Out of the sludge of the digital courting age, a meme has arisen: Slide into her DMs.

Social media has done strange things to all forms of interaction—particularly flirtation. Never before has such a simultaneously encouraging and dooming laboratory for pickup lines been available to man. The average guy can get rejected three times before he drags himself out of bed, while those at the top of the romance food chain can slate out a week’s worth of dates during lunch hour.

The problem with the DM slide is that it rarely works, and that results are usually predetermined by your profile’s attractiveness factor. Part of the problem is that DM slides are most often reserved for strangers or distant acquaintances.

If you knew the person well, you’d be texting, calling, or making a move in person. The direct message is a woefully limited platform for first impressions—it’s like auditioning for The Voice using only four notes. As such, sliding into her DMs should always be a last resort. If there’s any other way to show your interest, you should use it.

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Also, let’s address the verb: You’re never sliding—she knows what’s going on.

And if you haven’t met her yet, be warned: DM sliding is an extreme sport. You have competition. The obstacles are numerous. You will land in her DMs if and only if she wants you there.

So while the out-of-the-woodwork DM slide often fails, the promise of once-in-a-blue-moon success ensures that countless men keep coming back to the same old strategy. We’ve compiled some of the battlefield source material that inspired the meme. Here’s some advice to consider before you slide.

First, a short flowchart to help you decide whether sliding into the DMs is right for you:

Direct Message DM

So let’s say you’re going to slide. Some words to the wise:

The following emojis should never appear in your first DM:

Joe Davidson - Class A Men's Physique - 2012 North Americans

These emojis are to DM suave what garlic is to vampires. Even if you happen to be eating literal eggplants, nuts, peaches, bananas, and watermelon at the time of the DM, chopping them up with a knife and rinsing the knife with water, while your clown roommate proposes to his pregnant girlfriend via a headstand, avoid these images. Always.

Now for the do’s and don’ts:

Don’t: Begin with a dick pic

Hopefully self-explanatory. Would you ever approach an unknown woman in a bar and pull down your pants to flaunt a boner? This is a crime.

Do: Begin with mutual interests

Does she keep posting about astronomy? Politics? Sports? Books? Food? Owls? Determine what she cares about and start from there. Launch the conversation with a mutual interest. If you have a mutual friend, even better.

Don’t: Be generic

You have to find ways to stand out in a swarming digital crowd. The following messages are not slick enough to facilitate even the driest slide into the DMs (unless she’s really thirsty):

Hey 🙂
Great smile
You’re gorgeous
You have amazing eyes
You’re sexy
How’s it going?
Hello beautiful
Are you a model?
Whoaaaa ???

She’s heard all these before.

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Don’t: Throw a tantrum when she doesn’t reply right away

Stories abound of the Sudden Tantrum: when the online suitor shifts from sweet to wrathful as soon as his target starts to ignore him. For example:

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “I normally don’t do this, but you seemed too interesting and beautiful not to contact. Here is a GIF of two sloths wearing bathrobes and cuddling. Happy Thursday.”

LadyWithHotProfile: “Well, I don’t normally reply to messages from strangers, but when I do, cuddling, bathrobed sloths are usually to blame.”

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “You’d be surprised how much they’re responsible for in this world. So what are you up to on this fine evening?”

LadyWithHotProfile: “Not much, just got off work. What about you?”

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “Same.”

LadyWithHotProfile: “What do you do?”

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “I harvest shark teeth.”

LadyWithHotProfile: “hahaha”

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “It’s a very serious position.”

LadyWithHotProfile: “No, really—what do you do?”

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “I’m the prince of Monaco. An astronaut. A mime.”

[Days pass.]

GuyYouDontWant2Be: “What is it with you gold-digging sluts and your obsession with salary? I work hard for my money, and don’t need to justify my job to strangers. I definitely don’t want to spend my money on whores like you. You think you’re better than me? You think you’re so hot because you take selfies in your underwear and post them online? You’re nothing more than a poor man’s porn.”

Does this sound absurd? Unfortunately, this is a phenomenon. The Sudden Tantrum will do nothing to ease the rejection or restore her interest—it’ll just humiliate you more. If you can’t be persuaded to avoid the Sudden Tantrum on the grounds of human decency, just remember: She knows how to take a screenshot, and she’s not afraid to post it.

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Do: Ask thoughtful questions

Maybe she speaks Italian, or plays the violin, or goes on frequent hikes. Maybe she just posted a loopy selfie post wisdom-teeth removal.

After a friendly greeting, ask her a question. Italian reading recommendations for beginners? Favorite contemporary violinists? Good trails nearby? How’s the dental recovery going?

A thoughtful question will personalize the message, and demonstrate that you’ve done your homework. She’s much more likely to reply if she feels that you’ve taken a genuine interest in her life. (Note: Don’t reference something that’s buried in her account—this is creepy. Restrict your observations to the first few rows of photos on Instagram, or her most recent tweets.)

Sliding into the DMs is no easy feat. But if anything, the best piece of advice we can give you is this: Once you’ve accomplished it, make sure you slide out of them—and into real life.

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