We should treat sliding into someone’s DMs in the same way that we might speak to someone we don’t know in public.
That means doing it consensually. So has the person given you an indication that an approach might be welcome? Can you send a message that is appropriate and also interesting? How can you give them ‘an out’ at all times? Do you understand what a no looks like, without them having to say it? And don’t say sexual things or send sexual messages straight away.
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Do they want you to slide into their DMs?
In the offline world it’s better to approach someone if they have made it clear that this would be welcome. Have they smiled at you and turned towards you? Do they continue to do this as you slowly go over there? This is something to try to do when you send a direct message to someone on social media.
What would the social media equivalent of ‘smiling and turning towards you’ look like? Maybe a nice little interaction. Perhaps they said something nice about you. Did they follow you back? Have you been chatting with others about a common interest?
If you’ve had any interest like this, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are into you. However it might mean that if you send a good, respectful and consensual DM they might at least not find it unwelcome.
If you DM someone that you don’t know, entirely out of the blue, it’s unlikely that they will look at your profile and think ‘oooh this is someone I’ve got to get to know’ or ‘I really fancy this person, I’m going to take this to WhatsApp immediately.’ It might happen, but it’s pretty unlikely. Just imagine how many DMs famous people get and how annoying that would be after a while. So maybe just don’t.
How to send a nice message
Remember that unlike sending a first message on a dating website (more on how to do online dating here), a social media website is not a dating website. You’re just trying to see if they are interested in having a conversation with you.
In person a ‘hello’ or ‘hi’ might work, but that might not work so well online because it doesn’t really say anything. Online conversations don’t build as quickly as offline so a ‘hello’ isn’t immediately followed by a ‘hello’ and then a ‘I really like your outfit / nice place this / would you like to see my series of regrettable tattoos’.
So you should aim for a ‘hey, [this thing we were chatting about] was funny / interesting / strange / mildly amusing wasn’t it?’ Or ‘hope it’s okay me sliding into your DMs, I love your posts and it seems like we have a lot in common’. Or even a ‘feel free to ignore this, but I just ….’ That kind of thing.
If they don’t get back to your DM, they don’t want a private conversation, even if they like your public posts. Ignoring your DM is the same as a ‘no’, just accept it and move on. There are a thousand reasons why they aren’t responding. It might not even have anything to do with you or even your social media persona.
If they do get back to you
If they do respond to you and you get the sense that they are enthusiastic about talking to you (rather than just responding to you out of politeness) you could just enjoy the chats as they are. Try to judge the pace of how quickly you both want the conversation to go. Don’t pester them for a response, but also gently give them a nudge if they have left you hanging. You might be in the early stages of chatting, but you’re not dating. They’re allowed to ghost you, or to deescalate the chat. Don’t put someone in the position of having to say no, or muting you, or blocking you.
Things don’t always have to lead somewhere and connections don’t always have to escalate. There might be a bit of a flirty vibe ‘nice selfie’ or ‘you look great in a mask, shame I can’t see your face’. Maybe you might have a crush on them, in which case you could just gently point this out at some point. Perhaps you might want to be friends offline, in which case you might want to ask them.
How not to slide into someone’s DMs.
Often the term ‘sliding into someone’s DMs’ is another term for ‘sending a sexual message’ to someone. Like the poor unfortunate gentleman who got lost in Lizzo’s DMs. Sending sexual messages to someone in their DMs is sex, not flirting. Where it’s being done at them and not with them, then it’s non-consensual. So let’s call this what it is, it’s a form of sexual violence / harassment.
Maybe it’s causes less harm than a physical assault but it is still harmful and sometimes very harmful. One unwelcome DM from you might not be a huge deal, but loads of unwelcome DMs all add up. When it’s men doing this to women (let’s be real) it results in of women not being allowed to do their thing in peace. Just like walking down the street, or going to a Maccy Ds, or even ask someone about their regrettable tattoos.
So no matter how much you fancy them, or however much you want to ‘slide into someone’s DMs’, don’t just send them a sexual message. Also just please stop sending dick pics without their consent.
That’s it! If you found this helpful please share it with your people’s and also check out my other posts about consent. I also had a few quotes from me about DM slides in this piece by Justin Myers in GQ. Also check out my new book ‘Can We Talk About Consent’ available for pre-order now.
© Justin Hancock, 2021.
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Justin Hancock has been a trained sex and relationships educator since 1999. In that time he’s taught and given advice about sex and relationships with thousands of young people in person and millions online. Find out more about Justin here