Soz, bbz: Why I unfollowed you on Instagram


Can you imagine anything more awkward than asking me – a total stranger – why I unfollowed you on Instagram? Let's be clear: it's only happened me a handful of times, but each time I've felt totally mortified, and totally mean. And I guess I should thank my lucky stars, because I unfollow people on Instagram all the time. When I started out on Instagram, I approached it like I did Twitter; I followed everyone who followed me. We were all just trying  out these newfangled forms of online media, and I liked the idea that we'd all follow one another. But as the numbers rose, I realised it just wasn't feasible; when you're following thousands of people, all you see or read is noise, and you miss out on a lot of valuable engagements.

So I did what seemed fair: I started to unfollow people as and when it occurred to me. On Twitter, I use Crowdfire to unfollow those whose accounts are inactive, and I then unfollow others at random, say, if they use their accounts to incessantly retweet others; if their tweets are all about their "brand"; if they tweet racist / sexist / homophobic "jokes". On Instagram, though, Crowdfire doesn't work to identify inactive accounts, so I've assembled a handy checklist of personal "don'ts" that will pretty much guarantee an unfollow.

In all of these instances, I have a little leeway – if I see a problem (essentially, a photograph I don't like), I'll check the account to see: is this the norm? Is this all you post to your Instagram? If the answer is yes, it's over. If no, I might hang around for a little longer, but two strikes and you're definitely out.

Y'know what, though? This isn't a how-to; I'm not telling you all this so that you know the "right" and "wrong" way to Instagram. It's a hugely subjective preference! Just as I have certain accounts and aesthetics I love, I have others that I don't, and that's okay too. It's not a personal slight if I take you off my "followed" list, but it's probably because you did one of these:

Your Instagram is your family photo album

The one exception to this rule is if I actually know you, in which case, of course I want to see photographs of your children, family get-togethers and holidays to Mallorca. Okay, that's not even all that true (because I don't care all that much about kids, family gatherings or other people's holidays), but you get a free pass if we're acquainted. As for the rest of you, there's no reason I could possibly want to see photographs of you and your mates on nights out / on holidays / in your local. I just find it really boring, so I unfollow.

You post non-stop inspirational quotes

I, like all other basic bitches of the world, am very fond of an inspiration quote or seven. I even occasionally post them to my Instagram account! However, they don't make up the majority of my feed; if they did, I would consider that really boring and – worse – immensely lazy. If someone's Instagram account is more than 30% inspiration quotes, I unfollow. I want to see more than typography that someone else assembled in a blank square.

You use Instagram as a branding exercise

I get that it's difficult to use social media as a brand or business, and have an engaging, fun feed – the temptation to use every post as an opportunity to promote your product or service is massive. But guess what? If I'm following you on social media, I'm already engaged. I know your brand name; I have an interest in what you have to say. I don't need to see your product or packaging in every single post. Use your social media to show me what else you're about – if you're an Irish food producer, for example, show me some recipes that might use your product alongside some others. Show me snippets of your life; take a picture of a beautiful sunset and wish everyone a goodnight. It's not rocket science, but there's nothing more off-putting than clicking into someone's account and seeing photograph after photograph of the same thing.

You don't credit your regrams

And no: Tumblr, Google and Pinterest are not photo credits. (In fact, if someone could send that broadcast out to everyone on the internet, that'd be great.) A photo credit is a credit that indicates who took the photograph in the first place. If your Instagram account is full of beautiful photographs of beautiful things you didn't take, eh, why would I follow you? Because you have a good eye? No: that's why I go to art galleries. I follow people because they have interesting perspectives, go interesting places and take interesting photographs when they're there. Not because they steal other people's work and put it all together like a pretty jigsaw. (The one exception? Quotes and memes. It's nearly impossible to figure out who first created them, irritatingly.)

Your Instagram account is non-stop selfies

Woohoo! I've just hit 30,000 followers on Instagram and, to celebrate, I have a deadly competition coming up this week 🎉 It's competition season, apparently! On a slightly more cheesy note, thank you all so much for coming on this weird new age social media journey with me. ❤️ I know that Instagram followers, in the grand scheme of things, are not a huge indicator of life's successes, but having your support has enabled me to make a lot of my career dreams come true. And for that I'm really, really grateful. Not to sound greedy or anything, but here's to the next 30,000! (I knew a smiley pic would come in handy! 😝) * * * #Instagram #socialmedia #followers #selfie #grateful #thankyou #smile #fotd

A photo posted by Rosemary Mac Cabe (@rosemarymaccabe) on

Okay, so here's where I become a hypocrite, because I'm fond of a selfie or two myself. However, I try really hard to (a) only post selfies when I've something to say about them (even if that something is, "hey, look at me having a good hair day") and (b) to place a good few pics in between selfies, so that they're not flooding my feed. If I check out someone's Instagram account and it's 80% selfies – where their chin, nose and eyes are all in the same position – I unfollow. I unfollow extra fast if you only take selfies with a ring light. Like, really?!

And that's it – those are the ultimate Instagram mistakes that someone has to make for me to unfollow them. But I can't be alone! What makes you unfollow people on Instagram? What really gets under your skin?