Say what you will about Instagram and its overly curated, humblebrag-conducive platform, but the app has definitely informed the way people respond to visual cues and interact with members of the opposite sex. Unlike Facebook or Twitter, there’s rarely any overt IG beef—there is instead the subtle but deliberate erasure, caption alteration, and/or unfollowing of the other party (à la Taylor Swift and Calvin Harris).
Now, while society is in near-unanimous agreement that Mark Zuckerberg needs to get his shit together integration-wise—what’s with the separate stories for Facebook, Messenger, and Instagram?—Instagram Stories is growing in leaps and bounds while Snapchat lags behind. But how did Instagram go from widely-panned Snapchat knockoff to massive, 200-million strong success.
People are horny as fuck, that’s why. And Instagram does half the work for them.
Let me explain. Unlike Snapchat’s clunky friend-adding mechanism, wherein you have to individually ask your friends for their usernames before you can view their Snaps, Instagram sends you a notification when one of your friends connects their Facebook account to their IG. Bottomline: More people are likely to see users’ IG Stories, thereby increasing the volume of posts. IG is better at giving its users the illusion that it is accessible and approachable, effectively eliminating the sense of giggly, just-the-two-of-us secretiveness that Snapchat espouses. As a result, view numbers are higher, and replies even more so.
It’s not like Instagram conjured up some newfangled technology—they just took what Snapchat did and made it easier than ever to, ahem, slide into the DMs (and, subsequently, the pants). Ever notice the way your IG inbox starts singing like a canary after you post a particularly thirst-trappy Boomerang of yourself? That’s because people no longer have to think of a solid excuse to message their crushes. Just send a reply to their IG story, and you’ve got yourself a conversation starter. Insta-damn.
And because this is a safe space where openness is encouraged, boys, let’s be real: Some of you post IG Stories hoping one particular girl is going to see. (Don’t worry; girls do it, too.) It’s 2017, so of course there’s a word for that—“Gatsbying,” named after The Great Gatsby, is sort of like when Jay Gatsby would throw exorbitant parties just so Daisy Buchanan would give him the time of day. That’s the magic of surface-level flirting at work, y’all. What a time to be alive.
Best of all, Instagram’s algorithm notices this behavior among its users and almost actively encourages it (God love ya, Silicon Valley). Do me a favor: Fire up IG on your phone and observe the parade of circles at the top of your screen. Notice something? The first 4 or 5 users you see are the accounts you most frequently type into the search bar, like the posts of, or exchange direct messages with. IG knows. IG’s like that sex-positive tita who gave you condoms on your 18th birthday. IG will exploit those blue balls and lock them in a death grip until they turn purple.
Are there consequences to this type of seemingly harmless flirtation? None so far. Can we do better as a species? Maybe when they invent a virtual reality (VR) dating app. Should we strive to at least get creative with our replies? Indubitably, because “Still up?” just doesn’t cut it anymore. Now, make Gatsby proud, and happy flirting!