Consent and the Social Media DM

consent social media girl looking at phone

What I love about Tinder is that its format is based on consent. People are only allowed to message each other once they’ve matched; when you swipe right you are pre-approving an open line of communication. Swiping left on a person allows you to say “no” in the most gentle way possible. It’s unfortunately common for women and nonbinary people to feel guilty, threatened or awkward when rejecting people IRL, so Tinder’s swiping method is an easy, safe way to decline advances. However, the line gets crossed when a person doesn’t get a match, finds the user they didn’t match with on social media and decides to reach out. When someone does this they are violating digital consent by trying to pursue a person who has already said “no” via left swipe.

When I first started using Tinder, it wasn’t uncommon for me to find a random guy in my requested Facebook messages. Sometimes it would be an honest message like “Hey I saw you on Tinder” but most times it would be a simple, sneaky “Hey.” I always knew they were from Tinder though. A DM from a local dude with no mutual friends is like a cold sore; incredibly obvious and slightly uncomfortable*. I even recognized people from when I swiped left on their face. It didn’t happen too often, so it wasn’t the most annoying thing in the world, but I always had an eye roll prepared for when I saw a DM from a dude trying to bypass the Tinder algorithm.

When Tinder introduced attaching Instagram accounts to their app profiles, the messages moved platforms and multiplied. The seemingly helpful feature of showing users IG feeds made it immediately easier for people to contact me without a mutual match. I would roll my eyes again, and ignore or delete the messages in an attempt to clear my inbox of people I had already declined to talk to.

Back in September, I was down to just my thong, as my tattoo artist needled permanent art into my skin. An hour later, I walked out of my tattoo shop, happy and sore from my newly acquired rib and butt ink. I heard a voice behind me as I left, but I didn’t stop, assuming the voice belonged to the other patron, who was on the phone in the doorway. Two blocks down the street, I heard the voice again but louder with included hurried footsteps. “Wait!” he yelled behind me. I turned around with my hand held out, thinking I had dropped something that this stranger was trying to get back to me. The voice did belong to the other patron, but he wasn’t on the phone or giving me something I dropped: he was handing me his number, scribbled on the shop’s business card. “Text me, girl.” He said, and then quickly ran back to the tattoo shop. My eyes had never so heavily rolled back into my head, of course, I had to be hit on after being safely nude in the tattoo studio. I walked away, rightfully pissed.

Weeks had gone by, the random man at the tattoo shop no longer in my mind, when I received a DM on my blog Instagram. The message read “Why didn’t you text me?”, I checked the profile of the sender and lo and behold, it was the guy from the tattoo parlour. My tattoo artist had tagged me in a picture, so this man took the time to find my artist’s account, look through his posts to find my tattoo and then send me a message. All that effort because I didn’t text him. He couldn’t accept my non-verbal “no.” My eyes angrily threw daggers at the screen as I closed the app and tossed my phone away from me.

Last week, an email notification popped up on the top of my screen as I was scrolling through Twitter. I eagerly opened up the email, thinking it would be a confirmation a client loved my sponsored post, or perhaps a sale from one of my affiliates. As I read through the email, I realized it was not what I had hoped. It was a message from another random guy from Tinder, who I did not match with, asking I’d like to get a drink with them. I was no longer excited at getting this email, I was so livid I had tears in my eyes.

bad instagram dms

The excuses for this type of behaviour are endless. I’ve had messages written in every which way trying to explain themselves, or even self-identifying themselves as a creep for doing so. “Oh the app glitched and I lost you.” No, I know Tinder’s algorithm better than anyone. If you close the app without swiping on someone they most likely will pop up again (if they’re local.) “I feel like a creep doing this, but I saw you on Tinder and am wondering if you want to go for drinks.” Thanks for identifying that, you should have listened to your own instincts! If the action alone wasn’t disgusting enough, some of these men think they’re going above and beyond to show their interest in me. That “the chase” is a display of romanticism and passion that will make me heart-eyed enough to take my mind off their non-consensual approaches. “I just really like your vibe, so I couldn’t help myself.” Please help yourself out of my inbox. The more creepy messages I get, the more I get angry. This is not okay, and people need to stop thinking they can roll into someone’s inbox when they’ve already been turned down.

Consent is required for sexual activities, but it’s required for a lot of other things too. Touching, hugging, talking about certain subjects, and yes, talking to someone online. I’m allowed to say turn someone down if I’m pursused for a conversation and on Tinder, I only talk to people I want to talk to. That’s the purpose of the app and that’s how I use it.  When a person (almost always a man) decides to message after not matching, they’re violating my consent by ignoring my “no.”

This problem isn’t specific to Tinder, but all forms of physical and online approaches from men. It happens daily, and I refuse to feel uncomfortable due to dudes sliding into the DM’s unwarranted. My social media is my space where I’m building a brand and expressing myself. My inbox is not a playground for unsolicited messages, flirting and dick pics. I’m sick of spending my time rolling my eyes at the people are violating my digital consent.

*I am using this simile to express discomfort – as someone who gets both cold sores and unwarranted DM’s, both of these things make me uncomfortable. However, having an STI is not something to be ashamed of, whereas bad DM etiquette is.

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