The layers of winter clothes are coming off and the smell of sunscreen is starting to fill the air. It is that perfect time of year again: right when spring is hitting its sweet spot and summer is on the horizon. The last few sunny, warm days of Memorial Day weekend are signaling a shift, however, to the return of the Horny Time — which can only mean the re-downloading of all the dating apps that were hastily deleted during the dark and dreary months between the end of the holidays and the first day above 60 degrees.
I know this time has come because I recently woke up to four messages from four past potential flames asking how I’d been doing lately. The age-old dance of dating-app small talk can be smooth and coordinated but is more often a stunted, awkward exchange that leaves all involved wondering whether we actually hacked dating with such godforsaken apps or maybe just broke it forever. But, barring the existential crisis Tinder, Hinge, Bumble and the like tend to induce, at some point in a conversation there comes the inevitable exchange of off-app contact information. And therein lies the question: what do we ask for?
If my own experience and the stories friends have passed along are any indication, chances are slightly higher a date is likely on the horizon if numbers are exchanged. “A number feels more intimate than a social,” a friend of mine put it over text. “I can always remove someone from my socials by blocking but if someone has my number that feels like we’re closer — if you have my number we pretty much have to know each other in real life” (even still, the odds aren’t totally in anyone’s favor for landing a date via app).
But more often, people are asking each other for their social media handles, particularly Instagram, which affords a 50/50 chance these matches will be lost to the strange, dreaded lurking “orbit,” wasting away in a purgatory of thirst-trap replies, sending messages that read “we should meet up sometime” without ever closing the deal. At the moment I have three such conversations in my Instagram DMs — and little hope of them ever amounting to much more.
Some may ask for Snapchat, if they’re nasty. The eternally dead and yet still dying app continues to be buoyed by 14-year-olds and thirsty fuckboys one “u got snap?” Tinder message at a time. At a much younger, dumber, naive time in my life — four months ago — I encountered such a question and admittedly I said yes, and passed along my info. I have since learned the ETA of a dick pic arriving after giving out your Snapchat username: around 25 minutes. That person and I, naturally, did not go on a date and I still get the random “u up?” snaps from time to time as I have yet to get around to blocking him.
There is something legitimate in asking for someone’s social media versus a phone number: it can assuage any lingering doubts about whether the person on the other end is a bot or catfish, and serves to weed out reply guys or racists. Some of the dating apps, including Tinder and Hinge, have long allowed Instagram profiles to be linked within profiles, but in recent months scrubbed usernames to stop people from circumventing the whole system with unwanted DMs. But users still fish for followers by including their handles in their profiles.
Giving a stranger the handle of your Instagram account or Twitter feed can be intimate in a way, but a phone number will always indicate more of a real thing. Not to mention that phone numbers have become the key to much of what we do online: two-factor verification, password recovery and even logging into the very dating apps we love to deride. They have grown into an awfully personal piece of information, integral to our online lives especially.
In my experience, the phone number exchange often happens once the real-life date actually takes place. But, for the love of all that is holy, if I can make a recommendation, do not go the Snapchat route — the employees monitoring our activity there have surely seen enough.