Strap in, it’s time to slide into them DMs

WORDS BY JESS RAYNER, PHOTO BY ZACKARY DRUCKER FOR THE GENDER SPECTRUM COLLECTION

In this fragile, chaotic, tech age there are but two kinds of queer person: those who hook up with  people they meet on Instagram and those who say, “Wait, how do you even meet people on Instagram?”

For me, it makes total sense and is a natural extension of the way that the queer community operates in my life. The normalisation of online dating plus the ongoing eviction of queer people from their community spaces means that at this point, Instagram is basically the local queer pub that I don’t otherwise have. So for anyone wanting to share in the highs and lows of Instagram cruising, here is my simple advice on how to get started. 

Step one: Readying your profile

There are three prongs in the majestic trident that is photos on your Instagram profile. Main photos, tagged photos and stories. One of the charms of Instagram is that, unlike a dating app, you can have an unlimited number of pictures and quite lengthy captions on each and every one of them, so you’ve got a chance to show your actual personality (or at least, your actual internet personality) outside the confines of a dating app bio. My main Instagram photos are all just pictures of beige objects that I encounter in the world, because I thought this would be cute and funny about three years ago and I guess I still do (@beige_rage). My tagged photos are mostly of me at queer events or of my tattoos, thereby both proving that I have friends and gifting the world a photo of half of my butt. The centrepiece of my queer cruising is therefore the Instagram story, perfect because you can post an endless stream of thirst-trap selfies without them collecting on your main page, and replying to someone’s Instagram story is an easy way of introducing yourself. 

Step two: Finding potential cuties

The key is to think carefully about who you’re already following on Instagram, as that will impact on the people you come across. For example, if you only follow accounts of majestic long-haired cats who live in Korea in flats much, much nicer than yours, then you may find the social aspects of the app somewhat limited. Follow your friends, follow the pages of queer events and spaces that you like, ask that person you met at the pub for their Insta – even if you never see them again, it’ll connect you to people who you’re interested in knowing. 

Step three: Entering the DMs

You have found someone cute on Instagram. Your path is simple. Follow them, like two of their recent posts that you actually like and reply to their Instagram story. Voila, you have introduced yourself and, at this point, I leave the conversation in your hands. If you get into a vague back and forth of replying to each other’s stories, liking each others posts etc, but without any concrete plans for more, you will need to take action and I am sorry to say actually ask them to meet up with you. I cannot imbue you with the emotional strength this may require, I can only tell you that the worst they can say is no and that really the key to any cruising or dating scenario is the capacity to ask politely for what you want and be able to walk away if it’s not reciprocated. 

So there you have it! The world is yours! In the last year I’ve cruised someone who is now one of my best friends, been invited to have a threesome by two people who I was messaging who I didn’t realise already knew each other, and had two (ultimately disastrous but fun) short relationships.

In my opinion there’s only one downside. I’ve had some great experiences on Instagram, but it’s still no replacement for real queer community spaces. Instagram is not owned and operated by queer people, or people who value the welfare of the LGBTQI+ community. It’s owned by Facebook. Some results of this are that accounts have been shadowbanned or had content removed for using words like “dyke” to describe themselves or showing queer people kissing.

As much as it can be a great tool for connecting queer people, or a better way to get dates than Tinder, Instagram is still not a replacement for IRL queer spaces. For now though, when such spaces are rarer than ever, it’s a price I’m willing to pay. As long as it’s still helping me to meet new people and keep in touch with my community, I’m gonna keep using Instagram even if it lets Mark Zuckerberg steal my nudes. 


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