I’ve been using social media in my personal life and career since 2010 and there’s a practice I’ve seen over and over again that irks me – following then swiftly unfollowing to increase follower count. If you have Twitter or Instagram, you probably know what I’m talking about. You get a notification that you have a new follower and you decide to “pay it forward” by following back only to notice that a day or two later, your follow count has actually decreased. What’s up with that?
I see it all the time on my personal accounts as well as the ones I manage professionally. It’s unavoidable. After all, you can’t prevent people from following you (or requesting to follow if your account is private) but man does the immediate unfollow annoy me. I got so fed up with it recently that I downloaded an app called FollowCop to see who these sneaky followers/unfollowers were. I connected several accounts and started unfollowing these unfollowers with vengeance, my finger tapping away and my eyes glued to the screen. It was strangely cathartic.
The funny thing is though, I didn’t unfollow everyone who had dropped me like recalled romaine into a garbage bin. There were actually some accounts that I genuinely enjoyed their content and decided to keep following. This experience has made me confront how I react to new followers and the type of content I follow. In effect, it’s made me become more mindful. I shouldn’t be following back because it’s the nice thing to do and it’s “only fair,” I should be following back (or following anything in general) because it’s something that adds value to my life whether it’s by making me laugh, think, or feel.
Another thing I’ve come to realize is not to take unfollowing personally, in particular, from people I know IRL. I was surprised to see that people that I had gone to school with and certain relatives no longer follow me. I wondered – do they not like me? Did I post something offensive? Was I annoying? But instead of asking myself those questions, I should be asking, why does it matter and why do I care? I no longer keep in contact with those ex-classmates and distant relatives so there isn’t really any point in seeing their photos in my feed. They’re essentially strangers and I shouldn’t be upset because they don’t care to see what’s going on in my life.
The only thing I can do is be my authentic self and if that attracts followers, cool! But if it makes others unfollow, go right on ahead. There will be no hard feelings. My takeaway from this experience is to approach social media (and really anything else I consume like food, music, movies, books) with more mindfulness and to reject being a #followback girl in order to win some followers. If I follow you, it’ll be because I like your content – nothing more, nothing less.