My first meet-cute happened in 2010, in a crowded bar on the Upper West Side.
I’d been trying to flag down a bartender—and apparently, the guy next to me had been too. That’s how our elbows collided, at which point I spun around to chastise the culprit. But before I could, he smiled, and minutes later, we’d both abandoned our posts at the counter to duck into a walk-in freezer—the only place quiet enough to hold a conversation—where his glasses frosted over like a car windshield in January.
I’m grateful there’s no transcript of our first exchange; I’m pretty sure my only contributions were about as scintillating as, “uh, yeah,” and “uh, no,” and “pizza, I guess?” Many of today’s daters don’t have it as easy: Since the 2019 meet-cute so often occurs on dating apps, initial conversations can be captured via screenshot and stored indefinitely. And while not expressly created for matchmaking, Instagram, with its billion-plus monthly users, provides yet another venue for the virtual equivalent of a coffee shop run-in: the DM slide.
In internet-speak, “sliding into” someone’s Instagram DMs—a.k.a., sending a private message—typically implies romance, or at least some lust (Yo Gotti’s 2016 album The Art of Hustle explains repeatedly that “it goes down in the DM”). Occasionally, the slide will go unanswered. But sometimes, miraculously, it works.
I spoke with four couples who were united via DM how meeting through Instagram turned into something more. I asked who slid into whose DMs first, which emojis were involved, and how it all worked out in the end. And yes, I requested the transcripts.
The “I’m Going to Be in Your Town” Approach
Angela, 29, and Noble, 32, have been together for 1.5 years. They live in Minneapolis, MN.
The First DMs:
Angela: I submitted a personal ad to @_personals_ (a queer, submission-based Instagram account) with the headline “DIY Dyke ISO Sue Perkins.” At first Noble just thirst-followed me, and then a week later they slid into my DMs.
Noble’s first DM: It was something along the lines of, “I hope you don’t mind getting a message from a stranger, but I loved your personal ad, and I’m coming to MN in six weeks for a conference—what do you think about getting a drink?”
Angela’s reply: “Why would I mind getting a message from a stranger? That’s what my personal was for; soliciting messages from strangers. Yes to drinks.” (And then we messaged nonstop from that point on.)
Noble: I had seen Angela’s personal ad, but I was coming off a run of disappointing romantic scenarios, and I wasn’t super sure that it was a good idea to strike something up with someone far away. So I’m not sure what finally led me to send the message—except that it was Sunday-Funday, and I was many mimosas deep! I certainly didn’t expect anything serious to develop based on that first message. I do remember being surprised that she was so willing to have a full-on conversation. If anything, I suppose I thought she would message back like: “Okay, cool, yeah, message me when you’re in town.”
Angela: I was pleasantly surprised to receive the DM! I replied because I was open to new relationships with new folks, and for a bit of an adventure. That’s certainly what I got. I was always prepared for it to fail. I got my own Airbnb in Austin when I went to visit Noble for the first time, I told them if they didn’t like me or the way I smell or how tall I am, that they could just leave me there and I was ready to have a great time in Austin by myself.
What’s Happened Since:
Noble: Since that first message, everything has happened! I quit my job, changed careers, and moved to Minneapolis to be with Angela. We’ve had plenty of ups and downs both as a long-distance couple and now as a newly cohabiting couple, but one of our strengths is our foundation in strong, direct, and open communication. We had to build that intentionally while we were long distance, when talking was really all we had for stretches of time.
Angela: Since the first DM, Noble has been open, curious, kind, and intelligent, so everything seemed to flow and progress from feeling like you have a middle-school crush to thinking this might actually be the real deal. Now, our relationship is growing. I hear there’s an engagement ring in my future.
Noble: We talk about our DMs all the time! One time we scrolled all the way back, through probably thousands of messages, just to see how everything unfolded. We still communicate through IG sometimes, but not nearly as much. Sometimes Angela shows me queer chefs or whoever she has crushes on, and I love that! It’s important to us to set reasonable boundaries and operate from a place of trust. And that’s pretty easy, from my perspective—after all, IG is the way we met, but everything else about our relationship is all us—all this beautiful, constantly evolving thing we’re building together.
The “Haven’t I Seen You at the Gym?” Move
Cate and Spencer, both 26, have been together for 3 years. They live in New York City.
The First DMs:
Cate: “You workout at EBC?” (We both worked out at this gym in Chicago called East Bank Club, aka EBC. How all great love stories begin….)
Spencer: “Yeah I do! How’d you know?”
Cate: “You came up on my ‘Suggested People to Follow’ thing, and I thought you looked familiar. My best friend and I just joined and we’re looking for EBC friends.” (This was such a lie. It took me six months to tell him the truth!)
Spencer: “Oh nice, I thought you might’ve looked familiar. How often do you two go to East Bank?”
Cate: I had seen Spencer at the gym all the time and I thought he was so cute. I definitely looked at all of his photos. He also played football, so I watched all his interviews and highlight tapes. My best friend is in HR and she did a nice dive into his LinkedIn for me—between the two of us, we were like the FBI.
I felt like I had nothing to lose. If he didn’t respond to my DM, then I would just go about my day. You have to just grab life by the horns!
Spencer: At first I was unsure of whether the DM was meant for me. I certainly noticed Cate and her best friend in the gym previously—especially Cate. I was excited to see what might come of it, certainly slow-played it as best as I could.
Cate: We continued to just talk about random things and asking each other the classic questions: What do you do? Where are you from? A few hours later, he said, “Any chance you’d rather text? I feel like that’d be much easier.”
What’s Happened Since:
Cate: Since the first DM, we are now going on our third year together. Sending that DM completely changed my life for the better! This is going to sound cheesy… I am so in love with him, but we are also amazing friends. He’s my biggest cheerleader, I can tell him anything, and I know he always has my back.
Spencer: The relationship has grown tremendously from that first DM. We are best friends and she is someone that I couldn’t picture not being a part of my life.
We celebrate our “DM-iversary.” I typically send flowers and we do dinner or something special. It’s fantastic to be able to look back and see how far we’ve come, knowing that she’s the one for me.
Cate: Everyone is shocked to find out that I DMed him on instagram, especially that I was the one who reached out first. We often tell people that we just met at the gym. It’s hard for the older generation to understand. But I have had a lot of friends tell my story to their friends. I think it gives people the confidence to put themselves out there!
The “Call It What It Is” DM Slide
Taylor, 26, and Derek, 32, have been together for 2.5 years. They live in Astoria, Queens.
The First DMs:
Taylor: I started a new job that day, and posted a selfie to my Instagram story. It was when the saying, “New phone, who dis?” was popular, and I wrote the caption as, “New job, who dis?”
Derek: “Who dis? I guess I can say the same.”
Taylor: “Check out this guy comin into my DMs asking who I am.”
Derek: “I straight electric slid into them DMs. [Man Dancing Emoji]”
Taylor: “Ohhhh yeah, he’s smooth.” (Neither of us had any game at all.)
Derek: I decided to DM her because I thought she was cute! And I noticed she lived in Brooklyn, and I wanted to eventually meet up. I was single at the time so I was thinking, Hmmm, this should be fun and interesting. But if she didn’t respond, that would have been okay, too. Part of me knew she was going to reply because she’s the one that started following me first!
Taylor: I was already following Derek on Instagram for a while before that point—I found his account through my explore page and thought he was cute. I never thought I’d have a chance. Derek had over 7,000 followers, which I thought was enough for him to probably never notice me, but I would still like his pictures here and there.
When he DM-ed me, it’s embarrassing but I freaked out. I remember texting my two close girlfriends at the time because I was so excited. I definitely had a little crush on Derek already. I honestly thought he was too cool for me. He looked like this cool, artsy guy, covered with tattoos. But he was sweet. I replied because I had nothing to lose, though I was really nervous. Two weeks later, we finally met up for drinks.
What’s Happened Since:
Derek: Fortunately for us, we are still together. We’re still striving for what’s best for each other.
Taylor: Derek and I just had a baby in the beginning of August, his name is Milo. Having a baby really has put our relationship to the test, but it’s rewarding when you remember that we’re doing it all for him.
The Straight-Up Crush Admission
Luke, 30, and Danielle, 29, have been together for 3 years. They live in Cape Town, South Africa.
The First DMs:
Danielle: I said something along the lines of, “Sorry if this is a tad bizarre but I saw you twice over the weekend, and I was too nervous to say hi,” and that I had a Instagram-crush on him.
Luke: I responded something like, “I was nervous to say hello, too,” and we initiated a conversation immediately.
Danielle: I’d seen Luke out and about twice the weekend leading up to my DM. I took it as fate guiding me. I consulted with my best friend, who also mentioned that she’d seen him that weekend—she even messaged me to say: “Do you know who would make the perfect boyfriend for you? Luke!” When I took the leap of faith, I was beyond nervous (I downed two glasses of wine in the process), but I felt good about it. We started chatting, exchanged numbers, and set a first date in place a few hours after that.
Luke: I felt extremely happy and excited. I was elated. I replied because I thought we would have a lot of fun together, and I thought Danielle was incredibly beautiful. We started dating pretty soon afterward and we have never looked back.
Danielle: Ten minutes into our first date at an art gallery, we were approached by the press—they took our picture and it ended up on the front page of a local newspaper. Luke gave a fake name! We still use that alias when I pick Luke up from the airport.
What’s Happened Since:
Danielle & Luke: We do pretty much everything together. We just moved into our own official place together. We’re best friends and have a beautifully honest and real relationship. We love traveling, but we are just as content being at home with our cat, Stevie. We’re excited as to what the future holds for us—knowing we’ll experience it together.
Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Graphics by Coco Lashar.