Armed with one fact about his crush, John, a 23-year-old from La Puente, California, set out to get her attention in the best way he knew: By posting some super-cute photos of his dogs on Instagram.
“I noticed how much she loved dogs, so I started posting about my two huskies on my page,” said John, who asked that his last name not be published to protect his privacy.
“Soon enough, she DM’ed me and I got the attention I was hoping for,” John told HuffPost. “We ended up dating, but besides her love of my dog photos, we didn’t have much in common.”
Though he’s now coupled with a more compatible partner, John understands why he resorted to covert courtship tactics with his former crush.
“If you’re scared of being rejected, social media is like an outlet to feel accepted or relevant in your crush’s eyes,” he said. “You might feel like there’s no point in reaching out directly to them because that ‘like’ you receive gives you the same rush.”
Sound familiar? It’s probably because you’re a single millennial and you’ve resorted to the same social media mating ritual. It’s called Gatsbying, and it’s essentially when you post things on social media with the sole intent of impressing your crush (or a person you’re newly dating).
The term is riff on the “The Great Gatsby” and the elaborate parties the titular character, Jay Gatsby, would throw to get the attention of his crush, Daisy. (Nowadays, he could just throw up a few Instagram stories of his nights out and vacay pics; there’d be no need to exorbitantly spend on all those bayside soirees.)
Australian model Matilda Dods was an early adopter of the term, writing a post about the trend last year for lifestyle blog Tomboy. In her single days, she was an unrepentant Gatsby-er. Now, she’s something of an expert in the art form.
“The perfect Gatsby is something that you know will feel personal to the person whose attention you’re trying to get,” Dods said. “It can’t just be a random picture of you looking hot, though I fully endorse those also; a Gatsby needs to have something that makes it relevant to the person being Gastby-ed.”
These days, Dods prods her single friends to get “on the Gatsby thirst trap chandelier” every chance she gets.
“A few weeks ago, I was at bar with one of my best friends, and the guy that she’s been seeing hadn’t texted her in a while,” Dods said. “I knew that they had been at this bar together a few times, so after plying her with happy hour cocktails and incessant encouragement, she posted an Instagram story with the location tag of the bar. She ended up staying over at his house.”
A Gatsby success story if we’ve ever heard one. Sure, the post was a calculated move, but it was relatively low-risk, unlike, say, directly texting her crush a sad, slightly awkward photo of a Moscow Mule from said bar.
“There is a level of safety people feel behind the screen, both in terms of the indirect communication it offers, as well as safety in being able to portray a particular image of one’s self ― an image that might seem ‘cool’ or impressive,” Seely told HuffPost. “Plus, it’s less likely to be met with rejection. Directly messaging can feel really vulnerable”
Seely thinks a Gatsby post here and there is fine, but it gets iffy when you become overly concerned with your crush’s interpretation of each and every thing you post. The end goal should be to get them involved in your actual life, not have them watch your every Snapchat story like some low-budget version of “The Truman Show.”
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you feel disappointed when your crush doesn’t ‘like’ your photo or watch your story,” Seely said. “When this happens, I often see people going down the rabbit hole of worst-case scenarios or thoughts that reflect self-doubt or low self-worth. They think, ‘He didn’t like my post, it must mean I’m not likable, attractive enough or athletic enough.’”
Ruminations like that can absolutely have a negative impact on your dating confidence. Before you post, Seely said to ask yourself if you’re setting yourself up for disappointment if you don’t get that coveted double-tap from your crush.
And if your crush stops watching, take heart in knowing that sometimes, Gatbsying doesn’t go as planned, but works out for the best anyway. Just ask 27-year-old Christina (she asked to use a pseudonym for her privacy.)
Two years ago, a new guy she’d been seeing asked her to see “Manchester By The Sea,” and she turned him down for a very relatable reason: “I didn’t want to cry so much in front of him early on,” Christina told HuffPost.
She suggested a different movie, but when those plans fell through, the two ended up hanging out and watching a movie at his place instead.
When things fizzled out not long after, Christina plotted out an Instagram story she knew the guy would feel compelled to respond to.
“I went to see ‘Manchester By The Sea’ with my best friend who’s a guy, and whose leg I skillfully managed to include in the picture,” she said. “The first guy saw my the story and commented something along the lines of ‘Hey, I thought you didn’t want to see that!’”
She secured the desired DM, but the guy didn’t ask her out on another date. And right after that, he began seriously dating another woman (“I must have been the number two all along,” Christina said.)
That was fine, though. Unlike “The Great Gatsby,” Christina’s story has an entirely happy, entirely unambiguous ending.
“Funny enough, soon after, I started dating that best friend I saw the movie with and we’ve been together ever since,” she said. “In the end, it all worked out the way it was meant to.”