Unfollowing on Instagram
The ‘unfollow’ button is a storm that rocks many Millennials’ friendships. “Unfollowing means they are no longer interested in my life,” they mentioned.
“If we are friends and I unfollow you, it means we are probably not really friends. To be my friend, I would love the person you are, online or offline,” a popular Instagrammer @rchlwngxx explained.
Instagram curates a story of who they wanted to be perceived as; reflecting their ideal selves, hopes, and dreams.
As such it leads many to link unfollowing as a rejection.
But does ‘unfollow’ = no interest in your life?
Friendships can mean different things
For most people, friendships are formed over tasks at work or school. They were drawn to the same activities like sports or computer games; or find an inexplicable connection on first contact.
When you build a friendship, you don’t always know what pets a person has, what they had for lunch and who their significant other is; common content pillars of people’s Instagram accounts.
While Instagram shows the more worthy aspects of your life, it could be through a period of pain that I bonded with you. And I find it difficult to relate to your filtered smiles or new boyfriend.
It doesn’t mean I have no interest in what you have to say in private (and not on a public platform).
How I feel about social media sometimes. Source
Social media didn’t use to have such high stakes
I remember getting on Instagram almost seven years ago. I posted pretty much whatever I pleased—from neighbourhood cats to the coffee I was drinking.
It was called Instagram because it instantaneously shows where you are and what you are up to.
However, the rules have changed in recent years—vintage filters like X-pro and Sienna phased out with people preferring a more natural “I got up like this” look.
People became savvier about how often they posted, when they posted, and even curated their feed. In a sense, Instagram began to feel more fake or commercial and I no longer felt obligated to follow my friends’ fake lives.
Instagram is more a business than a friendship indicator
It might feel like we have lived on Instagram all this while, but we should be aware the social media landscape constantly shifts and in turn, our relationships and meanings.
Instagram also constantly updates to have a larger stake in our lives. For example, a few people mentioned the new mute function.
“If you find your good friend’s posts annoying, you can just mute it. To unfollow is almost sending a message that I’m not close with you anymore. I don’t wanna see your feed,” Lionel explained.
These new functions pacify the unfollow = unfriend beliefs. However, is it fair to expect our less savvy friends to continually keep up with these unwritten rules?
I, for one, did not know about the mute function before this. Wanting my feed to be filled with more art, comics and memes, I unfollowed some of my friends.
Now, I understand it must have seemed offensive to my friends. Though, I feel friendship should be built on less trivial foundations.
Does understanding that social media is more of a marketplace than a friendship band help us to take an ‘unfollow’ less seriously?
“I used to have the ‘Unfollow’ app (which helps one detect who unfollowed recently) but deleted it because it was TOXIC,” said Leah, our video producer.
Social media is just one part of our lives
While our emotions tell us that a ‘follow’ or ‘like’ is an official validation of friendship, we need to be wary of such beliefs.
There are many factors that surround friendships and relationships, and social media opens up a whole new chapter with unspoken rules. Some, like me, have outdated guidebooks.
Let’s keep an open mind and not be too quick to jump to the conclusion that an ‘unfollow’ is a deletion of friendship.
The same way we don’t assume a ‘follow’ to be a friend.
Cover Image via Rawpixel / Unsplash