Sliding Into Someone's DMs Is How We're Dating In 2019
Two years and one month before American singer Nick Jonas married actress Priyanka Chopra in one of the most lavish wedding ceremonies of 2018, he slid into her Twitter DMs.
"I'm hearing from a few mutual friends that we should meet," he recalled to Vogue.
"My team can read this," Priyanka replied.
"Why don't you just text me?"
Their meeting might be the first recorded case of a celebrity DM slide made public, but it's not an uncommon way of dating.
In fact, for an increasingly online Australia, sliding into someone's DMs -- a.k.a privately messaging them on Twitter, Instagram or Tumblr -- is becoming a tried-and-true way to find anything from a one-night stand to a lifelong relationship.
"This is how I met my last two boyfriends and quite a few casual partners, too," Sydney woman Kate Iselin told 10 daily.
"I have used dating apps quite extensively, with some success, [but I don't use them anymore] because I find it really difficult to become interested in someone based on what they put in their profile -- I'm a bit jaded and cynical these days."
So why are Australians turning to social media instead of dating apps to meet a partner? Of the dozens of people 10 daily spoke to, several said it was a way to 'vet' people. You already know a little bit about who they are, what they're interested in, and their stances on hot-button political issues.
"You can actually get a feel for someone before talking to them, and it also allows you to meet people from all over the world," YouTuber Fiona Morgan told 10 daily.
"Is it even true love if you didn't know who their sixth grade best friend was before your first conversation?"
There's often a mutual interest established before you ever meet in real life. For some people 10 daily spoke to, it was tattoos or a favourite TV show.
For others, it was a mutual interest in a polyamorous lifestyle -- a conversation people told 10 daily was easier to have via DMs than dating apps.
Maggie*, a Sydney-based sex worker, began dating a client after sliding into his Twitter DMs to ask about wine.
In the past, she'd found men on dating apps to be too non-committal, preferring the firmly set boundaries of an escort-client relationship. This blurring of boundaries with her current partner is a first, she told 10 daily, but one that's working for both of them.
"To fall in love with a client... this is new territory for both of us," she said.
Our rules basically are about being open and transparent, and paid 'transactional' sex is okay. He will still see other escorts, I am still seeing clients. Unpaid sex with anyone else but each other is off the table. And so far, it's working!
Futurist Anders Sörman-Nilsson says there's no separation of online and offline dating anymore, particularly for millennials and Gen Z who have grown up with social media.
"We don't think in terms of channels anymore," he told 10 daily.
"Tinder or Bumble may be platforms that are conducive towards dating, and we go there with an intent to date, but equally, people are maintaining their personal brands [online]."
While 90 percent of digital dating startups fail, according to Sörman-Nilsson, they're not going away. Bumble is growing at a rate of 70 percent year on year, Tinder is growing at a rate of 10 percent, and one in three marriages in the US start online.
"So, while people might take shortcuts and go direct, so to speak, via Facebook or Instagram, for example, the platforms are not going away, and we need to start thinking about dating as an omnichannel thing that just happens omnipresently in life."
The major downside to dating via social media, of course, is that when things end (or fail to start), then you can't simply delete their number and move on. You've already established a connection online, and short of blocking them -- a pretty drastic step -- you'll have to keep seeing them.
Over and over again.
The level to which you can extract yourself from their presence depends on the social media platform. Unfriending someone on Facebook is sending them to a digital graveyard. Unfollowing them on Twitter is slightly less abrupt, and it takes a soft-block or mute to get rid of them completely.
Instagram? It's a bit trickier. In fact, so common is the practise of old flames continuing to watch your Instagram stories despite firmly not wanting to date you that it even has its own modern-day dating term: orbiting.
"Unlike ghosting, which is a fancy word for disappearing from a lover’s life without notice, orbiting could not have existed before the dawn of social media," wrote the New York Times last year.
"Distant methods of digital observation -- likes, views, etc -- are what binds the orbiter and the orbited."
It's easy to fall in a trap then to 'perform' on Instagram stories for the sole benefit of your orbiter (or orbiters). Lisa* told 10 daily that being orbited was more of a mild irritation than anything else.
"When I've still liked the guy I definitely play the power trip game," she said.
"It's fun to put up hot selfies or videos of me having a great time. Then once I'm over it, I either don't notice them watching or it annoys me. Sometimes I just block my Story from them, especially if I've moved on or am trying to move on -- it's just distracting."
But while dating via the DM slide is becoming an increasingly common practice, it's pretty much as old as the internet itself.
Matt Harris met his wife more than a decade ago after she messaged him on MySpace to ask about his tattoos. After chatting on MSN for a year or so, she moved from Melbourne to Perth and they began to date; the couple now have two kids together.
"Fourteen years on and she's still in my top eight," he said.
*Names have been changed.
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