Not only does Instagram provide a visually driven collage of your life, it also offers a subtle way of expressing interest through likes and comments, and connecting in the form of a private chat. File image: IOL

New York - Last April, Roberto Forgione noticed that someone who had ghosted him was looking at his Instagram Stories — the brief, casual updates that hang around for 24 hours at the top of the app’s screen and include lists of the people who have seen them.

“After a couple, I was like, ‘He’s back,'” Forgione, 31, a photo producer in Brooklyn, said. He decided to take a chance and reach out in his direct messages. 
“I asked him if he wanted to hang out, and he said yes,” Forgione said. The two have continued seeing each other since, spending Thanksgiving together and attending a wedding as each other’s dates.

Anthea Fisher, 22, a project manager in finance, began a relationship on Instagram with someone she had known peripherally. 
“We liked each other’s stuff from time to time,” she said. “After my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, he started liking a lot of my stuff and watching all of my stories. He would DM (direct message) me, he would send me memes. And I sort of knew he was trying to get my attention.”

As of September, Instagram has more than 800 million users worldwide who engage with the app at least once a month. Of those, 300 million use Instagram Stories every day, according to a spokesperson for the company. 

Some of them use Instagram for their businesses; some for sharing photos of their kids; and some for distributing memes about hungover mornings and overeating. And then there are those who use Instagram as a supplemental match-making tool. “It’s basically a portfolio for your dating life,” said Halen Yau, 31, a public relations manager from Toronto.

Not only does Instagram provide a visually driven collage of your life, it also offers a subtle way of expressing interest through likes and comments, and connecting in the form of a private chat. 

Meanwhile, the lists of users who have looked at each of your Story cards mean that you now have data - rudimentary and inconclusive, but still, data! - on who exactly is obsessing over you today, tomorrow and yesterday.

Unfortunately, Instagram is not all romance and daisies. In some cases, rather than serving as a conduit for an attraction, Instagram is a reminder of what is gone.

When Forgione began dating his current flame, his ex-boyfriend started paying a lot of attention to his Stories and his feed. “The level of him creeping on me was out of control, to the point that he texted asking me, ‘Who is your new boyfriend?'” he said. “The guy I’m seeing has posted things about me and just from him doing that and tagging me, I’ve seen on my Stories guys who follow him looking at my stuff,” he said. “People are creeping on him and then creeping on me.”

Not that Forgione is above checking up on his exes. “After an ex and I broke up, of course I was crazy stalking him,” he said. But, he added, “I didn’t want him to see that I was looking at his videos.” So he used a co-worker’s fake Instagram account to see what his ex was up to.

New York Times