#DontFollowThenUnfollow on Instagram

I treat all of my social networks differently. Since I am learning some new photography techniques, Instagram has become the place where I post the photos that I am most proud of.

I call it my happy place.

But some times, it isn’t.

Don't Follow Then Unfollow on Instagram

There is a new trend on Instagram that has happened to everyone who has an account there — and it goes like this:

  1. You post a photo that you love and tag it so that you can reach out to those who have similar interests.
  2. Someone connects with you (follows).
  3. You think ‘awesome, I’m connecting with my community.’
  4. You check them out and if you like what you see, then you follow them back.
  5. Within 1 – 3 days or sometimes immediately after you follow them, they unfollow you.
  6. You double check their profile and see that they have 20K followers and are only following 1K. Then you realize they just did this to 19K other people.

It’s that easy and it’s that stupid.

Is this the new direction that social media has taken? Has social media just become perceived influence media? Forget about the personal connections that can be made? Forget authentic communities? Forget basic kindness? Just get me more numbers than the next person without paying for them because that would be wrong.

I have news for you.

I now know you are pretending to be something you are not. I now know what you did to get your numbers. I now know the value you place on real connections and engagement.

No word of a lie. I had to sit beside someone recently at a travel event and listen to them go on and on about how it looks better that they only follow 100 people but 11,000 follow them. It was their goal to NOT be social on social media. THEN, they turned around and did it to me.

To begin a social relationship with someone by falsely following them when you don’t like anything about them says everything about your character.

Instagram Don't follow then unfollow people, it's rudeIf you want to reach out to someone on Instagram, but don’t want to follow them, there is always the like button and you can leave a comment. Other than that, tag your photos appropriately and people will find you.

I don’t care if someone I follow doesn’t follow me back. If I like their stuff, I like their stuff. I care when you pretend to like my account when you only like the extra number I provide if I follow you back.

How can I find out this is happening to me?

I use an iPhone/iPad app called Followers which links all of my accounts including Instagram. After you load it once, It will begin to track who is following then unfollowing you.

What can I do when someone does this to me?

You can unfollow them. You can also block them to send a message that you are not a commodity, you aren’t in high school, and you don’t play immature games. Then they can’t follow you again when they blindly follow people (which has happened to me by individuals, charities, and some people I used to respect in social media).

Well how do I grow my numbers?

BY FINDING YOUR REAL COMMUNITY AND BEING REAL. I’m so tired of amateurs just trying to figure out how to play the algorithms all the time. It must be tiring to continuously be something you are not.

How about just putting out quality stuff?

Follow (and keep following) people with similar interests online. Comment, interact, share, connect. Instagram is a social network.

Be social.

Don’t use people.

Signed,
someone who wants her old Instagram back — before the people who only cared about numbers showed up.

Sheri Landry
Sheri publishes, and writes at This Bird’s Day where she shares all of the thoughts in her head without the voices. Sticking mainly with content for Canadians, Sheri shares family stories, product information and anything that fits into her (and her family’s) daily activities.
Found in Online & Tech
35 comments… add one
  • Rifat Salam Mar 1, 2017, 6:01 pm

    Thanks for this piece…I googled this phenomenon and found this. I am new to IG but got very clued in to this on Twitter years ago where I have very specific interests and it was clear who was doing this. And I wouldn’t even bother following. As a sociologist, what I find troubling is that it exploits people’s desire to make connections with people but also and perhaps a stronger impulse, our social belief in reciprocity. It is so ludicrously transparent nd I’ve started going through and removing people for this reason.

  • Anne Cooksey Feb 28, 2017, 7:44 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to write this article. I didn’t understand what was going on until I got an app called “InstaReport” that showed me in real time who unfollowed me right after I followed them. Before I followed them, I would go to their page, see if it jived with me, and like/comment on posts that struck a chord with me. I was excited about engaging with a new person. Then reality would hit. Now that I know the score, I just unfollow them immediately and block them. The people I have mutual engagement with are great — I’ve gotten to learn about their lives, I care about their kids, I enjoy their pets, and I’m interested in their business expertise. Can I opt-in to every product? No, but it doesn’t stop me from reading their articles, thanking them for their viewpoints, and expanding my world. I have made friends all over the world via Instagram and Snapchat. We are living in such amazing technological times and the opportunities for connection are endless. The very fact that I can write to you and know you’ll read it is gratifying. Sharing ideas and experiences online is what being social on social is all about.

  • Jess Guerrieri Feb 26, 2017, 6:20 pm

    Omg. I know this was posted a bit ago but I wanted to say thank you. I am SO frustrated with this. I hate all the fake fluff such a bummer.
    Thank you for this article.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Feb 27, 2017, 9:36 pm

      Hi Jess, you are welcome. I appreciate you leaving a comment.

  • Joanna Feb 13, 2017, 5:59 pm

    So happy I found this article. I’m new to instagram and couldn’t understand why one day I’d have 88 followers and then the next 83. I suspected people were following and then unfollowing. I wasn’t sure if it was etiquette to follow back once you had a new follower but I couldn’t see the point in following a topic I wasn’t interested in. Your article and the responses you have received have cleared up my confusion. Thank you!!

  • Liz-Lemon Jan 27, 2017, 9:34 pm

    Thank you for this! Like many have said, I too am starting to take photography more seriously and it’s been happening the sam to I don’t care about how many followers I have..but it’s a real let down when someome AMAZING follows you then unfollows you after you’ve followed them. I felt like “WOW! I’m going in the right direction!” but really they just want more followers. There are some where I unfollowed, then some I kept because honestly.. their IG is pretty good…

  • Kat Jan 15, 2017, 12:21 pm

    This is not funny at all I’ve gotten to the point where my account is now private I don’t even care for followers anymore. Instagram is a place of competition on who has the most followers they need to grow up how do you have 50,000 followers, but only follow 50, not cool at all, this really needs to stop. Instagram needs to crack down on these, unInsta followers only follow, to unfollow, to gain more followers.

  • Audrey Jan 7, 2017, 10:05 am

    I am so glad I stumbled upon your post. You’ve mentioned everything that was super frustrating. It is good to know that it is just not only me experiencing this. That whole follow / unfollow business had me so discouraged that I was just going to quit. But then you get real followers that makes it worthwhile.

  • Kelly Jan 5, 2017, 8:23 am

    I’m so glad I found this post. I used to have a private instagram but I’ve recently signed up to share some photography/travel posts and I’ve really had a problem with spammy follower/unfollowers. It’s a shame people do this. Like you said, I’m also looking to genuinely connect with people with similar interests! Hopefully I’ll slowly build an organic following with people I follow back.

  • Gilbert Elisa Jan 4, 2017, 1:56 pm

    I enjoyed your post. I’ve noticed this as of the last 3 or 4 years.
    I’ve noticed the stated behavior mostly but not limited to the following communities:
    Fashion/Modeling
    Health/Fitness
    Travel
    Food

    There are a few apps that can track “non-followers” and keep people honest. I use one of those and block accordingly.

  • Elizabeth Norris Jan 4, 2017, 8:40 am

    Thank you for writing this article. It has become a pet hate of mine… The accounts that follow then unfollow. I’m so glad you highlighted it so everyone can cotton on. It is disrespectful and anti-social media. Anyhow, I’m off to check you out on Instagram now. Thanks again for your article. Best wishes, Elizabeth

  • Frustrated Jan 3, 2017, 5:13 pm

    This has been a continuous annoyance to me as well. I find when I post a pic I’ll get like 10 new followers. Whether I follow them back or not I find within 48 hours I am back to my normal baseline of 174 or so. It’s different people most of the time and I find it really disingenuous and maddening to like someone’s feed and work only to increase the counter on your own page.

    One other thing that is so stupid as well, are those people who follow and unfollow you frequently. They follow you after you post a pic and stay following you for a week or so then unfollow you. You post again and they follow you again only to unfollow you after some time has passed.

    If the reason you follow someone’s feed is because you actually like that persons work (provided you actually look at their feed instead of only the new pic posted- which is rare), then if they post something you don’t like hang around for awhile maybe. The chances are their next post or two you might actually like. Generally speaking most people are NOT going to like everything even your fav person’s account posts, but that’s no reason to come and go on a post by post basis. WTF?

  • Instafriend Dec 16, 2016, 4:09 am

    How about the weirdo photographers (“joshbulriss”) that follow, then unfollow, then follow again when you’ve unfollowed them, then unfollow you again…? Then scalp your friends. So. Odd.

    • Kelly Feb 8, 2017, 7:37 am

      omg, this same guy does it to me too! I assume he must be using some sort of app/algorithm, because it can’t be pure coincidence that he’s followed and then unfollowed me about 4 times in a month.

  • Matt Dec 15, 2016, 8:19 am

    I’m looking at the “Followers” app, and I’ve lost about 40 followers in a months timeframe. Really annoying, that people will follow you expecting to be followed back. What? And it’s always the big photography accounts. I’m starting to loathe this professional anything IG community. It seems like a bunch of money-and-fame-hungry lames.
    It is tempting to do the same at times. But like someone else said above, I value integrity and true engagement so much I end up not doing it.

  • Alicia Dec 7, 2016, 4:39 pm

    I’m a new blogger and it’s so daunting trying to establish a following on IG when it seems like everyone but me has a legion of followers through dirty tricks. Hopefully brands will catch on soon but until then…ONWARDS!

  • Sally Spirit Nov 20, 2016, 1:10 am

    Ok. This is everything that I’ve always wanted to say, concerning this follow-unfollow plague on Instagram. Thank you. You literally took each word out of my mouth. It is so sad to see how this situation is growing by the minute.

    The only thing is I seriously question if quality content still matter on Instagram. I see way too many bad accounts with huge followers ( even if gained by the follow unfollow method) and so many huge account not really engaging with their audience. It makes Instagram a very weird place to be at the moment. ..

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Dec 3, 2016, 6:59 pm

      I agree. I stick close to the people who still love to interact. The others, I pass on.

  • Josh Couts Nov 15, 2016, 5:56 pm

    I am in such agreement with you over this. Bait-and-switch followers. I actually submitted feedback to instagram about it earlier today because I’m at my wit’s end with it. 75+ people in a week have done this to me. To me, it’s just such a con. It’s dishonest, it’s horrible for community and it kills the integrity of instagram when people do it. I just can’t quite grasp why people are so obsessed with their “follower ratio” – I don’t care how many followers or followings anyone has – I care if I enjoy their feed. I submitted a wishlist request to iconosquare as well for them to build some sort of analytic that can help me spot these kinds of folks before I follow them and then get unfollowed. Ugh.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Nov 17, 2016, 8:52 pm

      I agree with you and it would be great if someone could build this type of tracker. Just so people would know who does this.

  • Phyllis Gulledge Nov 1, 2016, 8:52 am

    I came across this article trying to figure out why people follow and then unfollow me. Social Media is a STEEP learning curve for me, and I have been so discouraged that I just wanted to walk away from it. Everything I have seen indicates that the only way to use Social Media was, in fact, to play the algorithms. Definitely not me, and absolutely NO FUN! So your article has changed my outlook! I will just be using Social Media like I want to, and will be enjoying it from now on! AND I will be finding your Instagram account and following (but not unfollowing) you! LOL

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Nov 1, 2016, 3:54 pm

      Thanks for commenting Phyllis. I agree it can be discouraging. I take solace in those who still want to talk with me versus talk at me. They stand out more than they realize. Keep being you and you will be happier.

  • NesLi Oct 31, 2016, 10:24 am

    I totally agree with out it really annoys me. But not every ratio is made by follow/unfollow. I for example have 1000 followers but I only follow 60 people. I keep the follow/unfollow people come and go, because I dont apprehend to follow people whose feed I find boring. Nobody needs to follow me, but they can, as long as they don’t expect me to follow them back just because. Sorry for my bad english (I am German) but I just wanted to explain, that there are indeed people who don’t do this, but still have a good ratio in comprehension what a lot of ‘instagramers’ think is good. Cheers, Nes :)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Dec 3, 2016, 7:06 pm

      I don’t think there is a ‘good’ ratio. People who follow a small handful aren’t really engagers in my opinion, but to each their own. If you are striving to have a low ratio, you are doing it wrong. It’s like walking into a party of 500 people, but you’ve only allowed yourself to engage with 5 people. Any more than that and you look too chatty. Do something because YOU want to, not because of what strangers have decided the definition of a ‘good’ ratio is. Thanks for your comment.

      Edited to add: The people I follow are not necessarily the ones who follow me. I love great photography and Instagram has been a great outlet for me. I follow people I like and don’t really place a lot of value in other’s perceptions of me. Be on social media because you like to be social. In a world with social media everywhere, we are slowly becoming one of the least social generations.

  • Natasha Oct 19, 2016, 12:36 pm

    Couldn’t agree more!! I admit it can be discouraging sometimes, and I’m sometimes even tempted to do it myself… but I feel like integrity is more important. I don’t think there’s a shortcut to success, and it’s pretty obvious when people do the follow/unfollow. Hopefully brands will catch on too – a lot of bloggers do this to earn better income, which I totally get. It’s hard out there. It just doesn’t seem like a good way of going about business to me, though!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Oct 19, 2016, 9:25 pm

      I agree, it is discouraging. When brands place their money on a number, it drives some to leave their integrity and decency at the door. Hang in there. It isn’t the number that matters. It’s the quality of community.

  • B Oct 13, 2016, 10:58 pm

    Right?! This is happening to me right now with my business account I have on Instagram.

    And here I was just SO FLATTERED that some big company with 20k followers was following ME! Lil’ ol’ me of all people. I must be SO SPECIAL, because after all, they are just SO selective about who they follow, obviously, seeing as how they follow only 1K.

    And it was all a dirty trick to get me to follow them.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Oct 14, 2016, 8:35 am

      This says a lot about the company as well. I’ve had companies do the same thing to me. I don’t do business with anyone who treats others like they are a number. This is a great lesson for companies in choosing the right person to handle your social media accounts as well.

  • Janine Oda Oct 5, 2016, 4:08 pm

    Loved this! It really bummed /annoyed the shit out of me when I started to notice this happening to me especially from people I met in person and felt like we got along great. Only to find out they just wanted me to be apart of their fan club. I know better now. Thank you again I feel like you vented for all of us :-)

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Oct 11, 2016, 12:58 pm

      Thanks Janine. It is a giant bummer, but there are still a lot of great people out there who prefer connecting to using.

  • Sean Dillon Jul 7, 2016, 7:38 pm

    Well said, Sheri. I’m almost upset I even Googled this, but I’m glad you said something so I don’t have to! My new account on Instagram is set up for my professional speaking pursuits and I’m using it as the overflow/staging area for inspirational material I’m working on. It is so encouraging to be “reaching” people–even temporarily, but then using Followers, etc., you see that the unfollowers are a larger number than current followers. I’m trending at about 15-20% of my following disappearing in the first three days. It’s fine with me, but I certainly was curious and I’ve been on Instagram for years. I hope to be reaching the other 80% with something that will motivate them into taking action in their lives, before its too late to focus on something more important than perceived popularity. Those who know us always love us no matter what. Go with that, people. :) Great post.

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Jul 13, 2016, 12:07 pm

      Thanks for the comment Sean. It is really frustrating when this happens. You are right though, your community is in there somewhere and sometimes you need to wade through the sludge to get to the beautiful blue waters. Have a great day.

  • Joelle Feb 11, 2016, 11:42 pm

    YES!! You summed up perfectly how I feel about those types of people on Instagram (and everywhere else). I have actually had that happen to me three times this week. It is so sad that so many just follow others to use them as pawns so they follow back then discard them just to make themselves look good by boosting their followers. And for what? And it truly saddens me to say this, but in my experience it has been mostly women. Why can’t we just support one another in social media as there is truly enough recognition and success to go around? And just follow someone as an appreciation of what they offer to the world as their unique gift? Because to me whatever social media platform someone follows me on, I sincerely hope it is because they feel I have brought something positive and of value to their life. One can dream I guess, right? Great article. Hugs!

    • Sheri Landry Sheri Landry Feb 12, 2016, 1:20 pm

      Thank you for your comment Joelle. I completely agree with all of this. I am disillusioned as to how quickly the world of social media has devolved into ‘keeping up appearances’ versus kindness, compassion and the desire to connect with each other as human beings.

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