a guide to sliding into people's dms without being a creep

Including a handy checklist.

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May 29 2018, 8:44am

In 2018, posting a GIF of a panda on a slide with the caption "me --> your DMs" is passé. On the internet, another week means another meme. But this doesn't mean single folks have stopped sending a speculative Direct Message to the odd person, whose profile pic they kinda like the look of -- after all, few of us are completely immune to thirst. But at the same time, it feels as though we still haven't resolved whether sliding into someone’s DMs is actually OK or not.

As a gay guy who still slides, let's say more than occasionally, the situation should be less complicated for me. Unless I'm completely let down by my “gaydar” or whatever you want to call it (remember when people outside of second-rate sitcoms actually used that word?), I'm only going to DM someone of the same gender who's also sexually attracted to guys. So we're starting off on a level playing field -- neither one of us has more power or agency than the other, right?

Erm, wrong. There are so many different ways in which the balance of power can tip one way or the other. What if I'm conspicuously older (no shade, please), wealthier or have more privilege than the person I'm DMing? I have a blue tick on Twitter, but not on Instagram -- does this mean I should slide more cautiously on one than the other? And what if the person I'm DMing is less single than his social media persona would suggest, or just isn't interested in dating right now? What if he's a survivor of sexual assault, who could potentially be triggered by an unwanted romantic advance, however well-meaning? The more you think about it, the more sliding into someone's DMs seems like a potential minefield.

Many of us have enjoyed a fling or hot one-night-stand after thinking, "Fuck it" and sending a message to that low-key cutie who always posts hilarious Drag Race screen-grabs.

But at the same time, a shameless slide can work well for both parties. I know people from across the gender and sexuality spectrum who've met long-term partners on social media. Two guys I follow, met through Twitter and are now engaged. Another couple I know, Elliott and Thom, began hooking up after Thom slid into Elliott’s Instagram DMs one hungover Sunday morning. “It became quite obvious after our second meeting that we actually really liked each other and now we’re in an open relationship,” Elliott says. “And for me, telling people we met on Instagram is no different to saying we met on a dating app like Tinder.”

Most of us have enjoyed a fun fling or hot one-night-stand after thinking, "Fuck it" and sending a message to that low-key cutie who always posts hilarious Drag Race screen-grabs. “I’ve slid in a few people’s DMs after making sure we’re both thinking the same thing,” says an acquaintance called Manos. “But I’d never slide into a total random’s DMs because you just don’t know how they might react.” Obviously, we've all heard horror stories, too. One guy I met up with after he slid into my Twitter DMs, turned out not to be the sweet Britney stan I expected. He was actually a full-on scary Tory that wanted an ideological debate about Brexit before either of us even thought about pulling out of the other.

And actually, it makes sense that we tend to fancy people we follow. Though our social media networks are potentially limitless, in practice they're constricted by our own tastes and interests. Don't pretend you haven't spotted someone fit on a friend's Instagram feed, then hit "Follow" as soon as you realised your mate was thoughtful enough to tag them. Let's be real, Antoni from Queer Eye doesn't have 935,000 Instagram followers just because he shows us how to make boeuf bourguignon on his Story.

When you do slide, show some respect: Don't send a nude -- it's aggressive and lots of people use their social accounts for work.

On Twitter, the situation is broadly similar but a little less basic. Over time, we tend to build feeds that relate to various aspects of our identity -- that's why we're seeing more references to "queer Twitter", "black Twitter", "media Twitter" and so on. And because many of us have such crowded feeds these days, it's increasingly hard for an individual to stand out. The ones who do are probably the ones we'd actually enjoy spending time with IRL.

So, is it right or wrong to slide into someone's DMs? The answer is probably that it depends on the situation. If you're thinking of trying a slide, think twice before you actually do it.

Here's a quick check list: Why am I DMing this person? Will they actually appreciate the attention? Is there potential, judging from things they've posted in the past, that I could offend them in some way? Pick up on clues. If someone follows you on Instagram, then swiftly likes three of your thirstiest pictures, including the one you only shared because it hints at the curve of your ass, they’re probably open to the idea of getting a winky emoji in their inbox. Equally, if you find yourself liking and replying to loads of someone's tweets, and they're doing the same to you, they probably won't mind you taking the conversation to DMs.

When you do slide, always show some respect: Don't send a nude -- it's aggressive and lots of people use their social accounts for work. Don't be too forward -- begin the conversation by asking about the mutual interest you've already connected over. If someone stops replying, or doesn't reply to begin with, take the hint. And whatever you do, don't poke someone on Facebook, because no one wants to be poked on Facebook any more. In 2018, I'd rather tell my parents that I met my future husband on kink app Recon than because he poked me on Facebook.

Oh, and if you enjoyed this piece, feel free to slide into my DMs on Twitter or Instagram. As long as you're not a scary Tory, obviously. Or a secret Ed Sheeran fan -- I’ll block you for that.