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By Alice Panikian/
Updated Aug 01, 2018 @ 10:45 am
I need to empty my inbox
Credit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

We're in the age of cyberstalking. Never has personal information been so easily accessible. A person's age, place of employment, taste in music — even who their last three love interests were — can all be found out before even meeting him or her.

That's good because, if you’re anything like me, you can’t help but to do a little reconnaissance when an interesting prospect presents himself (or herself, if that's your preference!). Though Instagram may not paint a complete picture of who a person really is, it is rife with clues and sometimes damning information about your crush or prospective mate. There is an exception to every rule, but here are a few general points I've picked up in my years of dating in Manhattan (These are specific to men, but I definitely think most of these can be applied to women, too.):

No Instagram? NO PROBLEM! Then again, maybe not . . . .

If he doesn’t have Instagram it’s for one of two reasons: The first being that he simply doesn’t care about self-promotion, which is kind of awesome. He is probably happier as a result, since it has been suggested that checking social media like Instagram may have negative effects on your self-esteem. If that's your case, stop right now!

The second reason he doesn't have Instagram is probably because he doesn’t want his personal business being displayed to colleagues, family, or significant others. This could signal that he's got something to hide.

For example, I once met a man — let’s call him Lester — who actively pursued me and had no social media presence. I only found out weeks later through mutual friends that he was in a serious relationship — for the last four years! Finally, I understood the mysterious lack of social media: no stream = no evidence.

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Is He All About @PornstarsDaily? Or Women Making Fish-y Faces?

Does the guy you’re into follow his college roommates, coworkers, and friends (ideally), or does he follow models (a problem endemic to Manhattan), porn stars and @squatspo? All men look at hot women. It is a completely natural and biological urge, even on Instagram.

However, if the majority of the people he is following are hot chicks (local hot chicks, in particular), then that is a red flag. Regardless of whether these women are local honeys or supermodels/celebrities, a man whose photo feed is flooded with sexy gym selfies, fishy faces, and bikini pictures is probably not interested in a committed relationship.

What's His Feed Like When He's Out of Town?

Another thing I’ve learned to keep an eye out for is a guy's activity when he's out of town. (This can apply to women, too.) An ex of mine once went on a guy’s trip to Chicago* and while there, added about four new female followers. Through a little light creeping, I was able to confirm that all the girls in question were also in Chicago at the same time that he was.

So what could this mean? Well, one thing is for sure, he definitely must have talked to them long enough to suggest they follow him on Instagram. He likely also neglected to tell them about his girlfriend back home. That, or there are a lot of home-wreckers in Chicago.*

Is His "Liking" Suspicious?

What would we do in a world without a newsfeed?! It might suck to see your significant other "liking" other people’s sexy pictures, but it can also be a blessing. I once dated a seemingly great guy who was a bit tech stupid and would "like" dozens of pictures of hot women throughout the day — even at night when he was supposed to be sleeping! I saw this as a red flag (for obvious reasons) and ended it before I developed any real feelings for him.

But some cunning Instagrammers have found a loophole. Comments (unlike "likes") never make it into the newsfeed. So unless you do some serious stalking, it can be near impossible to find out about inappropriate comments made by him on Instagram. You will, however, be able to see the comments left on his images. Hot girl: “You never texted me back," was my personal favorite (same guy).

Is He All About Friends and Family or Is He a Selfie Psychopath?

Specifically regarding men: Does he post pictures of his friends, family, and pets? If that's a yes, then you hit the jackpot — that’s what you want. If the majority of his posts are selfies, however, you might want to reconsider.

Regardless of how ripped his body is, a new study indicated that men who post selfies have more psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies than men who don’t. (Don’t shoot the messenger!)

Though it may be a bit of a double standard, it has always been my experience that men who post selfies are generally insecure attention whores. But I suppose the same argument can be made for females who post selfies, so let’s move on....

Do You Feel Like an Insta-Reject?

How does this person feel about posting pictures of/with you? If this is someone you’re dating seriously, and he/she is uncomfortable with the idea of publicizing their relationship with you, well, their message is loud and clear. It’s the social media equivalent of them introducing you to their buddies as “my friend.”

In the end, there is no surefire way to tell if a person is worthy of your affections via an app. All we can do is use the information we have at hand (literally) to make the best decision possible. Not everything is always as it seems; and you may feel it necessary to give him/her the benefit of the doubt. Intuition is more reliable than any other resource. And like me, if that’s not enough for you, then creep on!

*Names and details have been changed to protect... well, mainly me.