The Definitive Guide To Turning An Instagram Friend Into An IRL BFF

Yes, this does sound a little like stalking, because that's basically what this is. Really, really good stalking.


by Clare Finney |
Published on

Okay, so IRL friendships have been born out of Twitter and Facebook, so it makes sense that Instagram is the next best place to non-creepily stalk your friend crushes. I've cemented a few, and while it seems simple at first - it's actually deceptively hard to turn liking photos into an actual friendship. It's like Facebook but comprises solely of the photos which take up 90 per cent of my Facebook time, as well as offering the classic three options: like, follow, comment. Yet, like Candy Crush Saga, within these moves lies a pixelated world of possibilities. And opportunities to look like a dick.

What to post, when to post it and how to appreciate are minefields of social howlers. How you navigate them can make or break the gossamer line between a new BFF and a restraining order. Don't be that girl. Follow this guide - and remember, for all its japes, Instagram is just a filtered extension of this world. If you wouldn't do it IRL, don't do it there.

Deep like, maaaan

‘By liking a large batch of someone's 'grams it lets them know you're interested in them as a person - not just one of the moments they captured,’ explains Elan Miller, social media expert and founder of the app, Glimpse. ‘This behavior has become so prevalent, it's known as deep liking.’ Put simply, it means scrolling through a gal's instagram history and 'liking' or even commenting on stuff they'd posted six or even sixteen months ago. Don't overdo it: five or six discerning likes say far more than 50 indiscriminate ones, and try to like according to your own interests too - e.g their garden photos if you're green fingered, or their fountain pen collection, if you’re into... pens.

Get Glimpse

Glimpse is an add-on app that actually aims to help you discover new friends through Instagram. ‘It captures both what you look like and how you see the world,’ says Elan. ‘With photos, meeting new people feels natural because there's always something to talk about. It sets a different tone.’ Over half of the app’s growing fan base is female. Crucially, in the case of converting an insta-friend to a real one, it facilitates conversations and enables you to see if you've multiple things in common. Conversations start with a photo, the perfect ice breaker, and have a separate inbox to others. That said, you could just bite the bullet and #instameet.


This is the hashtag to use when you want to suggest meeting (surprisingly). It's normally a group thing and, to date, Instagram reckons there are 1800 instameet communities in cities worldwide. If you’re nervous that they'll write you off as a stalker (hint: they won't), suggest going to one of these as a pair. This gives you a neutral zone in which to the test your real life compatibility with the company of strangers as back up. At best you'll recruit five others to your newfound circle of friendship, and at worst you'll at least have a shot of picking up some Instagram tips before going home.

Just ask

This is a tactic best deployed as a culmination of several comments and deep likes: suggest meeting up and pass them your number or email address. Used in conjunction with the hashtag both of you seem to favour - that could be a subject, an area or an ironic aside - it'll lend context, particularly when followed up with a suggestion. An antiques market you know you'll both like from mutual #greenwichmarket-ing , a restaurant serving the best ever fattoush (a dish you they're always trying to make, you’ve noticed) or, if you appear to live nearby, a coffee shop you both frequent.

Hashtag local

A more indirect way of forcing your friendship into the real life zone: if you seem to have a place on common, start to hashtag it and comment when she does. Sooner or later you're going to bond over just how great those caprihanas at that bar on that street are. If this tactic appeals but you don't have a common haunt, create one by checking out (and snapping) a place she's clearly a fan of and crediting for her #recommend. Even if it doesn't work out you'll have found a great new bar.

Comment is free

So use it, and use it well. Neil Patel, a celebrated tech entrepreneur, has done Actual Research to prove, Instagram users prefer comments over liking by some margin - but you don't need an expert to know an investment of time and effort will be preferable to a virtual thumbs up. It takes an imperceptible, borderline unconscious twitch of your thumb muscle to 'like' a gram. It takes thought to appraise it, give feedback and ask more about it. Plus, it’s that’s way more likely to impress a potential friend.

Keep it personal...

Research shows that the most popular subjects on Instagram are lifestyle related: ‘When people know what we're interested in, it makes us way more approachable,’ says Elan. Abstract shots of stone masonry are all well and good, but it's the pets, people, flat whites and clothes that maketh the instawoman. ‘Our Instagram profiles tend to say a lot about us,’ says Elan. ‘Neighbourhoods, sense of humour and the things we care about.’ The more she knows about these, the more likely your insta-friend-crush is going to want to be your IRL bosom buddy.

...but not too personal

Aka selfies. More than one a week and you start to become Kim Kardashian. The occasional selfie is of course acceptable, but it's how you see the world not how you look that potential friends are interested in. If you really must do it (as we all must at some point), keep it light and/or artistic and preferably clean the mirror of toothpaste and make up first. As the social media divisor at Digital World, Miss Netiquette, points out, ‘Even those of us who have a semi-dysfunctional love of fashion blogs don’t really care about shots taken with a bathroom mirror.’

Sync accounts with Facebook…

...and turn that 'follow' into a friend request. The old rules still apply: once you're friends on Facebook you're officially friends. You can arrange to meet, share articles, events and links unashamedly - and you can see if you've mutual real life friends: another convenient cover for suggesting to hang out.

Finally: be a good Instagrammer

In other words, don't be that girl who clogs up my feed with ten photos of her Schnauzer taken from a slightly different angle all uploaded at the same time on a Tuesday. Second only to #over #hashtagging #everybloodything on the #list of insta-gripes, is inundating us with all of your photos uploaded at the same time. Don't get me wrong: I desperately want to see your schnauzer. His squidge-me eyes are pretty much the reason I'm following you - but it'd be great to spread out the joy a little. There are grams of people's cheesecakes I want to see.

Third on the list of is if course, #nofilter abuse. To recap: #nofilter is an outdated, and, let's face it, irritating way of pointing out you've not used a filter on your 'gram. Put simply, it says to your followers 'I'm, like, genuinely a photographer? Whereas you need Hefe.’ Of course there are times when you are just so damn chuffed with a pic you have to highlight your skills, but try to keep it for special occasions. Oh and FTR? Don't fake a #nofilter. You know when you've filtered - and so, more crucially, do we.

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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