In the early days of online dating, it was relatively easy to shut down communication with someone you weren’t interested in. You simply rejected the match or message, and that was the end of it.
Without a full name or other identifying information, spurned online daters had to work hard to track down their rejecters on other platforms. However, in 2015, Tinder rolled out a new feature that allowed users to display Instagram photos on their profiles, and suddenly, everything changed.
Since then, creepers and curious singles alike were just a screenshot away from saving a user’s Instagram handle and looking up their matches (or non-matches) on the popular social media platform. This behavior is aptly known as Tindstagramming, and depending on how you look at it, it can be an absolute nightmare—or it might save you from one.
What is Tindstagramming?
According to the common understanding of this relatively new dating phenomenon, Tindstagramming is when someone with whom you did not connect on a dating app looks you up on another social media platform (usually Instagram) and slides into your DMs. However, a broader definition of this term could describe any dating app user who looks up and messages another user on social media after spotting their dating profile.
If you have your Instagram handle connected to your Tinder profile, it shouldn’t be too surprising that some users would want to learn a little more about you by checking out your social media. And truly, there’s nothing wrong with doing your homework before you pursue a conversation—and possibly a relationship—with a stranger from a dating app.
For example, Jackie, 22, said she and her friends often look up people they see on Tinder on social media to “get a better idea of who they are.” She has one rule: She never DMs a dating app user on Instagram when she’s just checking out their profile.
“People [from Tinder] have messaged me and my friends on social media, and we usually get creeped out by it…even though we do the same thing and find their accounts,” Jackie said. “[But] we don’t message them. We use whatever we find for ourselves.”
Even worse than being “creepy” is being downright rude and disrespectful. The truly bad cases of Tindstagramming—the ones that spawned the term—are when you purposely reject communication with another dating app user, and that user goes and messages you off-platform anyway, usually to tell you off for ignoring them (you can find a small sampling of “Tindstagram” messages gone horribly wrong in this Mashable article).
Why would someone try to use Instagram for dating?
Instagram is one of today’s most popular social media platforms, especially among the 20-somethings who make up a large percentage of the online dating app user base. According to Pew Research Center, 75% of 18- to 24-year-olds and nearly 60% of 25- to 29-year-olds in the U.S. report using Instagram, and Instagram itself reports that some 500M users are active on the platform daily. Compare this figure to a mere 57 million monthly active Tinder users.
What does all this mean? Well, it’s much more likely that the cute girl you swiped right on is checking her Instagram before her Tinder messages.
“Instagram informs you if someone read a message, and [with] a story or a post, you know they’re active,” said Mike, 28. “[On] Tinder, if you aren’t matching, you don’t know if that person’s even active anymore.”
This is why Mike typically swipes through Tinder and follows the Instagram accounts of a handful of girls whose dating profiles he likes.
“I’ll message the ones who follow back, ‘Hi’ on the weekend,” Mike said. “For all the ones who don’t follow back, if I see them post or being active, I block them immediately. It means for whatever reason, they have no interest in my life.”
However, there’s another good reason people might want to look up a dating app match on Instagram: Because of the highly active user base and more “social” nature of Instagram, you’re likely to see a much broader picture of somebody based on their Instagram profile than their dating app profile. Unlike Facebook, there is no Instagram dating app, so often the next best thing you can do to get to know someone is start Tindstagramming.
“I always message people through social media so I can get a better understanding of who they are,” said Ashley, 28. “I’ve found [men on Tinder]…post things to try to make it seem like they are good guys and living their best life.”
Ashley says people aren’t always who they portray themselves to be on a dating app. Ashley has even caught men in lies because of some smart Instagram research.
“I started talking to one guy from Tinder who was well-known in my area for being a football athlete,” she said. “We exchanged numbers…to keep in touch because he traveled and lived in another state because of football. I finally did my research and found out he had an Instagram and a girlfriend.”
How can I avoid Tindstagramming?
The best thing you can do to avoid unwanted, off-platform messages from other dating app users is to keep your Instagram and other social media accounts locked down and separate from your dating app profile. This means setting your social profiles to “private” and not connecting them to your dating app.
If possible, you may wish to avoid using the same email address or username on your dating app as you do on your social profiles. For an extra layer of armor against Tindstagrammers, you might even consider doing a people search on yourself to see if your dating app username or email is connected to a social profile you’d forgotten about.
But let’s say, despite your best efforts, somebody from Tinder tracks down your Instagram profile and slide into your DMs. Fortunately, you don’t have to engage with them: If someone you don’t follow messages you on Instagram, it will automatically be filtered from your regular inbox and show up as a “message request.”
From there, you can review the message and the person’s profile before you accept or decline. If the message is inappropriate, you can block the user and report them to Instagram. And don’t worry—the person who messaged you won’t know you’ve seen it unless you accept the request, and Instagram won’t notify them you’ve declined or blocked them.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way
Tindstagramming may seem creepy, but it’s a rather common side effect of living in a connected, digital world. Yes, you can look up your potential dating app matches on social media before you decide if you want to go any further—but they can look you up and message you, too. The only surefire way to prevent this is quitting dating apps and social media altogether—but most people don’t prefer to do that.
If the idea that someone can find your social profiles from a dating app freaks you out, it’s wise to ramp up your privacy settings and put as much distance between your social media and your dating app profiles as possible. However, be prepared for the possibility that someone might go the extra mile to play detective.
If you find yourself with an aggressive Tindstagrammer on your hands, don’t be afraid to make use of the “block” and “report” functions on the social media platform you’re using.
Take it from Ashley: “I have blocked some [Tindstagrammers] because all they wanted was sex.”