The triumph of Personals is credited in part to a shift away from ‘superficial’ dating platforms such as Tinder and Bumble. Experts blame dating app fatigue on the fact they yield too many options: ‘People suffer from cognitive overload and don't know how to deal with all the people on their screen,’ says professor Eric Klinenberg, a sociologist at New York University. Alongside this, young people are no longer taking their swipes seriously. A recent study found that US college students are turning to dating apps to ease boredom or boost their ego – 91% weren’t actually using them to hook up with partners.
With real-life encounters considered an unreliable, if not rare, means to instigate romance, Instagram makes sense as a more practical tool for match-making. Of course, social media flirtations have been happening for years – the term ‘slide into your DMs’ has been traced back to 2013, and MySpace and MSN served as predecessors for internet courting. Now, Instagram is taking this mantle. In a New York Times piece titled Instagram is Now a Dating Platform, Too, columnist Valeriya Safronova writes: ‘Not only does Instagram provide a visually-driven collage of your life, it also offers a subtle way of expressing interest through likes and comments, and connecting in the form of a private chat'.
The likes of Vice and Refinery29 have also noted how Instagram’s two-year-old Stories feature has created a new breed of romantic gameplay, providing users with insight as to who is most frequently tuning into snippets of their daily life.
I find it surprising, given the global reach of Instagram, that its dating potential hasn't been expanded sooner – especially when brands are already playing with the format. In May of 2018, fashion label Helmut Lang rolled out a '90s-inspired campaign on Instagram featuring single New Yorkers. Decked out in Helmut Lang clothing, the campaign doubled as a dating service, inviting potential suitors to email the brand or DM the models for a date.
This stunt was a one-off, but I believe it demonstrates the potential for this Netstalgic style of dating. After all, unlike Facebook – which is still in the process of teasing its rather contrived Dating feature – Instagram users don't have to pick a relationship status; they are already revealing who they are, their interests, location and personality through the visuals and language they use. Could an aggregated page for Instagram's singletons help to spark interactions based instead on this holistic view of their life, devoid of the labour and shallow nature of wooing a Tinder match? Let’s hope this would help us to show a more honest version of ourselves in the hope of snagging a date – rather than clogging our feed further with glossy, identikit Instagrammers.
For more on Insta-dating, look out for our upcoming microtrend.