The Online Flirting Mistakes All Guys Make (Yes, Even You)
The Dating Nerd is a shadowy figure whose whereabouts and identifying details remain unknown. What we do know is that he is really, really good at dating. He’s been on more dates than you can shake a lengthy bar tab at, and he’s here to help the average guy step his dating game up a notch — or several.
The art of flirting is a mysterious thing. In theory, it’s pretty simple. You just give somebody a teensy-weensy bit more attention than they’d normally get in a given situation. In practice, however, this can be slightly complicated, because, unfortunately, it requires you to use your brain. To flirt well, you have to read a social situation, which is something that a lot of men are bad at doing, because so many of us are absolute dolts who lose all sense of reality when a pretty girl is in the room. (I’m including myself here.)
And this is true on social media, too. Lots of guys totally screw up social media flirting. Which is a shame, because social media flirting is kind of crucial. Let’s face it: online dating is amazing. Often, it’s the best option. But sometimes, you run into your potential dream girl on Twitter, not Tinder. (Or you’re playing both games at once — good on you.)
So, why does this happen? Well, like in physical reality, guys usually strike out on social media because they’re just not paying attention to behavioral cues. They get all worked up and do the online equivalent of walking up to a woman and saying "wow, hi, um, you’re hot and stuff, would you like to go home and see my ant farm?" They discard all subtlety and nuance and basically signal that they have a boner and that they’d like to use it.
Let me give you an example. So, a gorgeous acquaintance of mine posted an incredible profile picture. Like, a nuclear-level thirst trap. Any red-blooded man seeing this photo would want to wife her immediately and ask questions later. This included our mutual friend Bob. Now, he had the guts to flirt with her in response, which is a good thing. But he did so in the least subtle way possible. What he did was leave a comment on her wall consisting of a GIF of a cartoon wolf slobbering.
Ugh. Cringe. Vomit. This is an awkward and terrible approach for a couple of reasons. First, it’s totally over the top. Secondly, a wolf slobbering has slightly predatory overtones. Third, and maybe most importantly, it’s in public, and explicit public advances are generally a bad idea, because they leave the object of your affection with no graceful way to respond. Don’t do this. You have to be better.
And you can. All it takes is noticing how men and women usually communicate on a social platform, and pushing the boundaries just a little bit, rather than merrily skating across them, like my idiot friend Bob did. Let’s take Instagram for example, which is probably the flirtiest social media platform. It doesn’t take much to flirt on Instagram. You just like a couple of a girl’s photos at once, especially ones of her, so she’ll get a notification that you did that. If you want to lay it on a little thick, you can even like a photo from a week or two back. Or maybe, maybe, send her an appreciative and nonspecific response to one of her Instagram stories. That’s all you need to do, because it’s enough to show your interest. Which is all you’re doing — you’re showing your interest, and making it clear that you’re confident and not creepy.
What you shouldn’t be doing is commenting "hubba hubba" or "hello there sugar tits" or "I’d let you probe me anywhere you want" on one of her hot pictures. Like, dude, she knows. She is fully aware of how attractive she is. All she needs to know is that you’re aware of her outrageous bod. If you just come out and say that in public, it’s the equivalent of interrupting her at a public cocktail party and saying "excuse me, I’d like to manhandle you in private." Not good. If you really need to be more overt, you can leave a comment, but do it on a picture that’s not of her. A one-word compliment on one of her dumb vacation photos will do just fine. Again, you just want her to know that you’re paying attention to what she’s up to.
Then, if she reciprocates and starts liking your photos back, or, better yet, leaves a comment or two, you should shoot her a message. You can just say "hi." Because she’s engaged you, it’s safe to assume that she’s interested in at least indulging your attention a little bit. But don’t immediately send her a message saying "ugh you’re hot," or something — again, don’t be desperate. Play it a little bit cool. ("Don’t be desperate" is kind of the fundamental guiding principle here.) Know that, just by messaging her in private, you’ve escalated the situation, which is enough.
And if she doesn’t respond? Then she’s not interested, or at least not comfortable with flirting on Instagram. Move on.
Look. Women notice signals. Really, they do. Any woman within about a mile of conventional attractiveness is getting attention on social media constantly. They know what that looks like. They can sense that you’ve got your panties in a bunch. So, if you flirt, and they don’t flirt back, it’s safe to assume that you’re being shut down, not that your flirting is invisible. Take a hint and go flirt with somebody else. You don’t want to publicly out yourself as a thirsty dude who’s overly persistent. And you especially don’t want to make a woman feel harassed or uncomfortable, however good your intentions are.
Speaking of what women notice, there’s another really important pitfall of social media flirtation that you need to avoid. Which is that, when you’re flirting with someone, you shouldn’t reveal the fact that you’ve looked at every single picture of them that’s ever existed. Don’t play dumb with me, you do this. When you’re really into some hot acquaintance on Facebook, you absolutely know what kind of stupid haircut she had in sophomore year. This is just an unavoidable temptation. Technology gives us the option to take in the entirety of someone’s life in half an hour.
And you shouldn’t feel guilty about this. It’s fun to get deeply involved in a crush and paint an imaginary portrait of them in your dumb head. But that’s definitely a solo activity. When you flirt with somebody online, you’ve got to be casual and easygoing, otherwise you’ll come off like a total creep. If you let somebody know that you’ve been pawing over every particle of their online presence, even if they would be totally down to go out with you, it places a lot of uncomfortable expectations on the whole thing. They feel like they have to live up to this dream girl persona you’ve built up in your imagination.
And, again, it’ll make you look desperate. If you take one thing away from this whole diatribe, it should be this: don’t look desperate. When in doubt, just hit the like button a few times and chill.