Dating apps are over. They're a waste of time.

Nobody's meeting anybody new on Tinder or Grindr anymore. It's the same mundane chat, day in, day out. Maybe these apps have had their day for actual, real life connections. So where are all the new meets at?

Instagram, it seems. Yes, Instagram is now a dating app.

Ever-important in using this social network for romance purposes is upping your Instagram game. Why? Because when anyone comes in contact with you, in virtual or real life, they'll search you on Instagram to see who you are.

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Unlike other social networks where people just want to connect for the sake of connecting, Instagram is where somebody goes to find our your "essence". They want a glimpse at your rolling visual diary.

I created my first Instagram profile this week. I've stayed away for so long because I dislike the "Instasham" nature of how the network is used: rather than displaying what you're like as a person, you're just showing an uber-filtered world that's actually devoid of your reality.

Why did I finally cave in and join? For social experiment value. I'm not actually trying to date, but I want to see how many real-world connections I can make from Instagram.

This brings us back to improving your Instagram game. If you want to meet people in real life, they're going to look up your Insta and ensure you are who you say you are. Instagram is now your portfolio for your dating life.

Here's how to use it as such.

CHOOSE A THEME

First of all, your Instagram page needs a theme (unless you're a famous person and then you can get away with banal photos and people still love them). Pick out one part of your life/personality and roll with it. After following all your friends, find others who have pages with similar themes.

Instagram flirting is more of an art than a science. And it's not nearly as simple as sending a DM with a "hey" or an "up to?" message like you might on the usual dating apps. You need to be far more savvy.

GET A FOLLOW BACK

Here's the model my successful, now-in-relationships-via-Instagram friends have followed. See someone you like on Instagram and follow them. Like a few of their photos and hope for a follow back. If you don't get past this step, it's game over, move on.

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PLAY CAT-AND-MOUSE WITH LIKES

Next, it's like Instagram cat-and-mouse. You want to find yourself in a rhythm of liking each others' posts now and again. Not daily, and no deep likes (when you scroll way back to ancient photos). Both are too eager.

UTILISE STORIES

When posting your Instagram Stories (pre-recorded videos of you going about your day), check and see if this person has been watching them. It's a good sign they're not just interested in the trickled-down version of your life in static photographs. They want to see how you speak and what your body language is like.

This is probably why Instagram dating has taken off: Stories are like meeting people without actually meeting them, and they are harder to fake than still photographs.

START THE DIRECT MESSAGING (DM)

Assuming your nonchalant like-for-like regimen continues (and comments are okay too, but don't go overboard), send a DM and strike up a natural conversation. You've expressed interest in somebody in a more organic way than on a traditional dating app – you know, where you compliment somebody's physical appearance in message 1 and have all your sexual desires revealed by message 5.

Reciprocity is key in proceeding here. If your likes and comments are one-way, it's the same as trying to get someone's attention in a bar and not catching any eye contact. They're Just Not That Into You.

MAKE THEM THIRSTY

You're not done yet. This is a long game. Next, I'm going to recommend something I've been sceptical of in the past, the "thirst trap". The seductive photo posted purely for attention.

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Here is where the thirst trap really becomes valuable, though: you put up a sexy photo of yourself, and see if the person you've been Insta-courting likes it. Little do they know, the sole purpose of that photo is to get their one single like.

TAKE IT OFFLINE

The quicker you get that thirst trap validated by the right person, the better the chance of taking this Insta-dating session forward and getting into proper DM conversations, which may lead to another form of digital connection (eg. Facebook Messenger or text). Then one of you can probably ask to meet up with the other.

I can't claim to be an expert on Insta-meets, but of those I know who've followed the above advice to completion, many are now in relationships. They all found it more successful than bona-fine dating apps.

So, if you're single and looking to mingle, consider giving it a try. I reckon your efforts will be more fruitful than they are with simply swiping right.

Got a question about sex, sexuality, and all things related? Send it to lee.suckling@gmail.com and Let's Talk About Sex.