We don’t need to get into the details why in-person flirting with strangers is mostly off the table right now. Especially in places where things will get colder in the next few months, the likelihood of making eyes at someone over a mask and hitting it off is slim at best, and irresponsibly risky to act on, at worst.
It is possible, through—hell, it’s even fun—to forge casual romantic and sexual relationships over dating apps (and of course, the trusted “non-dating” dating apps, such as Instagram, Twitter and TikTok, aka the best ones of all).
If the idea of initiating or otherwise participating in conversations by way of The Apps feels like a dread-inducing slog… first of all, you don't have to do that! Take a break and come back when that's less of the case for you.
If you do want to find more interesting, hot methods for sustaining non-in-person flirtations that feel fun and sexy (which… is the point), instead of monotonous and one-note by way of texting and other distanced means of communicating: There are plenty of ways to do that! We don’t have to break our own boundaries (or other people's) to forge new connections. It just takes a bit of imagination—and a willingness to get weird (which is, by the way, a very hot quality in a person, just in general).
Know what you're going for—and be direct about it.
Most apps will let you search for non-local people. If you use Lex, you can search by keyword for people all over. On OkCupid, you can search by zip code. You can splurge and get Tinder Plus which allows you to match with people all over the world, in any location (I mean, why NOT swipe right on some hotties living in Paris?). Speaking as someone who has dated in the same city for 10 years: Getting a message from someone new who doesn’t know my ex? Incredible, yes.
The clearer you can be about what you're looking for (and what you're not), the sooner you can find a connection with someone on the same page.
If you don’t have any interest or ability to meet with people for an in-person hang, say so! You can be explicit about your basic level of interest, availability, and desires, too. Laying it allllll out there is totally acceptable, à la, “Hi, I’m looking for someone to flirt with long-distance while COVID ravages our country. You down?” I’d swipe right!!!!
Don’t ask what’s up. What’s up is that we’re in a global pandemic and a political revolution, doye. These topics will arise in conversation, which, yes, let’s talk about it! But maybe don't lead with the hellscape we're all enduring right now: My answer to, “How’s it going?” is complicated and a little depressing and not something I want to dish to an internet stranger right away.
If you hit things off on a dating app, move promising conversations to a more intimate zone once they get going.
After you’re both interested, get off the app and into texts, calls, or video chats. This will make it easier to chat throughout the day (if you want to), instead of having messages languish in a less-checked inbox. (It will also make sexting easier.)
My truest conviction about switching a germinating flirt to a new platform: Download Snapchat. I find Snapchat a great medium between texting and a FaceTime date. It’s casual-feeling, but lets you hear your crush’s voice or see them, but with everyone's control over how and what they want to be seen/heard intact.
Exchange mundane pictures of your daily lives.
Trading boring pictures of your day can be just as fun and charming as sending selfies. Don’t overthink this. If I’m into someone—or even just think I could potentially be into them—I genuinely do want to see the bomb breakfast they made themselves, the disastrous state of their desk, and/or as a picture of their cute face drinking their evening cocktail. I’ve been known to ask for selfies from folks while they’re waiting in the DMV line, with their Starbucks order, or just to show off their outfit (maybe flirting will mean we’ll change out of our pajamas????).
Play an actual game. (Not like, "playing games" with someone's time or head—like, pick a corny activity you can have fun with over text.)
We’re adults—extremely fun-starved, horny, and bored adults. Using the structure of a game to give some parameters to how you get to know each other might alleviate that, even for a little while! Try these:
–Rose, Bud, Thorn
Rose, Bud, Thorn is a very refreshing alternative to the question, “How was your day?” This version carries much more of the potential to get a cute glimpse into someone else's life and show them a little of your own. Each person shares their "rose" (a thing that felt good/hopeful that day), their "bud" (something that could be improved upon, or something they’re learning), and their "thorn" (the shittiest part of their day, which might sound negative, but is actually fun to bitch about with someone who's on your team).
–Truth or Dare
Did you download Snapchat yet? Because that will absolutely take truth or dare to the next level. Here’s some of my favorite truths and dares to play with crushes while we’re far apart:
-Dare: Send me a private Spotify playlist.
-Truth: What’s something embarrassing that you enjoy?
-Dare: Send me a Snap of you licking something but, like, in a sexy way.
-Truth: How do you show affection?
-Dare: Call and leave me a voicemail to listen to tomorrow.
-Truth: What’s your sexual mantra?
-Dare: Subtweet me.
-Truth: Describe an outfit that makes you feel powerful.
I would like to challenge us to think outside of the box when it comes to thinking of trios of things to F/M/K here. While celebrities are interesting enough, knowing my crush would fuck Meryl Streep doesn’t really tell me anything besides, "Cool." Try FMK with concepts/places/items//etc.! This gives us the potential to playfully disagree or commiserate that yes, we’d both fuck cold press… but we’d regret it!
–Cold press, hot coffee, decaf
–Mullet, buzzcut, ponytail
–Truck, convertible, Subaru
–Bubble bath, long shower, or never needing to shower for the rest of your life
–Red wine, rosé, white wine
–Feta, cheddar cheese, burrata
I, personally, don’t really care what music someone else listens to. What I do care about is creativity and playfulness, and THOSE are the energies I bring when I create a playlist for someone I’m flirting with.
While passing someone a Spotify playlist of our favorite songs can say a lot about us, we’re not in high school anymore. Let’s get specific. Here’s some playlist ideas to give (or request) from your online crush:
–Music to Listen to While You Wait for the Zoom Meeting to Start
–Songs That Would Play at the Club While I Hit on You
–Music We’d Fuck To
–Your New Shower Playlist
–ANY inside joke can become a playlist. I sent my partner a playlist called “I’m Gonna Be Alive” which is a very specific forgettable line from Casper (the ghost movie, yes) that we both watched at the same time.
Find a more exciting roadmap through sexting territory.
Finally! Sexting! The crown jewel of technology's role in being a horndog!
(Usually, we can initially tell if a text conversation is going in that direction, but if you’re not sure, just ask—and here's a comprehensive guide to the whole conceit of sexting and other kinds of talking about sex, in general.).
As a society, we've progressed past sending each other snaps of a genital close-up. If you’re really in the mood, this is where Snapchat can come into play to show a little bit of movement. A quick image of someone’s hands going down their pants does more for me than a hole pic. Your hands on the band of your underwear, an artful image of your chest, a post-shower selfie with water dripping off your body. If you’re daring, send a Snap with no image, just the sound of you moaning/panting, and let the other person's brain fill in the rest.
It's SO easy to role play from afar. Dive into it! What if you two were at a public sex party, how would that play out? What if you were on a road trip and had a sudden urge to hook up in a public bathroom? If you had spotted each other at a bar, what would have happened after? Get weird, get wild.
Look! No matter how you proceed to flirt from far away: Please, for the love of the game, remember to have a great time.
Follow Archie Bongiovanni on Twitter.