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How to Use Twitter Like a Dating App, According to People Who Have Done It

I’m single. I’m extremely online. I’ve watched the people behind Twitter accounts with whom I’ve formed parasocial relationships start to date each after publicly–and presumably privately–interacting on the app. All of these truths lead to a single question: Is using Twitter truly a viable option to find love?

Like any investigative journalist worth their salt, I went directly to the source: I tweeted out a request asking people to share their experiences using Twitter like a dating app. I was pleasantly surprised (and not at all bitter) to discover how many success stories flooded my inbox. (Should I be shocked that some cheeky suitors took the thread as an opportunity to woo me in my DMs? Of course not.)

The comments under the thread and the messages I received include tales of hook-ups, rejections, marriages, friendships, and, sometimes, fiery DM banter that fizzled IRL. My biggest takeaway from all of them is that you can find the same triumphs and defeats, the epic highs and lows of courtship with Twitter as you can with Hinge, Tinder, or even approaching a stranger at a bar. In fact, the parallels to in-person flirting might be the crux of my argument: Social media is actually a closer mirror to the risks and reward of real-life flirting than the painstaking artifice of dating apps.

The case for Twitter being real life

The pervasive idea that “Twitter is not real life” might apply to politics (or not). But I’d argue the “social” aspect of social media can give you an edge that online dating that apps like Tinder and Hinge cannot.

On Tinder, the most you can find out about someone is whether they have at one point caught a fish. On Twitter, you can see a real-time reflection of their thoughts and interests. Likewise, if you’re active online, other people can find out about what you publicly declare to be funny, thought-provoking, or outrageous, whether you tweeted it yourself or hearted someone else’s tweet.

True, any online persona is an inherently filtered, manipulated version of yourself. But isn’t a dating profile a more carefully filtered, more heavily manipulated version of yourself than, say, your stream-of-consciousness tweets about Ted Lasso? Your vain attempts at epic clapbacks? Your preferred meme stylings? Besides, as soon as I match with someone on a dating app, I supplement their profile with my own internet stalking anyway.

How to use Twitter as a dating app

Before we get started: There are major differences between flirting on Tinder and on Twitter. When you’re messaging someone on an app explicitly designed for dating, you’ve entered a conversation with the mutual agreement about why you’re there. You don’t have this same understanding in Twitter DMs. For better or worse, messaging someone on Twitter is rife with all the uncertainty of sidling up next to someone at a bar. This means there will need to be a point where you make your intentions clear, and you need to be ready to take “no” for an answer immediately.

With that said, here are tips and tricks straight from Twitter users who found love—or at least mutual interest—on the app. (Note: Many respondents asked to remain anonymous, which is fair.)

Establish your Twitter presence

After some random accounts slid into my DMs after I posed my question about dating via Twitter, I checked out their profiles, only to discover that most of them had never tweeted at all. I was forced to assume that they were bots, perverts, or worse: boring.

If you’re trying to use Twitter like a dating app, you need to be prepared for your crush to analyze your profile with the “swipe right, swipe left” mindset. That means you need to use it enough that someone can get a sense of your personality (at least online). With prospective partners in mind, the corniest but truest advice is to try and make your account an accurate reflection of who you are. It also helps to have your avatar be an actual photo of you, or to have other socials, like Instagram, linked to your profile.

Be mutuals

Who doesn’t love a friends-to-lovers storyline? On Twitter, being “mutuals” means you both follow each other, and is the equivalent of being “friends” (in Facebook-speak, not necessarily in real life).

One user shared this origin story about an eventual Twitter-initiated hookup: “I made a friend [through] interacting with each other’s tweets. Eventually he added me to a group chat, and we all started playing video games regularly, so through that I got to know him a little better.” This user goes on to say their advice from this experience is to take the Twitter friendship off the site and to engage in other ways, like the video games group hang, before moving forward into hookup/relationship territory.

If you aren’t already mutuals, another user advises working your network: “I met the guy I dated for a year because I DM-ed my sister that he was hot; they were mutuals, so she messaged him for me.”

If your crush doesn’t follow you back, your attempts at flirting might be dead on arrival, depending on the user’s privacy settings and if they accept messages from strangers. Another user told me that in their attempt to “bat their eyelashes,” their Twitter crush never even read their message: “From what I can figure out, that is because they don’t follow me. If the only way to slide into DMs and have them shown to the recipient is for you to be mutuals, then this is not a feasible dating option for lil ol me.”

The “mutuals” status is your way of knowing that you’re on someone’s radar and that, most importantly, you’re not being a total creep by reaching out to them.

Flirt through likes

Nearly every success story I heard started with a soft flirting phase of liking each other’s tweets. This is a natural first step to demonstrate interest, the second step being to establish a rapport in the comments.

At the same time, evaluate whether your interactions are genuinely welcome or merely being tolerated. Don’t come on too strong, especially if they don’t engage with you back. But if you test the waters and the result is mutual interaction, it might be time to make your move into the DMs.

Make a move

Eventually, you have to move beyond simple likes. As user @LouBegaVEVO told me more bluntly: “Simply liking somebody’s posts is the coward’s flirting and will never result in anything. You gotta make a move. One person I went out with after meeting them on Twitter told me I should have known they wanted to earlier, because they ‘always liked all my selfies.’ No! That is nothing. My mom does that too.”

If you’re nervous about being smooth, here’s a concrete tip from @lizzzzzielogan: “DM someone their own tweet plus a comment. Instead of responding to their tweet, now you’re taking the conversation to the DMs. Then you can treat it like a dating app, where you exchange messages, and then actually meet up.” (More on meeting up soon).

Be direct

The benefit of dating apps is the ability to talk about any random subject with the shared assumption that you both are, ostensibly, flirting. But you can spend weeks in the DMs with the lingering question: Are you both on the same page?

One of the most repeated pieces of advice I received is that you have to make your intentions clear—and to do so sooner rather than later. As @CSantiago1001 puts it, “Don’t message someone under the pretense of friendship if that’s not what you want. If you think you need to get someone to drop their guard by thinking of you as a friend you shouldn’t be messaging them in the first place.”

User @LouBegaVEVO shares more proof in favor of directness: “One time I transitioned from the above coward’s method of simply liking selfies by DMing them their own selfie and just saying ‘Hi I am openly flirting with you now.’ That actually worked great. Directness works, but not gross scummy directness—just like with real dating apps.”

Take it offline

In any sector of online dating, one of the biggest mistakes people make is waiting too long to meet in person. If the interest is mutual, then try to discover what the chemistry is like in real life. And if you’re located in different cities, arrange a virtual date—anything to make sure you guys have something beyond compatible Twitter personas.

If you’re extremely online, remember, one of the benefits of meeting in real life is talking about, well, real life. Another user shared their cautionary tale: “If you go on a date with them, please be able to hold a conversation that is not only about Twitter. I went on three dates with somebody from the bird site and they brought every single conversation back to it. I tried to participate but was exhausted by it. [Twitter] is a good jumping off point for getting to know somebody, but not the most ideal foundation.” For most of us, the point of meeting people online is to discover whether you have a spark offline.

Manage expectations

Finally, remember that your expectations need to be closer to in-person flirting than they might with the shared agreement of dating apps. Here’s some of the wisdom I received about approaching someone’s lack of interest:

“Take ‘no’ as an answer. Don’t harass strangers on the internet. No one owes you their time, attention, or an explanation of why they aren’t interested. Plus, if you’ll message a stranger then what’s to stop you messaging another who might be interested?”

The same user continues: “Don’t be afraid to move on. Even if you’ve made your intentions clear doesn’t mean the other person will. Some people just want attention and will entertain you to get it. If you think that’s the case then just move on. It’s only a big deal if you make it one.”

Final thots thoughts

For many of us, social media supplements entirely real aspects of our very real lives. I’ve found job opportunities through Twitter. I’ve raised and donated money to causes I care about through the platform. I’ve made the jump from “mutuals” to precious in-person friendships. All things considered, why should finding love be all that different?

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