn on Instagram. So even if you’re just trying to say that the eggplant parm sandwich your crush posted looks nice, leave the eggplant emoji out of it. —G.S.
9) Wait for reciprocation
Much like oral sex, flirting on Instagram should be a mutually beneficial pursuit. If your crush isn’t following the breadcrumb trail of likes and comments you’ve been leaving them, then it might be time to take the hint. “Once you’re commenting with no reciprocation, you’ve crossed into straight-up fan mode,” says Bradley Stern, the editor of Idolator.
Social media is a public domain, so everyone knows who’s commenting on what posts all the time. “You don’t want to be that girl who keeps commenting on so-and-so’s posts,” Kabas warns. So if your crush isn’t responding to the tiny digital signals you’ve been sending out, it might be time to move on. —G.S.
10) Make it private
There are certain boundaries that have to be mutually, and respectively, crossed before taking your flirty messages behind closed doors. Sending private messages used to be restricted to text-only in direct messages, but now you can reply to stories and start a chat message from any Instagram post or by replying to their story.
(Side note: OK, so Miguel and I are definitely not flirting back-and-forth, and he almost certainly thinks I’m creepy since I’ve already commented about his cute cat, but you get the point here.)
Creating a private conversation between you and your crush can foster a mutual trust, and it can get you one step closer to your dreams of serving them breakfast in bed. —K.H.
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11) Keep it interesting
It’s to be expected that after a while of small talk, both parties face an ultimatum: Do we call it off or keep this conversation rolling?
If you really have a crush on this person, start asking questions that show you’re thinking about them: Where do they get their artistic eye? What inspires them to post? Or if they are pursuing a blogger-styled account, ask what their favorite brunch in the city is.
12) Send selfies
Instagram keeps updating its app, adding new features that will most likely influence users to learn toward the photo app instead of Snapchat. Instagram combined disappearing photos and videos into the Direct Message box, letting users send photos that disappear after you open them in the DMs.
This new feature opens the door for the flirtatious type to work their magic. Sending flirty selfies, or nudes if you are bold enough and it is consensual, will make your Insta-crush wish they could replay it over and over again. This will add a real-time effect to your Instagram flirting and make conversations more dynamic.
13) Do your research
If you want to have a fairytale romance with your Instagram crush that ends with the two of you posting selfies from your honeymoon in Mykonos, then you’re gonna have to do your homework. Be prepared to delve deeper into his Insta activity by seeing who’s consistently liking or commenting on his photos. That way, you can see if you have any competition.
But beware—the truth can be painful. “Look at who they’re following to see if they’ve liked other friend’s photo. If they’ve liked 30 party shots and ignored yours, well, you have your answer,” Lorenz warns. —G.S.
14) Take it offline
While cyberstalking can be fun, never lose sight of your end game. You want to end this digital tête-à-tête with your crush asking you out, so you can get dinner or drinks and sloppily suck face. If you’ve already established a relationship online, don’t be afraid to take things a step further. Send a private message and say hello, or become friends on Facebook or Snapchat. Everyone loves getting PMs, so it’s likely they’ll appreciate your friendly gesture. —G.S.
15) Don’t overthink it
Above all else, Instagram is fun and frivolous, and Instagram flirting is the same way. At the end of the day, flirting on Instagram is just like flirting IRL, and you don’t need to follow any of the above rules to capture the heart of the photogenic object of your affections. All you need to do is be your fabulous, flirty, emoji- and selfie-loving self and you two will be posting those Mykonos honeymoon photos in no time.
Need more help? Here’s how to clear your search history on Instagram and how to tell if someone blocked you on Instagram. You can also disconnect Facebook from Instagram or unblock someone. For more tips, see our ultimate beginner’s guide to Instagram.
Additional reporting by Jaya Saxena
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.