Illustration by Prianka Jain.
Once upon a time, I met a cute guy at an out-of-town party. We hit it off immediately and exchanged Instagram usernames in an attempt to keep the connection going after spending the weekend together. What followed was weeks of linguistic foreplay on Instagram's direct messages (or DMs, if you're a regular on the social media scene). We rambled about our daily routines, blew up each others' chats with bomb-ass selfies and kept up the conversation with witty Story replies, dank memes and DM-hearts. We had no physical proximity and never even bothered talking over the phone; all we needed was this 'Insta' gratification to keep us going. That is until one day, the online courtship came crashing down and I was left wearing my DM heart on the sleeve of his 'read' shirt.
With the advantage of being a visual medium that packs in a universe of information in images, Instagram has emerged as a worthy contender in the dating app circuit. But while sliding into DMs has opened up a whole playground of potential for finding love, things like thirst traps and lurking ghosts are constantly redefining the rules of the game.
"DMing is a way of working around the fear of confronting someone and being vulnerable to rejection," says Raj*, a 21-year-old musician who began dating his girlfriend after heated discussions on DM led to him asking her out IRL. Whether you're looking for love or a one-night-stand, DMs provide the perfect excuse to hide your face and let your fingers do the talking.
"When a guy I had only seen around, but never spoken to, slid into my DM, it felt more casual and less creepy than a normal text," says Veronica, a 22-year-old sociology researcher, "I liked that we talked about stuff like work ethics, exercise routines and the future, instead of him just asking me for nudes. We finally hooked up after he asked me if I wanted to join him for a 'cardio session', which I found very smooth."
We've established that to successfully slide in, you have to do more than just send out "Hi dear" or "Send bobs". It's a carefully cultivated conversation that requires patience, wit and a mutual connection for it to result in something real, along with accepting that most times, it might not. But between the myriad online options to pick and choose from, trading the right swipe for the right thing to say can get confusing. So, we sat down with NLP trainer, mental health professional and communication expert Bharti Mahimkar, a co-founder of EAP (Employee Assistance Program) India who has been following evolving communication styles in the digital world and the human psychology that drives it, to break down the different kinds of DMs, what they say about your personality and how to work around them. We used a watered down version of the Briggs-Myer psychological theory via 16 personalities. Here are the different types of DMs and what they say about you based on a personality test you can take here.
These are your #basicbitches of the Insta universe: The ones who drop DMs and ACTUALLY keeps the conversation going. For realz.
INFJ (Advocate): Their friendly disposition and ability to express their love for everyone means they're probably going to be down to DM. They take concrete steps to reach their goals and are, hence, likely to score.
Hook, line and sinker: Keep them interested with affection and relevant points of discussion.
ENFP (Campaigner): These peeps are warm, curious and excited about life and will, therefore, indulge in conversation pretty naturally over DM.
Hook, line and sinker: Make them feel like the interest is mutual and keep asking questions.
The kind that can't stop shitposting all over your chat and are constantly sharing posts they think you will find funny or relatable.
INTP (Logician): Their love for sharing stuff with people and leaving behind trails of breadcrumbs will make them most likely to send memes.
Hook, line and sinker: They prefer talking through narratives so keep them interested by constantly sharing stories.
ESFP (Entertainer): The life of every party, these guys know how to show you a good time and are always trying to keep those around them entertained, making them grade-A memers.
Hook, line and sinker: Be prepared for a relationship on the fast lane and don't expect too much. Just keep it casual, light and breezy and always keep your funny side up.
This is a scary reality we've all been subjected to: Fuckboys who randomly like your posts and are watching all your stories but never reply to your DMs.
ENTJ (Commander): These guys are bold, imaginative and potentially brilliant but also DGAF about feelings and are known to end things abruptly when they don't think it's working out.
Hook, line and sinker: Be unconditional and free of all expectations when dealing with them. Pursuing them can be rewarding, but also leave you broken-hearted real quick.
ISTP (Virtuoso): These are the detached dreamers whose tendency to be flighty and fear of commitment in early stages make them most likely to disappear into thin air.
Hook, line and sinker: Be prepared for a shit load of back and forth. Your interactions will remain interesting and complex, but should only be probed if you're a drama llama.
The ones bombarding your every Story with replies and reactions to keep things topical and relevant are probably the main reason Instagram is evolving into a dating network.
ENTP (Debater): Their ability to innovate and set aside all inhibitions so they can attack and defend a topic from all fronts and keep the conversation topical makes them most likely to react to IG Stories.
Hook, line and sinker: If they're replying, you're already halfway there, so keep the debate and discussion going by being as socio-culturally relevant as you can (hack: send memes).
ENFJ (Protagonist): Their dependability and need to rely on conversation makes them the stars of every story.
Hook, line and sinker: Bring up stuff that is intellectual and spiritual. Endless conversation is a huge turn-on.
ESTP (Entrepreneur): It is in their nature to be energetic, thrilling and veer towards topical discussions instead of intellectual ideas, so expect them to be all over your story.
Hook, line and sinker: Because of their 'up for anything' disposition, try to keep the chat funny and full of ideas you want to introduce them to.
This one goes out to the people sending you all those #wokeuplikedis and #feelingblessed selfies in some wild attempt to enhance their daily routine for only your eyes.
ESTJ (Executive): Their straightforwardness, self-confidence and predictable enthusiasm means you can expect them to flood you with face-filtered snaps.
Hook, line and sinker: These guys are pretty no-nonsense so don't be afraid to be direct about your feelings.
ESFJ (Consul): Their affectionate, needy, sensual and trusting nature makes them most likely to keep the pictures coming on DM so they can make sure you know what's gucci.
Hook, line and sinker: Keep the DMs coming and keep them constantly engaged so they know you're serious.
These are the ones whose standard reply is the DM heart, which they frustratingly send for everything, making you doubt whether they're actually feeling the love or are just doing the bare minimum and staying mysterious.
INTJ (Architect): Their tendency to allow others to come to them instead of making the first move will make them likely to go for the hearts.
Hook, line and sinker: Take stronger initiative and don't give up too soon.
ISFJ (Defender): They're the feelers of all the feels and their preference for physical action over emotion are probably shows you their soft side with hearts.
Hook, line and sinker: Go all out to show them what they mean to you and don't be afraid to push them out of their shell.
ISFP (Adventurer): Their emotional and vulnerable yet mysterious and unpredictable qualities will make them more likely to drop hearts on DM.
Hook, line and sinker: Be flirty instead of being serious, while keeping things light and funny and making them feel like the possibilities are fresh and interesting.
INFP (Mediator): Their idealistic nature and aversion to conflict makes them rely on simpler forms of expression such as hearts.
Hook, line and sinker: Stay soft and mushy and remember that sensitive topics are NOT up for debate.
While each of the above categories is trying to pinpoint which personality type is most likely to give what kind of response, they may often intersect and mature when subjected to several situational factors.
Doing it for the 'gram is all well and good, but it's important to understand that not everyone on Insta is expectantly waiting for you to slip into their DMs, so don't be all too upset if shit doesn't work out.