Instagram is not Tinder

I had to make my Instagram account private yesterday, which I never wanted to do. I don’t post deeply personal stuff or about my every struggle, so I didn’t feel that I had anything to hide.

But then I noticed a dramatic uptick in the number of people following me who didn’t seem to have anything in common with me. It wasn’t that my posts were resonating with them or that they liked my perspective or even that they lived in my same area.

Almost all of them were men. When I woke up yesterday morning, I had 20 messages from strange men, most of which were telling me I was beautiful and they wanted to be my friend (or just randomly saying hello with nothing else…how do you respond to that?) I can’t see how any of the above could be effective pick-up strategies. It used to happen a couple times a month but I could ignore it then. I don’t know why there are so many all of a sudden. Since making my account private yesterday, I’ve gotten 7 more requests, all from random men.

I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been married for so long or I think my weight diminishes my overall sexiness, but I’m not used to getting so much attention from guys. My husband has pointed out other situations where men seemed to be flirting with me and I was oblivious to it. I tend to think very few men would flirt with a woman while her husband was present and he was just trying to make me feel better. But maybe I’m just not seeing what’s really going on around me.

At the same time, though, I also don’t understand why strange men would be interested in me, especially not so many all of a sudden. After all, the first word of my Instagram bio is “wife.” I post a lot about my husband and I’m obviously pretty happily married. You can’t say I’m downplaying the fact that I’m married or trying to hide it. I’m also not doing anything to suggest that I might welcome sexual attention, like posting pictures of myself in bikinis or lingerie. I generally dress pretty modestly.

I am also a bit suspicious. I’ve heard a lot about foreign operatives trying to take advantage of people or data mining. I don’t know if that’s what’s going on here.

What I do know is that it makes me feel unsafe. I feel like they are predators and I’m the prey. I don’t know if that means I fear men. I do know that I fear sexual attention from men other than my husband. Maybe that’s something I should work through in therapy.

I have a history of being sexually assaulted and coerced and I generally don’t trust men who are hitting on me. I’ve often thought that if anything does happen to my husband, I’d probably be more likely to have a relationship with a woman than a man (if at all; having another relationship is not something I can or want to really imagine.)

I guess I do really have trust issues with most men. That’s ironic because as the mother of sons I am often extremely defensive of the male gender. I don’t think men have to be the stereotype of what our culture says they are and I see nothing wrong with men being more thoughtful and gentle. Yet when it comes to getting unwanted male attention, it feels very invasive, even scary.

I don’t really understand what compels men to send unsolicited messages to married women online. Are people so lonely that chatting up random strangers seems like a good idea? Is the dating scene really that terrible? If so, it makes me hope even more that nothing happens to my husband. It seems like these people are using social media as their personal dating app that one party didn’t sign up for. It’s like someone signed me up for Tinder or something against my will.

If it really is instead that all these people are trying to take advantage of me or are foreign operatives, I think that’s even scarier. Either way, it still makes me feel unsafe. I want my safe little online world back. But I think it’s been at least five years, maybe ten, since I really felt that way. It just seems to be getting a lot scarier lately.

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