I never wanted to admit that I was one of these people. But I am.
Or, I was. I cared enough about who was playing the follow / unfollow game to download an app to monitor it. In fact I downloaded two of them – one for Twitter and one for Instagram.
Right off the bat, it was painful. A quick scroll of people who didn’t follow me on Instagram revealed a number of old friends had unfollowed me at some point without me realising. I tried to take it on the chin – we’d obviously gone in different directions in life, and I sometimes get a little political on social media. That shit isn’t for everyone. I tried not to take it to heart that I hadn’t unfollowed their endless baby photos, or badly lit clubbing selfies, and just unfollowed them back. Passive aggressive, just like I like it.
For this, it was useful. I quickly unfollowed a lot of accounts I don’t remember following, I wasn’t interested in anymore or that had been inactive for a long time. It was actually kind of cathartic – I felt like I was taking control of my social media again. Except that I wasn’t – I also unfollowed a lot of tattoo accounts, artist accounts, fitstagrammers and clothes shops. Not because I didn’t want to see their content anymore (I did, and I do), but because I wanted to even out my Following vs Followers count.
It was vain, and frankly, counter-productive. My feed was left with a bunch of same-same-but-different accounts I didn’t really care about. Beauty bloggers I’d followed way back when I was doing follow-for-follow threads (god, do I regret those), or those travel grams that only regram “goals” photos from fancy photographers with 800K followings who I extremely can’t relate too.
(Just by-the-by that was no shade at beauty bloggers, y’all are great, I just really don’t care about makeup! Sorry!)
My new strategy with using the unfollowing app was to follow back everyone who followed me, and then unfollow them if (when) they unfollowed me in a week or two. It worked for a bit – my follower count went up to be sure, and it kept on par with my following count. AND I got to side-eye and judge the bloggers that did the follow / unfollow multiple times in a month. I see what you’re doing there, and it ain’t working.
So yeah, the app worked, kind of. It was also depressing as fuck.
I was scrolling my feed and I realised I didn’t personally know a single one of those people. I’d never interacted with them online, and they’d never interacted with me. We were just existing together on each other’s feeds, mutually bored but aware we couldn’t unfollow without being unfollowed back. My feed was incredibly uninteresting to me, because I was only following people based on whether or not they were following me – not because I enjoyed their content. And I knew the same was true for them – they didn’t give a shit about me or what I was posting. It was uninspiring and completely against the spirit of Instagram.
I hated it. I almost quit. I did just stop posting regularly, or using the app at all. I turned off notifications for the unfollower apps, and eventually I deleted them altogether. It wasn’t bringing me joy, so why bother?
And do you wanna know what happened?
Life went on.
I started only following people I genuinely liked the content of, and I didn’t check if they unfollowed me later. I went back and followed some of the artists and fitness people I’d unfollowed earlier because it didn’t match my “brand”. As a result, my feed became full of pictures I genuinely liked. I wasn’t just scrolling and double-tapping everything out of duty. I was double-tapping for JOY. I read captions again, and I commented where I was interested enough in what they were saying to do so. I started to have genuine conversations with people again (because oh yeah – social media is meant to be social, right??). If I see too many photos in a row I genuinely dislike, I unfollow. I don’t care if that means I lose a follower too.
And somewhere along the line, I started to actually enjoy using Instagram again. I put thought into my photos, because I care about finding people that actually enjoy what I do. And, bit by bit I’m learning not to care as much about the follower count.
I know they tell you to treat your Instagram or Twitter as a business. You’re making yourself a public figure, so this is business. It’s not personal.
Except that it is still personal, because if it’s not personal, it’s boring as fuck.
If you’re not personally getting joy from it anymore, then what are you even doing?
Do you use unfollower apps? Why or why not? Tell me about it below x
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