People can say what they want about the problems that social media causes, but there’s no denying that it’s one of the most prevalent ways that people connect nowadays. Chances are you can relate to the now nearly-universal experience of creeping on your old college roommate’s problematic Twitter account or finding amusement on Facebook because several of your high school classmates are now into MLMs. Although they might seem almost like parasocial relationships considering how removed you are from some of your former peers, plenty of people also form genuine connections with their online acquaintances.
Making friends as an adult can be difficult, but interacting through social media is definitely one way to make that easier. While some people might consider them to be more surface-level, your Instagram acquaintances might actually be great contenders for joining your social circle IRL. You might have the same interests, hobbies, mutual friends, or even just similar aesthetics; whatever the case may be, if you feel like you might really vibe with one of your Instagram friends over drinks, it’s worth a shot. “Online friendships quite often turn into real-life ones,” says Irene S. Levine, Ph.D., a psychologist, friendship expert, and creator of The Friendship Blog. “Social media offers us the opportunity to meet many more people than we might ordinarily meet offline.”
All it takes is a little finesse to turn an online friendship into a real-life one. If you’re itching to shoot your platonic shot with one of your IG besties, here are expert tips for turning an Instagram acquaintance into a friend IRL.
How To Make Friends On Instagram
Check Them Out First: After you’ve liked enough of each other’s posts, responded to each other’s Stories, and hyped each other up in the comments, it might be time to transition that digital connection into a physical one. Before you do this, though, Levine says to make sure that the other person checks out. “It is prudent to learn as much as you can about an individual before you suggest an in-person meeting,” she tells Bustle, noting that it may help to peek at their social media profiles beyond IG — even if they share your music taste or affinity for the local thrift store scene.
Propose A Meetup: Once you’ve decided you want to take things offline, the method you take to propose an IRL meetup is totally up to you and your comfort level. If DMing them out of the blue and asking them to grab coffee makes you feel like a creep, then maybe strike up a digital convo about their recent travels or how cute their dog is and see if they keep up the dialogue with you.
Friendship and relationship expert Dr. Melanie Ross Mills says to think of it like a poker game: You put one chip in and wait for them to do the same, then — ideally — it keeps going, so you begin building a foundation for your relationship. “When you are both reciprocating, this can lead to a possible fulfilling friendship,” she tells Bustle.
Move From The DMs To Text: Levine suggests offering up a move to texting so you can chat off the app, and then plan a friend date when the moment strikes. This can make things feel more personal and potentially make you feel more comfortable suggesting a hangout, just as you would with an older friend.
Go Somewhere Safe: To be extra cautious just in case, Levine recommends planning your first hangout in a safe and public location, and also giving yourself an “out” (like a doctor’s appointment or other engagement) so you aren’t obligated to stay too long if things get awkward.
Have An Open Mind: If you do end up meeting, Levine says it’s a good idea to go in with an open mind and keep your expectations at a reasonable level. “Remember that it’s easy for people to put forth a false front and project a different image of themselves behind an electronic screen,” she says. Even if you both have Great Danes and frequent the same hip cocktail bars in your neighborhood, there’s still a chance that you might not be compatible as IRL besties — and that’s OK.
Take Things Slow: If you and your IG friend start hanging out and really vibing, Levine says that you can treat the process of forming a strong friendship with them like any other relationship: by taking your time. “Intimate friendships take time to develop as two people get to know each other,” she says. “Give the relationship the time it needs to flourish. Little by little, two people will begin to feel comfortable enough to reveal their true selves to one another.”
Dealing With Rejection When An Instagram Friend Doesn’t Want To Meet Up
Shooting your shot in any capacity can be nerve-wracking, even if it’s just to become offline friends. As Levine mentioned, it’s important to not only have low expectations in the case that things don’t work out, but Mills also says that you shouldn’t take it personally if your IG acquaintance doesn’t feel like grabbing a bite.
“It’s so easy to worry, second-guess, or overthink that you did something wrong, or that they didn’t approve of you for some reason,” says Mills. Levine adds that some people simply have too much going on in their lives to really commit to starting up a new friendship. Regardless of how things turn out, you can still be proud that you put yourself out there and gave a new connection a try.
Dr. Melanie Ross Mills, friendship and relationship expert