When it comes to online dating, the old is new again, sort of.

Some Gen Zers, who The Pew Research Center defines like people born after 1996, they say they’re increasingly turning to apps like Instagram to date, preferring to connect in what they perceive to be a more «organic» way.

YPulse, a youth research company, said in a recent study that 2 in 5 young people say they met their partner through social media, compared to 29% who met their partner through dating apps.

These days, the go-to app for Gen Zers has become Instagram, according to experts like Joy Ofodu, host of the «Dating Unsettled» podcast.

Ofodu, who is also part of Generation Z, described the platform as the new “neighborhood block” for many young people. Instead of meeting at a bar or club, they meet through mutual followers or shared communities and strike up a conversation from there.

“For me, Instagram wins for dating because of everything I can see,” said Ofodu, who connected with her boyfriend via Instagram direct message more than a year ago. I see your friends. I see what your friends are eating. I see what your mom shot last week. It’s really creepy, but it works. And I just got a fuller picture of who that person is. It breathes off the page a bit more. You can even see how they interact with their friends a bit, through comments and replies.”

I think that feels a little better because it feels almost organic, like we’re meeting someone in person.

Josh Roque, 20, on Instagram

People of all ages are more and more fatigued of dating apps, and Gen Z in particular craves relationships that feel more organic. However, as a generation that grew up online and became increasingly physically isolated during the pandemic, many don’t know how to make a move in person.

Although «sliding into DMs» has become a memes At this point, Gen Zers who spoke to NBC News said that most people are turned off by a strong innuendo. Instead, striking up a casual conversation using posts, Stories, or memes in Reels as a starting point in DMs can help a person make a connection.

On Instagram, young daters also said they feel there are many subtle ways to engage with a person that communicate that you’re interested in getting to know them, without the romantic or sexual pressure that sometimes comes with an interaction on a dating app.

“Social media doesn’t have that underlying notion that something has to happen between us,” said Josh Roque, 20, who uses the pronouns they and them. “It can be just casual and friendly or we can take it easy.”

For example, Roque said that «if someone gets a DM and it’s casual and then naturally transitions to a more flirty vibe, I think it feels a little better because it feels almost organic, like we’re meeting someone in person.» .”

Generation Z «missed» milestones like «a great first year of college or sophomore year of college,» Roque added.

“We didn’t really get that experience for a while, and I think we just really want that organic stuff,” they said.

Screening someone can also be easier on a social media platform than on a dating app. Preeya De Silva, 23, said «you can get a lot more information from Instagram.»

Although she is now in a relationship, De Silva said that when she was dating, she would use Instagram to determine if a person was real, if they were single, and if she was following a bunch of Instagram models, which turned her off.

On apps, often “the only information you get is what that person wants you to think about them,” De Silva said, “which is, for the most part, a very small glimpse of who that person is. And it’s usually a bit inaccurate in my experience.»

In December, Instagram released its own predictions for 2023 in conjunction with trend forecasting company WGSN, which surveyed 1,200 Gen Z social media users in the US More than half of those surveyed “feel more comfortable being vulnerable online and over text than in person,» the companies said in their report. “On Instagram, DMs and messages continue to drive connection and conversation between friends and love interests.”

But that’s not to say that dating app culture is dead. YPulse noted in its report that «while some young people find love through social media, 44% say it makes dating more difficult.»

In recent years, a new wave of dating apps has tried to appeal to Gen Z users and other people who are over the more traditional dating apps.

Some younger people said they like to find connections on dating apps and then migrate to Instagram to get a more complete picture of a person.

«If you want to talk to someone and you don’t necessarily want to give them your phone number right away, that’s a perfect thing in my book to say, ‘Oh hey yeah, add me on Instagram.'» Denis Alexander, 26, said. “We can be friends and grow from there.”

There may also be less certainty about a person’s relationship status or romantic interest on Instagram.

“I think dating apps win a bit with intentionality,” Ofodu said. «So you don’t have to guess if… someone is single or not, if someone is looking for a relationship or not, or if someone is close or not.»

However, Ofodu said he feels dating apps can often make a person appear «flat» because they have to stand out in a sea of ​​singles using a limited amount of space. On the other hand, if someone on a dating app writes too much information on his profile, Alexander said he seems to «try,» such are the unspoken and fickle rules of online dating.

Ofodu said the «perfect marriage» of apps is when someone links your Instagram to your dating profile. This way, people know a person is up for a date, but they have the opportunity to cut the middleman out of the dating app algorithm and head straight to someone’s Instagram DMs.

Along with their desire for organic relationships, Gen Z longs for authenticityAnd because most people have years of post archive on their Instagram, those profiles can feel like a more personal and real description of someone compared to a dating profile.

“A lot of people will post melancholic images on dating apps,” Alexander said. “And I’m like, I don’t want to see that. …I don’t care what your Blue Steel face is. I just want to know if I’ll have fun with you and if you’re a cool person and we’ll get along.”

Although not everyone is convinced that Instagram is very different from apps. Some Gen Zers say it serves as a slight step up from dating app culture.

“I think there’s a lot of stigma around dating apps, although I think it’s a bit ironic because social media is almost used as an alternative to dating apps and it becomes pretty much the same thing,” Roque said. «I think it’s just a way for Gen Z to fool themselves a little bit.»