We've all observed the way Instagram unfollows can signify breakups or coded messages among celebrities (we're looking at you, Angie and Carlin), but the mind games of social media can impact us mere mortals too.
Although it might seem frivolous, being unfollowed can feel like a kind of 'social shade', which can affect our self-esteem, and sometimes even manifest anxiety. Why did she unfollow me? What did I – or my feed – do wrong?
Here, five women share their experiences of being unfollowed on Instagram by someone close to them, and how it impacted them.
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Maggie was unfollowed by her 'friend with benefits' when he found a girlfriend.
"I had been having a casual relationship with *Todd for over a year. Then one day another woman appeared on his Instagram page and the next day I was unfollowed, just like that.
It was very quick. Although our relationship was based around sex, we were still friends. We knew each other pretty well after a year of this arrangement and had said if we ever met anyone that we would let the other know. Clearly this didn’t happen though because the woman in Todd’s feed became his girlfriend.
For me, being unfollowed felt like being broken up with via text message. It was harsh, cold and just not necessary. It seems social media just gives permission for people to act in socially unacceptable ways and normalises it. I mean what happened to manners?"
Naomi* was unfollowed by a friend who then stopped talking to her without any explanation.
"I was friends with *Emma since university. We had been friends on Instagram for years but after I had kids and started posting pictures of them she unfollowed me and then stopped talking to me all together.
I have no idea what happened. After I saw she had unfollowed me, I thought perhaps it was by accident, but one day I sent her a text message about catching up and she didn’t respond to that either. I followed up again and then I tried calling her, but she didn’t pick up or write back.
I can only assume why she unfollowed me but in the end I don’t know for sure, but it was deeply hurtful, especially the not knowing. I still think about it today."
Courtney was unfollowed by my own brother because he thought her feed was embarrassing.
"My brother and I are actually really close. The only thing that ever brings tension to our relationship is that he is very image oriented.
He wants to get into professional modelling, so for him, his social media is all about looking beautiful in a very aesthetic sense.