I Use Instagram like Tinder

Why swipe right when you can like and DM instead?


I’m addicted to Instagram. When I’m eating alone, taking breaks at work, waiting for a train, before I fall asleep, when I wake up, I’m scrolling through Instagram. I looked at the app at least five times while writing this article alone. I use the app so frequently that I can even estimate the number of likes a particular picture will get on my feed.

Instagram is a visual world. While Facebook is used to share memes and memories, Instagram exists to show people the vacations you went on, the books you’re reading, and the cafes you’re eating at. It portrays who you are and what you’re up to, without getting too personal. It’s also a good way of knowing how people perceive their own worlds.

Finding people who are interested in the same things as you is fairly easy on Instagram; it’s a smart app that way. The second icon on the bar at the bottom of the app holds the door to a world of possibilities – I’m talking about the Explore page. I have spent hours on my Explore page looking at pictures that my friends have liked.

This is how I have ended up following accounts of friends of friends, liking their pictures, and eventually getting to know them, if you know what I mean. It’s like going to a party with a friend as their plus one. You don’t know anyone at the party, but you get introduced to everyone there. And chances are you might find someone cute.

As someone who recently went through a breakup, I don’t feel comfortable about joining Tinder. It is difficult to explain to people exactly why. I don’t feel “single” enough, and I have never been too keen about the very concept of the app. This is partly because of the horror stories I have heard from friends who do use Tinder. They’ve all mentioned how awkward and forced the initial conversations can be. They’ve also complained about how those chats can never really tell you enough about the person you will meet.

Instagram, on the other hand, makes this part of the dating process a lot simpler. When you begin following someone, it’s assumed that you chose to follow them because you found them or their photographs interesting. You don’t have to ask them how they spend their free time or what they like doing; all you need to do is go through their feed! Although a lot of people do start conversations with statements like “Nyc pics dear” or “R u single”, you can choose to be subtle and say “Hey, that dog in your Story is so cute! Is it yours?” and invite yourself home to pet the dog, of course.

Unlike Tinder, where most conversations begin immediately after you match someone, you can take it nice and slow on Instagram. For example, I began talking to one person a whole year after we started following each other. The result is that when we connected, we knew quite a bit about each other and it felt like I was speaking to a close friend. There’s something oddly comforting about being able to tell someone, who for all intents and purposes is a stranger, about what is pissing you off. And what makes this even better is that they understand exactly what you have to say.

A few of the people I have met through this app reached out to me because they like how I write. At parties, I usually hear statements like, “Oh, you’re a writer! You must be a romantic too!” or more off-putting lines like “Your work must be so easy!” Guys I don’t meet on Instagram either romanticise my job or demean it. Guys on Instagram take the effort to read my work and take an interest in it.

But I don’t just use Instagram for casual hookups. One of the guys Instagram introduced me to happens to live in a city far away from mine. We’ve never met, but we feel an undeniable fondness for each other. We bond over books, movies, and the cities we live in. In a lot of ways, it is like an old-school romance because it feels like we’re writing letters rather than instant messages.

That’s the beauty of Instagram – you don’t have to define relationships or draw lines. You can leave words unsaid or revel the in-between-ness that comes with flirting and fun conversation.

There is one disadvantage of Instagram, though. I cannot count the number of times I have found someone hot and later realised that they’re in a relationship or married. The good part is that I decide to break the ice by saying things like, “I love the photographs you take!” rather than “How are you so beautiful to look at!”