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Instagram 'likes' lead to love

Instagram 'likes' lead to love
(Sarah Wilkins / For The Times)

Three hundred fifty-seven "likes" on a photo and I just cared about one. The heart-shaped, double-clicked "like" from a guy I'd never met.

Instagram noticed my obsession with posting breakfast pictures and made me a suggested user about a year ago; I would get the precious gift of cyber stardom and promotion for two weeks. I started getting more and more followers, and somewhere in between feeling as if I were Madonna and obsessing about coming up with new food styling techniques, I got a new follower.

"Luis_guy started to follow you."

I still don't know why, but of the 26K people who clicked on follow during my "suggested" status, he was the only one I followed back. Something about his name seemed familiar. I've always had a killer memory: I remember dates, birthdays, names, faces, places … and, apparently, him. Finally, I figured out that I remembered Luis Guy from our hometown — Guadalajara, Mexico — from when I was 10 years old, 11 tops, and he was 18 and kind of my sister's friend. I had sort of a crush on him but hadn't thought about him for years. Until that day.

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I found out, by seeing every picture he had posted in the last six months — OK, nine months — that he lived in Los Angeles. He was at Perch, Staples Center, the Grand Central Market, on the rooftop of the Ace Hotel. He was definitely the downtowner I wanted to be with.

My Instagram OCD continued for days. Scrolling down random images in my feed, I thought to myself: "Disgusting food. Awful outfit. Cute baby. What kind of dog is that? Seriously, another bikini picture? Nice sunset. Wait. Cool. Luis Guy has a Vespa … does he use it often? I really like the color. I'd love if he took me on a ride. Would he want to? Stop! Are you seriously thinking about this guy's scooter? Really? … OK, OK… Pretty baby. Ugly cat. I want those shoes. ... Does he have another helmet for me? Can we go all the way to Santa Monica on it?"

I had to get it out of my system and, despite being quite private about my love life with my family, I told my sister.

"So … Luis Guy started following me the other day."

"Who did?"

"Luis Guy! The guy you knew from growing up."

"Oh! Him … how did you notice he was following you?"

"What? Instagram! Are you even paying attention?"

I guess she wasn't. But I was.

About four months passed. There was no real interaction besides strategic and punctual likes from both sides. My life went on as always, but strangely, I couldn't stop thinking about this guy. Of course, I'm Mexican so couldn't make the first approach. I had to wait for something I felt was coming.

It did. One morning, out of the blue, he sent me a Facebook message telling me he was flying from LAX to Guadalajara in three weeks and asking if I would like to go on a date with him. I could have answered, "What took you so long?" But both of us kept it cool and pretended we hadn't been thinking of each other for months. We exchanged phone numbers and planned two dates.

From that day on, we never stopped texting each other. Time differences didn't stop us. Nothing could stop us.

We met, in real life, on a Wednesday in the fall in Guadalajara. He picked me up around 8 p.m. and we finished our kind-of-blind-date around 2 a.m. We knew we wanted to be together.

My first trip to L.A., with him, was a month after the date when we made our relationship official. Our first official outing was to Perch. It was the last weekend of January, chilly but nice. The DTLA skyline was glowing, the Wednesday jazz group was playing, the food was mind-blowing and everything was perfect. I couldn't ask for a more flawless night. It had been ages since I had been in the city, so besides the love story, the setting was amazing. The perfect place, the perfect guy.

Los Angeles has been part of our relationship since the beginning. Every story he told me when we were first texting now has a face, and our stories together are all set in this incredible city. There's nothing like new love in new places. You kind of feel the place belongs to you and you both belong to the place. I think that the fact that I am writing this essay in his apartment in downtown Los Angeles says it all.

They say that having followers on Instagram is like having Monopoly money. I disagree. Having one follower has made me the richest, luckiest person ever.

Alejandra Sierra is a photographer and writer who splits her time between Guadalajara and Los Angeles.

L.A. Affairs chronicles the current dating scene in and around Los Angeles. If you have comments or a true story to tell, email us at laaffairs@latimes.com.

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