Last week I managed to make someone completely lose their mind, just by deciding I didn’t want to follow them on Instagram any more.
We’re talking full-on name-calling and freaking out, as the person accused me of being a “child” (I know you are, but what am I?!), told me to “grow up and get a life” (Because obsessively tracking your Instagram followers and flipping out every time you lose one is the very definition of life-having maturity, apparently. NOW I know why I don’t feel like an adult yet!), and finished with a triumphant, “So I’M going to unfollow YOU now, too!” Which honestly made me sad, because now someone who screams at me and calls me names won’t be commenting on my photos: shame!
This post isn’t directed a that particular person, by the way, just so we’re clear. I mean, I know I used the word “you” in the title, but the fact is, sometimes I unfollow people on Instagram. I do it, you do it – we all do it, don’t we? Otherwise everyone would just follow EVERYONE, and imagine how long it would take you to scroll through your Instagram feed every day?
As it happens, I don’t actually remember what it was that made me decide to unfollow that particular person on that particular day, but I do know it wouldn’t have been anything personal, because it never is. I mean, I’m assuming their giant rant at me probably wasn’t personal either, really – as flattering as it is to think that some people are THAT invested in seeing photos of my dog that they’ll fly into a rage at the very thought of being unfollowed, I’m just not that important. The likelihood is that the person was just having a REALLY bad day, and I got the brunt of it.
It did get me thinking, though, about the politics that surround following and unfollowing people on social media, and the reasons why people do it. I suspect one of the reasons my charming Instagram friend was so enraged by my unfollow is that she probably believes in the whole “follow for follow” thing: so if you follow me, I’m contractually obliged to follow you back, and if I unfollow you I’ve broken some sacred law of the internet or something.
A lot of people think like that, but I’m not one of them. Honestly, I think the great thing about social media is that it can be whatever you want it to be. You can follow whoever you want. You can post whatever you want. And part of that freedom is that you can also unfollow whoever you want, too. Sure, it sometimes stings if you notice that someone you like isn’t following you any more, but it’s rarely personal, is it? I mean, it’s not that they HATE you and want you to know it: most of the time it just means that you don’t happen to post the kind of things that person is interested in seeing right now. It doesn’t mean that what you’re posting isn’t good, or isn’t interesting AT ALL, to ANYONE: it’s just not the right fit. And that’s OK.
To reiterate: this post isn’t directed at any one person, and I didn’t write it in order to instruct people how to make sure their Instagram accounts meet my strict standards: I honestly believe that you should use Instagram (or any social media) however you like, and just accept that not everyone is going to want to follow it, just as YOU don’t follow everyone else’s Instagram/Twitter/Facebook account either. So this is just a list of my personal pet peeves, basically: and everyone loves a good peeve now and then , don’t they?
With that lengthy caveat out of the way, here are some of the reasons I tend to unfollow people on Instagram…
You post inspirational quotes
Guys, I HATE inspirational quotes: HATE THEM. All those photos of sunsets with some banal saying superimposed on them, as if putting text on a photo magically makes it profound? Hate that. And I really, really hate that the Internet is becoming so over-run with these things: they’re like the LOLCATS of 2015, except LOLCATS were actually funny, and inspirational messages are mostly just trite cliches. I hate seeing them on Facebook and Twitter, but I really, really hate them on Instagram, because, to me, Instagram is a photo-sharing app: its purpose is to share personal photos – so, either photos that you’ve taken, or photos that you’re in.
Obviously you might not see it that way, and like I said, that’s cool: I’m not in charge of the internets, so if you see Instagram as a place to share endless inspirational messages, you do you – the fact that I don’t like it is MY issue, not yours; it’s one of the reasons I might unfollow you, but it’s not a reason for you to change the way you use Instagram.
You post photos that aren’t yours
I follow people on Instagram because I’m interested in THEM. If you constantly post screenshots from websites, photos of celebrities, or anything else you didn’t take/doesn’t have you in it, I’m out. (You also might want to double-check that you have permission to share those photos, because taking other people’s images can get you into trouble…)
All of your photos were taken in the dark
Because Instagram is a photo-sharing app, some people think it should only be used to share the very best photos you take. I DON’T think that, for the record: I like Instagram because of the “behind the scenes” look at people’s lives it gives me – the little moments that would otherwise go unrecorded. Sometimes those moments don’t make for the best photos, though, and that’s fine by me – I don’t only follow pro-photographers, and I don’t unfollow people who post the odd blurry shot that still captured something important to them. With that said, if EVERY photo you post was taken in the dark, from very far away, and I can’t even see what it’s supposed to be, I’m not going to think, “I’m glad they shared this,” I’m just going to think, “What even IS it? And what made them look at it and think, “Yup, that belongs on Instagram!”?
All of your photos feature the same 14 people, all crammed into the frame
Some people use Instagram mostly as a way to say, “Wheee, lookit how many friends I have! Lookit what a wild and crazy time I have with them! YOLO!” And then every single photo looks like a record-breaking attempt to see how many faces you can fit into an Instagram square. I don’t mind these every now and then, because I like to see Instragram as an attempt to tell a story, and sometimes that giant group of people are a part of your story. But (for me), most of those photos belong on Facebook, not Instagram. On Facebook, your friends will recognise the people in the photo, and think, “Oh, cool: that person I know is with those other people I know,” and it’ll make sense to them. On Instagram, people will just think, “Who ARE these people? Am I supposed to know them?” and when every single photo features that same gang of people, they’ll feel a bit like they’re crashing a private party… and leave.
You photobomb my feed
It’s great that you’re enjoying your vacation, seriously, but the 200 photos you uploaded, all in a row , meant that my Instagram feed is now basically a shrine to YOU and you alone, because I’m going to have to scroll past all 200 photos if I want to see anything else at all. Again, I think this kind of thing belongs on Facebook, where you can upload the images to an album and then people can choose whether they want to see them all. On Instagram, though, people don’t have that choice – they HAVE to scroll past every single one of your near-identical holiday snaps, if they want to see the rest of their feed: why post 50 shots of the same thing when you can just choose the best one, and let people move on?
(I have literally seen people post up to 100 photos in a row on Instagram, seriously. And they have all been slightly different angles of the same thing. )
Selfies. Too many selfies.
Now, I have to hold my hand up to posting the occasional selfie, but then again, I don’t mind the occasional selfie – especially if the person has mad makeup skillz that I can admire. But with some people, it’s literally just one selfie after another, to the point where you start to know their face better than your own. If it reaches the point where I look in the mirror and am surprised not to see your face looking back at me, because I’ve seen so many close-up photos of it now that it’s THAT familiar to me, there will no longer be a reason to actually follow you – so I probably won’t.
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Now, as I said – and I really can’t stress this enough – this list isn’t directed at any one person, and it’s not supposed to be a list of “rules”: if you do any of these things and enjoy doing them, then you should keep on keeping on, and not give a crap what I think. I’d love to know what YOU think, though – what kind of thing makes you unfollow someone on Instagram?