‘Inner Circling’: The Sneaky New Dating Trend You Need To Watch Out For

"It’s calculated and on the spectrum of obsessive."

‘Inner Circling’: The Sneaky New Dating Trend You Need To Watch Out For

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In the same way that you’re often more likely to find a romantic connection doing your grocery shopping than you are at a speed-dating session, social media platforms that aren’t expressly designed for flirting – Twitter, Facebook, even LinkedIn (rather concerningly) – are the real hotspots of modern dating culture, as opposed to dating apps, for example.

Instagram is perhaps the best of all of them when it comes to finding love, thanks to its versatility. It’s got disappearing photos like Snapchat, the convenient messaging of Facebook, filters and polls and other fun stuff… But perhaps the most flirtatious feature of Instagram is the ‘Close Friends’ list.

“If someone adds you [to] their Close Friends, it’s a sign they are interested in you… they want to get to know you and show you a side of them that isn’t available for the world to see. Kind of like a subtle sideways flirt,” relationship expert and advisor to Channel Ten’s The Bachelor Samantha Jayne shared exclusively with DMARGE.

So far, so frisky. But a somewhat worrying development that’s emerged in the world of Instagram flirting – one that proves nice things will always be innovatively corrupted – is a trend we’d like to dub ‘inner circling’.


Instagram doesn’t put a hard limit on how many people you can add to your Close Friends list… But there’s also no minimum. What some sneaky singles have been doing is deliberately keeping their Close Friends list empty, save for one person – the person they’re interested in – to see how quickly they respond to their story.

The same could also be done with a small ‘inner circle’ of the three or four people you have on your radar – the ‘Gatsbying‘ of 2020, if you will, yet even more devious.

It’s a clever tactic. While there’s a degree of plausible deniability when it comes to opening private photos on Instagram (you could just take note of the notification and open the photo later in order not to appear so desperate), it’s harder to avoid a Close Friends Instagram Story post.

Story posts shared only with Close Friends are denoted by a green circle around a user’s profile photo when browsing stories on Instagram’s landing page, but if you’re already browsing stories and stumble into an ‘inner circling’ trap – or if the ‘inner circler’ has put a public story before the ‘trap’ story in order to be extra devious – you’ve fallen for the ploy. Needless to say, this sort of microanalytical, manipulative (and overly complicated) method of flirting speaks volumes about the people who employ it.

So: is it a mark of desperation, or a sign of genius? DMARGE got in touch with relationship advisor Samantha Jayne again to get her take.

“Adding only one friend so you can see how quickly they respond is a little on the stalker side of things,” Samantha Jayne relates.

“It’s calculated and on the spectrum of obsessive. I don’t think it’s using the Close Friends [feature] for what it is meant to be used for. Wouldn’t it make more sense just to connect with the person on a more human level rather than [this] stalker behaviour?  Personally, I think it’s a no-no unless of course you have discussed it and you’re playfully doing this together.”

While it’s hard to tell if you’re the focus of an ‘inner circling’ trap (although if all that person is posting is thirst traps and messages that seem to be directed at you, you might be able to suss it out), you probably don’t want to be romantically involved with someone who’d employ such a questionable, neurotic, narcissistic tactic to see if you’re interested in them.

Jayne’s advice?

“Instead of making up meanings and guessing if someone likes you based on social media patterns of engagement, get out in the real world.”

Wise words indeed.

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