why follow/unfollow is rude AF

The Start

The internet is still a new world, social media a new frontier. It’s redefined the way we shop, travel, work, connect, make money – all of the things. It has become our new religion and resumé. It’s where we put our faith and where our worth is decided.

When I applied for my current job, my LinkedIn account was brought up in my interview. Their concern rested on, although my resumé is impressive – because I’m awesome, obviously – my LinkedIn profile lacked any activity. Truth be told, I never liked the app, but a friend told me I needed to showcase myself on it. I had maybe 10 connections and only listed my most recent job. At the time, no one had endorsed any of my whopping three skills, and my profile picture was one of the few selfies I had. A photograph I’d taken while in Iceland – I had very purple hair, wearing sunglasses, and a shitty flannel shirt.

LinkedIn Profile Picture, Iceland circa 2016.

While my full-time job is in ecomm, it has nothing to do with social media. Yet, I’d been found wanting.

Now as I travel more and follow my passion for writing and photography, there’s a whole new level of involvement on social media.

The Investment and Engagement

If you’ve read through some of my more recent posts, you’ll know by now I titled 2018 my Year of Learning. One of the things I learned about was engagement – not just from the world to my posts, but from me to you.


It’s something I’m terrible at, really. Reaching out.

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I wanted to grab a special self-portrait on my road trip. Something that caught the ring road, the dramatic scenery of Iceland, and a small piece of myself. Camera: Canon Rebel T6s Lens: Canon EF-S 18-135mm Aperture: f/13.0 ISO: 100 Shutter Speed: 1/160 Focal Length: 18mm * * * * * ** ** ** ** ** #adventureisoutthere #adventure #travel #selfportrait #travelphotographer #womanwriter #travelblogger #womanphotographer #womanwanderer #canon #canonusa #teamcanon #natgeo #natgeoyourshot #natgeotravel #adobelightroom #tabithabear #womenwhotravel #dametraveler #roamtheplanet #theoutbound #ourplanetdaily #discoverearth #travelstoke #optoutside #exploretocreate #beautifuldestinations #iceland #CanonFanPhoto #worldnomads

A post shared by Tabitha Bear (@tabithabearprints) on

So for the first few weeks of January, I pushed myself to engage more. There was less worry over posts and more effort about connecting with people. Like any relationship, there is investment on both sides. As I reached out, I gained 50 followers. As an IG account always at 530 followers (I’m cursed at this number), this was a big deal to me. I had conversations with most of these new followers through comments or direct messages. I felt really good about this.

And within less than a week, I lost 55.

To be fair, a few were spam accounts I kicked out. But the rest were gone.

A lot of accounts come through daily and hit me with their follow/unfollow shit. But this one irritated me more because I thought I created acquaintances. I am more particular about the accounts I follow these days, I want to have a feed that challenges me to be a better version of myself constantly – and some of the accounts that followed me, I did a thorough run-through of all of the accounts and followed a few.

Road trip through Maine in the autumn, circa 2018.

The ‘How-It-Works’ Sections

Perhaps you’re reading this and thinking – what the hell is follow/unfollow? Or, maybe you know what it is but aren’t 100% sure how it works. If you already know, go ahead and scroll on to the next section.

First – I absolutely do not recommend this at all.

Secondly – it’s a dick move.

When you follow someone on instagram, a drop down menu appears of suggested accounts. Those suggestions are usually recommended based on the amount of mutual accounts they all follow, the same posts they like, same hashtags they follow – essentially, the same niche in general.

Example, courtesy of Luisa’s site. @thebornwanderess (follow her!)

Your account has most certainly shown itself here (if public!).

Especially with smaller accounts, there is a larger chance an account might reciprocate the follow. Not only have you gained a follower, but you’ve opened yourself up to more follows by association.

Within a few hours, or perhaps the next day, you unfollow. You’ve potentially gained followers out of a simple tap on your screen.

The Rudeness and Disrespect

The trips I take, the equipment I use, the things I write, the social media accounts I manage, the events I attend are all on me.

I make $0 from this. “Bupkiss” as my father would say.

Granted, I am an infant in the amount of mature accounts and photographers and writers who exist in this world, but I am not any less human.

The follow/unfollow culture is rude and disrespectful. It’s like following someone into a building and they know you’re behind them, but just don’t have the courtesy to hold the door open for you and it closes in your face.

An example of what an open door looks like. Dungeness Lighthouse, circa 2017.

I decided, unless it’s a photographer, writer, or non-profit who knocks me off my feet with their work (or my family), I’m no longer following any more accounts.

To have a stranger in the world who does not want to:
– look at my profile
– view my stories
– engage/interact with any posts
– visit my website
– DM me about anything
– Acknowledge I exist
will not receive a follow from me.

I’m not sure why I’m supposed to ‘reciprocate’ a follow or provide them with my time when I haven’t been acknowledged in any way.

Do you think this is stubborn of me? I’ve been debating this declaration for awhile now.

The Long Haul

Initially, when companies started to work with influencers, bloggers, photographers, etc., they were going for the basic numbers. The larger the following, the more outreach of information.

However, if you go through some of these accounts, they have ex: 500k followers, 25 posts, an average of 1k likes per post, and maybe three comments per post. Isn’t that odd? How are there so many followers, hardly any posts, and absolutely no care or engagement from your following?

Granted – some accounts have purchased their following, and IG is doing their best to crack down on bot accounts.

The world is catching up, though. Social media is now a social science. There are start-up companies whose product is to help you understand your social media accounts better. There are degrees from universities centered around social media management. It’s becoming a more serious and legitimizing way to make a living.

You can bet your ass, companies look for a more engaged following these days.

There are sites like ninjalitics that not only show the growth of an account, but if there is follow/unfollow activity. Is there organic growth on the account, or is it a bunch of bullshit?

Screenshot of my ninjalitics. Circa, 2019.

The Closing Thoughts

While there is an understanding of growing an account quicker through follow/unfollow, I want a following that’s invested in what I’m doing.

Don’t like my photography? That’s fine. I’m learning and post about it all the time.

Don’t like my writing? That’s fine, too.

But there is a person behind the screen. There is someone who is investing their own time and money to develop their skills and share them with the world.

Maybe one day this horrendous trend will die off and people will get a grip, but until then…

How do you feel about follow/unfollow?


6 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Agh have felt the same pain not on my insta but our business page. You just made so much sense to me and clarified my our thoughts. 👍🙌. #followunfollowRAF 😉🤦‍♀️

  2. I must admit I have a particular dislike for accounts that do the follow/unfollow trick. When I first started I was quite amazed that people were liking my pictures and following me, but then I started to find those accounts were unfollowing me soon after and I was like: ‘what happened?’ So I looked it up and understand what they’re doing now, but many times I see other accounts, especially ones trying to promote a social issue, asking: ‘why am I losing followers? What did I do wrong?’, and I feel sad that they’re feeling demoralised because a bunch of users care more about their follower count than actually engaging and supporting others.

    • It’s pretty discouraging. I would absolutely love a larger following so I can maybe quit my job in a warehouse and follow my dreams, but I want that following to be rooting for me every step of the way. I don’t want it to be indifferent.

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