Ask Elana: Sending the right signals

Dear Elana,

I’m falling in love with my online guy friend. We met through Instagram and have become good friends but we’ve never met in person. I want to have a future with him, but I don’t know how to approach things as I have no idea about his feelings and I don’t want to ruin the friendship between us.

– I Never Stop Thinking About Crush

Dear INSTA Crush,

It sounds like you’re falling for this guy’s emoji game, but you want some face time.

I’m wondering where you are in the trajectory of your Instagram relationship. It seems like you have progressed through the early stages of “Instaflirting” – following each other, liking and commenting on each other’s photographs – and moving from public communication to private messaging.

The next step is to move the conversation off of Instagram and into more personal modes of communication: email, phone or video chat. Once you establish mutual trust and interest, you can plan a date IRL (in real life) – so that one day you can post photos of the two of you together, sipping hot chocolate in front of a blazing fire.

You can figure out if he likes you as more than a friend by watching his reactions to your posts. Reciprocity is key. If you like one of his workout pics at the JCC, he should like one of your fitness selfies. You can also scope out your competition. Has he recently followed or liked other girls’ pictures? Did he like all of their #instagood posts only to ignore your birthday post? If so, sorry, but he’s just not that into you.

If it seems like all signals are pointing to InstaLove, try to communicate with him honestly and directly. Remember, it’s easy to hide behind a computer screen, but if you want your connection to grow, you need to show him your real feelings (#nofilter). 

Dear Elana,

I’ve known this friend for 13 years. He’s two years older than me, and I know him because he’s a family friend. We were always close, but I think (pretty sure) that I’m falling for him. How do I get him to see me as a potential partner?

– Wanting And Needing To Make Our Romance Engage


Before you make a move, you need to decide whether it’s worth risking your friendship – and creating awkwardness for your families. If you think there’s potential for lasting love, then it’s worth exploring. But just like dating a coworker or a neighbor, if you break up, you have to be prepared to keep seeing each other.

Next, you need to clarify your feelings. You say that you are “pretty sure” that you are falling for him. Do you find yourself smiling when you think about him or hear his name? When you see him, do you feel like you have butterflies in your stomach, or like your heart is bursting out of your chest? If you answered yes, then mazel tov, you are officially smitten.

If you decide to move forward after weighing the pros and cons, you need a plan to help him see you as a potential match. Show him that you’re not a goofy kid, but instead an alluring young woman. If he’s used to seeing you in ratty T-shirts, try wearing something that shows your sense of style. Engage him in topics that matter to him and demonstrate your shared interests. Adjust your posture when you’re talking to him and see if he mirrors your body language.

Invite him to spend time with you outside of family holidays. If you’re playing dreidel with your younger cousins at a Chanukah party, ask him if he would like to join you outside for fresh air. If you find yourself laughing with him at inside jokes, tell him that you feel comfortable with him and that you enjoy hanging out with him.

As your connection grows stronger, you can mention that you are interested in various activities like seeing an independent film at the Cedar Lee Theatre or checking out the Canopy Walk at the Holden Arboretum. If he jumps at the chance to join you, there’s a good chance that he sees you as more than a friend. But if he politely ignores your hints, take the cue to safeguard the friendship and set your sights elsewhere.

Elana Hunter started KickStartLove in 2010 when she was single, and after years of dating, she is now happily married. She provides individual dating coaching for private clients who are ready to change their lives. Learn more at

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