When I moved to Mumbai 14 years ago, I was single, and organically dating or meeting people was the thing. I was approached at bars by men all the time, and honestly, it was never creepy. One time, a guy approached me and said his friend wants to talk to me. When I said then his friend should be talking to me, he admitted it was he who found me cute. He asked for my number, but I didn’t give it because we didn’t know each other. He asked me where I worked, and I was working at a newspaper then. The next day, he bought the newspaper, and called my office to ask me out for pizza. Sweet, right?

It is possible to ask people out without being creepy. It’s all about your body language. But now with social media, it’s all changed quite a bit. I think Instagram has become the alternate dating app for people who like to pretend like they’re not on dating apps. No one wants to make the effort, now that everything is so easy on social networking sites. In my podcast, Love Aaj Kal, a guy sent in a question asking the right way to approach women without seeming creepy or making them uncomfortable. It surprised me, and it’s great that men are thinking about this and asking this question today when there’s conversation about consent. And that’s why the conversation about sliding into DMs becomes an important one.

When you want to approach a girl, your approach has to be how you’d talk to someone you want to be friends with. You’d talk, you listen. The most important thing is to back off when she doesn’t want that attention. If she seems offhandish, let it go. People also take time to talk. Back when I used to date, if someone approached me, the first thought wasn’t that this person is looking to hook up. So women too, in my opinion, need to go back to the basics and understand that not everyone is messaging with that intention. If someone compliments you, it’s okay to take it at face value. Of course, there’s a reason women have these filters in place. If a girl is playing it safe and not giving you all the information, understand why. Don’t push her to be more open, or be over friendly. We’ve all seen You, so you understand how nice boys can also be scary, right?

Let’s also talk about DMing someone you don’t follow directly, or see tagged on one of your friends’ stories. A lot of us follow people our friends tag, mainly because they’re doing something interesting. That’s okay. Social media is meant to interact with or meet people with common interests. But the problem is when you message someone you followed through someone else, and then don’t give up. I get messages like “Your lips are mine.” I ignore, as most women would. And that irritates them. If you want someone to notice you, comment on their pictures nicely, or comment on their insta stories. If you really like someone, comment on something they do. If it’s a writer, read something they have written, and comment with your opinion. Initiating a conversation about common interests and taking an interest in someone’s personality, instead of just sending lovestruck emojis, will get you a response.

The no-no of starting a conversation on DM is “You look great in a bikini” or “You look hot”, or reacting with that LIT emoji. I think starting a conversation about looks also means there’s no difference between you and a sleazeball who reacts to everything with a heart. The good thing about organically meeting people was when someone looked at you across a bar, you smile at them if you’re interested, and look away if you are not. It’s the same with digitally meeting someone. You can ask someone out, or DM someone to meet, but if she’s being cagey, leave her alone. It’s not like women don’t slide into DMs too, let me tell you. A lot of girls use Instagram because on dating apps if you approach a guy, it, sort of, is assumed that you’re there for sex. So both ways, it can only work if you’re not doing it with a sexual purpose to begin with. That being said, it’s not a bad thing to be open to meeting organically. Meeting people through friends, family or even at work, is not creepy. Be classy about it, don’t be overbearing, and you’re golden.