With all of the content on Instagram, it’s hard to stand out. But that’s exactly what Arianna Margulis, creator of the popular account @butlikemaybe, does. Through hilarious cartoons, she showcases the trials and tribulations of dating — the good, the bad, and the messy. If, like me, you actually LOL and think, OMG, literally me when you see one of her posts, you’ll be happy to know that a whole book of these cartoons now exists. “But Like Maybe Don’t?” is an illustrated journey through Arianna’s biggest dating mistakes, but it’s also a hopeful guide to what you need to get wrong in love before you get it right. And it’s good.

Arianna sat down with Swipe Life to chat about dating lessons she’s learned, her inspirations, and revenge. Muahahaha.

All of your dating content is hilarious. How has humor helped you get through those tough parts of dating?

Oh gosh, I think it’s the only thing that’s gotten me through. My coping mechanism is humor. I’m not good with sharing emotions and showing sadness, and I use her [character in cartoons] as a mirror of what I really want to say. If I can say something sad but make it into a joke, it’s a partial way of telling the world how I really feel. 

What is the best part about dating in your 20s?

Getting to see what you like, don’t like, and, most importantly, what you need. I learned so much from looking back at all of the heartbreak from my early 20s, all of the things that went wrong, and all of the stupid things I did. Now I’m like, Oh, I don’t want the guy who does this. I want someone to do this or that. You kind of collect those bits as you go. 

Conversely, what is the hardest part about dating in your 20s?

Rejection. In my early 20s, I always fell so fast. I never understood what went wrong because all I did was tell them I liked them. It was also really hard when a guy would ghost me or it would be a slow fade, and they’d instantly be in a relationship with someone else. The theme of what was going through my head in my early 20s was, What is wrong with me? Why don’t they like me?

Did you ever get that answer for yourself?

You know, yeah. I think that’s what the book is kind of about. I realized — as cheesy as this sounds — I didn’t like myself. I was so obsessed with finding a partner, because I was trying to fill this void. It wasn’t until I started drawing and, weirdly enough, using these experiences to create something, that I started feeling good about myself. It’s so important to have your own thing going on. 

Did you feel super vulnerable writing this book and admitting that? I think that’s something a lot of people feel and deal with but are afraid to admit.

For sure! Writing this book was so therapeutic, and I think that’s why I wanted to write it. A lot of people on Instagram are like, “I’m real! I fuck up! I make a lot of mistakes!” But they’re never like, “I’m going to list every mistake and tell you all of the embarrassing shit I did.” And then other people will see that and be like, “Wow, someone did this, too. Someone else didn’t have a life plan.”

A lot of people on Instagram are like, “I’m real! I fuck up! I make a lot of mistakes!” But they’re never like, “I’m going to list every mistake and tell you all of the embarrassing shit I did.”

What else do you want people to take away from the book?

I want people to laugh, and I want people to know that it gets better. I always call my dad when I have my heart broken and he’s always like, “You’ve done this before, so you’ll probably do it again. You just gotta know that there are times when you’re on top of the world, and there are times when it comes shattering down.” All of those experiences will help build you into who you are [and get you] what you want and ultimately deserve.

It’s so true what your dad says. You think you’re never going to get out of that breakup space. You ultimately do, but it’s so hard to see the light.

I always ask myself, What would my 21-year-old self think of me right now? She’d think I was so cool. [That helps me] think of all the other things in my life and not focus on the fact that Brad slow-faded me. I grew up in a Midwestern town where people got married right out of college. I was always comparing myself. But you don’t have to get married. You don’t have to have kids. You can have adventures in different relationships for your whole life. Nothing is set in stone. 

Was realizing that a natural progression as you got older? Or were there things that you actively did to change your mindset?

Once I started getting somewhere in my career, I was like, Oh, wait, I’m not done being myself yet. I wanted to figure myself out so I could be the best person for whoever came into my life. Realizing that I still had work to do was a turning point for me.

Dating apps, including Tinder, have become such a huge part of the cultural and dating experience. Do you feel inclined to create content that touches on online dating?

Oh for sure. It’s how people meet now. I don’t know anyone who’s [single and] not on a dating app.

To jump back to the book, what inspired you to take your designs off Instagram and into print?

My Instagram is very bare-bones cartoons. I wanted to share the realness behind them. I wanted to share the heart, the meat, and the actual stuff that inspired these sometimes painful, sometimes hilarious little bits. This was a way for me to come out all at once with everything I’ve been through. I want people not to feel alone, [to know] they can do stupid shit, too and still come out OK.

Your book is so personal. Are you nervous about people you’ve dated in the past or are currently dating seeing that side of you? 

I’m actually weirdly excited. I have mostly good relationships with the men I’ve dated. Many of them know that they’re in the book. All their names have been changed for legal purposes. There’s one or two who I don’t keep in touch with, and I’m a little nervous about that. But I think everything I say is very true and very real. I’m an ex-boyfriend’s worst nightmare. It’s like my revenge. I’m going to be honest, there was a part of me that was like, I’m going to fucking write this book so all of these people can see how sorry they should be now, because I’m an author and I have this Instagram. I think there’s still a part of that in me. And I’m just like, suck it.

You can have adventures in different relationships for your whole life. Nothing is set in stone.

It’s so badass. So something fun (I hope) that I want to do is play a game of “Liked or Noped.” Let’s do that with dating trends. First up: read receipts.

Nope. Definitely, nope. Mostly because it’s me being left on read. It makes me feel bad.

It’s the worst. Because you know they’re ignoring you. Next: posting things for your crush to see.

Yes! Like! That’s the whole point of Instagram for me.

Do you think it’s effective?

One-hundred percent. I think it’s one of the most effective things you can do. Thirst trap.

Astrological compatibility.

Like! I’m new at this. I’m starting to see it become a trend. I don’t think it’s necessary, but it’s interesting.

Avoiding the DTR talk because it’s scary.

You know, I think in the past I’d say avoid it, but now, I say Nope. I’d rather know now. If they don’t see this going anywhere, then what’s the point? 

Selfies on your Tinder profile.

I’m a selfie person, so I would say Like. For guys, if he’s doing a duck face, I probably wouldn’t be down. But if a guy is just in his room with a mirror and he looks chill, I’m fine with that.

It shows your personality. Last one: messaging first.

No, I’m old school. I want them to. I always tell myself that if they want to message you, they will. And that’s the bottom line. I date men, so this is from my perspective, but people, regardless of gender, will do what they want. If they want something, they go get it, especially romantically.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.