it’s okay to unfollow people on instagram

At some point along our social media journey, unfollowing became some sort of savage thing to do…. Bad break up: Unfollow. Friend fight: Unfollow. And my personal favorite, the friend of a friend is having a fight with someone you just happen to follow: Unfollow (#DRAMA).

It’s January 2019. I am sitting in my physical therapist’s office scrolling through instagram while icing after an annoying session. I am frustrated watching people have fun up at Bridger after I just ate shit out on the icy sidewalk in a locked out knee brace. 

Social media is a crazy thing. We naturally gravitate towards it when we are bored or upset and we tend to only post our happiest moments while hiding the days we spent crying on the floor because we ran out of Gilmore Girls episodes to watch (true story, I have done this). 

My physical therapist is watching me get frustrated, but she is keeping her distance because I threw my crutches at her a couple days ago (it’s a rough time). Then the wise woman just says what she is thinking, “Why do you follow accounts that don’t make you happy?”

“I don’t know?” 

Because it’s what you are supposed to do? Someone follows you: you follow them back. That is the “polite” thing to do, right? 

She then went on to convince me that I should unfollow anyone who does not bring me joy, and it definitely took some convincing. I didn’t want people to think we weren’t friends because I didn’t follow them on instagram!

At some point along our social media journey, unfollowing, unfriending, whatever became some sort of savage thing to do…. Bad break up: Unfollow. Friend fight: Unfollow. And my personal favorite, the friend of a friend is having a fight with someone you just happen to follow: Unfollow (#DRAMA).

But here’s the thing, this doesn’t have to be the case. Unfollowing isn’t some sort of dramatic act, it’s literally you taking control over what you see in your feed. You have 100% power over your social media feed. If someone is posting something that makes you unhappy, why would you choose to keep seeing similar content?

After physical therapy, we spent the next couple of hours (I know, long time) going through all of my instagram accounts (It was like 600 at the time). Why do you follow them? Do they bring you joy? Do you learn something by following them? (I would highly recommend doing this with someone who can be an unbiased opinion because you may have some strange logic!) I unfollowed athletes, random acquaintances, the elites of Bozeman circles, family members, dog accounts that claimed their dog was cuter than mine, exes where I was trying to play the ‘chill girl’, friends of friends, friends who I have drifted apart from, random people I met at the bar sophomore year of college, old co-workers who were doing so much with their lives, classmates who were on the same career path I said I would be on, and even my own close ass friends who I love a ton.

*Side note: Instagram has this awesome feature where you can just “mute” someone and they will never even know! For instructions on how to mute, consult dr.google. I don’t know when this was invented. Maybe it was invented at the time of my unfollowing and I just did not know about it* 

Soon enough, my instagram feed became this place that didn’t make me sad or have FOMO and I was actually enjoying what I was seeing on social media, even though I was not able to participate in my normal outdoor lifestyle. 

And then I learned that unfollowing someone is not permanent. In the spring of 2019, I started being more active and spending more time outside. I was getting more excited to hear about my friends’ adventures and wanted to re-immerse myself in the outdoor industry instagram. So what did I do? I WENT BACK AND FOLLOWED THEM. Yes, even the people I have to “request” to follow. Honestly, I got called out quite a bit for unfollowing people. BUT when I explained why I unfollowed and why I chose to follow them again, almost all of the people were completely understanding, because contrary to popular belief, it is completely normal to not get warm-fuzzies from every single one of your friends’ instagram posts.

So if you notice that someone doesn’t follow you, please do not get offended. Be proud of them for taking charge of their own social media. The other day, one of my best friends admitted that she has me muted on instagram. Do I think it’s silly because she is missing out on THOUSANDS of dog and cat photos? Absolutely. Am I proud of her for putting photos that make her feel good in her instagram feed rather than the photos she is “supposed” to have in her feed? ABSOLUTELY. 

Honestly since this fall, I have not thought about this that much. I follow people I want to, I don’t follow people I don’t want to, and that is my new normal. 

Then COVID-19 made a pretty dramatic impact on my screen time. I am spending more time scrolling than I have since knee surgery and I am getting upset again. I don’t like to see the people who are out touring, not keeping distance. I don’t like to see the people always reposting negative articles. I don’t like to see the activities I could be doing, instead of isolating myself in my home. So what have I done? I unfollowed a good chunk of people that are not benefiting me intellectually or making me happy on social media. I know this pandemic is affecting everyone differently, and what has worked for me, may not work for you, but I would highly recommend at least thinking about why you follow the people you follow on instagram. Do they bring you joy? Do they educate you? By following them, are you supporting a good cause? These are all good things to think about

Who knows, when things change, I may go back and re-follow a bunch of accounts, I may not. But that’s the beauty of instagram, you have complete say in what your feed is (Except for all the targeted ads telling me I should get a dog nanny cam… I don’t know how to get rid of those and I don’t know if I want to)

Author:Darby Knoll