#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.

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

Found in Online & Tech

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Tina Jan 4, 2019, 9:40 am

    Just found this article. Thanks, Sheri, for writing it. I was getting frustrated and upset at these people who just wanted to grow numbers and play games. I take care of the social media aspect of an animal rescue. Our organization saves lives of cats and dogs that are abandoned, displaced, and some times abused. This is right in our description yet numbers mean more to some people than the second chance that these animals may get. I don’t understand it.

  • Martin Oct 13, 2018, 10:42 am

    This is so true. I spend hours in my machine shop designing and building all sorts of gadgets from scratch. Every time a photo upload is made showing my work, the follow and unfollow game starts all over. It is hard to understand why so many define their status with the amount of followers to their account. Give me a brake, that is not what social media is about. Every time this happens, frustration grows deep within me. Selfish, egocentric and greedy, is that what many have become?

  • Katie Oct 9, 2018, 8:13 am

    Thanks for the article! Happens to everybody these days. I lost 384(!) followers over the past 6 weeks. If somebody unfollows me, I gladly return the favour and block them. My only hope is that someday everybodys using that app, so the follow/unfollow thing finally stops…

  • Lisa Aug 28, 2018, 5:42 am

    Thank you so much for writing this. I’ve decided recently to concentrate on my Instagram account a bit more and these are exactly the accounts that are driving me crazy! It’s so rude! Now that I’ve learnt about this mercenary process followed by those who are trying for the big follower numbers, I’ve stopped following anyone who has a disproportionate number of followers to those they are following (unless the account is a company or well-known organization). Thanks again for the confirmation. I’d rather grow my numbers organically with people who want to engage with me.

  • Macy Jul 3, 2018, 8:09 pm

    Thank you!! I have a fairly new “public” account on intatgram to connect with other book lovers. I’ve been really enjoying connecting with other people with similar interests! But my numbers kept fluctuating, which doesn’t bother me too much. I want connections, not followers.
    I got a message request today that said “uhh thanks for not following me back. Buh-bye!! ??“
    Like… how petty? I didn’t immediately respond and follow them back so they felt the need to reach out and try and shame me? I don’t understand. I checked out their page out of curiosity and it was full of quote and things that I definitely didn’t relate to on a moral level, so I wouldn’t have followed them anyways.. but the message bothered me.

    I feel better after reading this post though. I’ll try and let whatever else i run in to that’s petty just roll off my back. That’s not why I’m on instagram ?

  • Candi Jun 15, 2018, 8:39 pm

    Thanks for writing this! You articulated so well what I couldn’t put my finger on. I’m fairly new to Instagram and have a business account that I use as a mix of business and a bit personal. I follow back anyone who follows me out of courtesy because that’s what I thought I should do. Boy was I wrong! After I follow back they stop following me leaving me confused. Now I’ve got it set in my mind to follow accounts that only interest me. I follow more accounts than I have followers but I’m actually making real connections with those who do follow me and that feels great!

  • Hanna Sep 11, 2017, 8:18 pm

    Haha I love that you shared that person was bragging and turned around to do the same thing. I think some people are too obsessed with stats. I understand that some people don’t want to overwhelm their own feed but it’s awful when they just go through the exercise of following hundreds of accounts to then unfollow later on.

    Just curious have any of the people you have messaged and or blocked every contacted you back?

    – Hanna

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:03 am

      Only one responded to my message by blocking me. lol. Everyone else just ignored. I notice most of them don’t respond to anyone on their networks. They aren’t really there to connect, just to give the appearance that they do. ;)

  • Emylisis Sep 5, 2017, 2:30 am

    Thank you so much for explaining this!!! I’m a new artist on Instagram and I get SO happy when I see someone has followed me after I post a new drawing, thinking “oh they must have really liked it, they want to see more of my work!” And the next time I log on my follower count is back down and they’ve disappeared. I figured they probably followed me by accident or it was something I was doing like posting too much, but apparently I was giving them too much credit!
    I’d rather these people just didn’t follow me at all, it’s disheartening to think that someone has genuinely liked something I worked hard on only to find out they wanted my +1 on their follower count and nothing else.

    I don’t follow people back unless I’m interested in their content and want to see it, and I think that should really be how instagram works.

    If I suddenly had 3 million followers but none of them cared about my art or what I was making, what would that be? Absolutely nothing. Fans are the people who leave encouraging comments, spread the word to their friends, buy art prints, etc. The thought of just ONE person leaving a long comment that they love my drawing is far more inspiring, uplifting, and fulfilling than logging on to see a hollow, empty number ever could be.

    So basically these people need to grow up. Social media can be so much more than a strategy game of creating imaginary numbers to boost your ego.

    • Libby Mar 31, 2018, 9:02 pm

      I agree with 100% of everything you said. My instagram is more centered around my makeup which is my form of self-expression, so I get excited and happy when I see someone follows me. I think the same thing…they must like my work. I’ve noticed this for years and I can’t believe someone would take the time to be manipulative like that. It’s immature to me. I just downloaded a free app that tells me who unfollows and also who follows me back those that follow me but I don’t follow them… I do have to like one’s content to follow. Anyway, the app is called Followers Insight.

  • Cynthia Chan Aug 30, 2017, 11:47 pm

    Thank you very much for this article! May I use your article on my Instagram linking to your blog here please? Thx!

  • Ozzy Aug 25, 2017, 2:21 pm

    It’s easy to recognize them, cause when they start to follow you, look at how many people they follow, usually about 1200, while 14K or 30K follows them, so it is obvious that you should not follow back, because you know that they are doing this stupid follow/unfollow game, just to increase their followers. Then when they see that you do not follow back, they will unfollow you any way.

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:04 am

      That’s exactly what happens :) Thanks for leaving a comment.

  • Marty Aug 21, 2017, 12:47 pm

    Don’t get upset people. At the end of the day Insta is nothing more than a game and should be looked at as such. If you have good content and you continuously post quality pics then folks will follow but you do need to post and post often. If you’re posting a bunch of selfies or pics of your food then you’re no more special than the other 100 million people on Insta doing the same exact ish. No wonder people don’t want to follow your feed because its boring and basic. To stick out you will need to be somewhat different and post interesting and unique content. I gave up following people back if they had decent content for this reason. Now if people want to follow me because they enjoy my pics then by all means but I WILL NOT follow back or play this game any longer. When you get to this point you will find yourself caring less and less about who does or doesn’t follow you and you can just concentrate on yourself and enjoy doing whatever it is you enjoy doing. But seriously….selfies and food is the most basic b&tch thing you can do so be more interesting if you want folks to actually follow you.

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:05 am

      I think you’ve missed the point of the article. Or didn’t read it. But thanks for your comment.

  • John Aug 16, 2017, 9:28 am

    This is a great read! We are currently working to increase our depth on Social Media, both Instagram and Facebook. We post our workouts on a daily basis and get followed/unfollowed regularly. We want followers that truly love the content we are posting. Real followers. It’s important to understand that these accounts with 20k+ followers usually only have a very small reach! Their depth is non-existent. Consistent content and a personalization of your comments/likes/follows will yield positive results to the depth of your followers!

    Thanks for this awesome post.

    – John

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:08 am

      Absolutely. I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for commenting.

  • Hailey Aug 5, 2017, 10:32 pm

    Thank you for writing this! I keep seeing articles that justify it and it drives me nuts! I am really close to giving up on instagram but I’m going to stick it out a little longer.

  • Anne Jul 24, 2017, 1:49 am

    Yes, yes and yes! It is so frustrating, rude and demeaning of people to follow, then unfollow just for numbers! You have summed it up so well! I am so glad you voiced your thoughts, and given me a chance to voice mine, with these few lines, and now I feel a little better. Thank you!

  • Johnny Jul 12, 2017, 1:49 am

    IG wants us to do that stuff it’s no different than having to watch a commercial on TV. If you click on peoples followers it’ll have a row of people where you can just follow all the way down. It’s set up like that, no reason to complain. Why wouldn’t you take advantage if you’re trying to get your name out there and you’re hungry to get famous.

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:09 am

      If that’s what is important to you. Then you be you.

  • Tony Jul 10, 2017, 7:02 am

    I love my photography and I love sharing it with as many people I can. That is why I love Instagram. The follow/unfollow situation use to upset me no end. I felt used and abused when it happened. As soon as I was unfollowed I would find out who, unlike any photo that I have liked of theirs and then unfollow them. Now I don’t get as upset as I once did. These follow to unfollow people are shallow attention seekers and I don’t need to waste any of my time or energy on them.

    Thanks for your article, and all the comments, it makes me feel that I am not alone.

  • Sara Jul 2, 2017, 12:40 am

    Yes! I have the Instareport app, lost my patience with this today and looked up if anyone else had this same frustration. Especially with the spiritual, life betterment, yoga accounts, etc. I just added a line to my bio, hoping it gets the message across. Might start sending messages too.

  • Emily Jun 27, 2017, 8:27 pm

    I can see this is a tactic some people use to appear aloof yet mysteriously popular. However, I wouldn’t go assuming this about everyone who follows, then unfollows after a few days. My main reasons for unfollowing someone’s instagram relatively quickly, are 1. They post too frequently – there’s something off-putting about someone who feels a need to post multiple times a day, especially if the photos are very similar and mostly selfies; and 2. Random gross/disgusting photo unrelated to their other content in any way.

    I’ve also never felt it necessary to follow someone just to be reciprocal or polite, which not only seems like a false thing to do, but fills my feed with images I’m not at all interested in.

    • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:13 am

      I agree that no one should follow just to have follows. It can affect the quality of engagement you hope to get. However, I don’t agree with any other part. Sure, you follow that one person who suddenly posts a dick pic, or gets insomnia and posts 18 times overnight, but to tell me that someone who is following 2 people, and has 34,000 following them with no website or claim to fame other than they post pictures of food… That those people accidentally followed 33,998 people only to suddenly find out that it wasn’t what they wanted… Far fetched.

  • Julia Weston Jun 21, 2017, 3:53 pm

    Just found this post. I sought advice because I started using instagram about a month ago and, while I’m make some great connections with actual people, I sensed something was amiss. With this post I feel like I’ve been educated, I’ve vented and I’m ready to move on – and all I’ve done is read lol! Thanks for such a real and articulate post. Imma just keep doing what I’m doing, but now I’m a little less “green.” Thanks :)

  • JJ Jun 12, 2017, 12:26 pm

    Nice write up, this drives me nuts. If I get one of these sleazeballs I unfollow and block them.

  • Allie Kosela Jun 10, 2017, 8:33 pm

    You said everything I’ve been ticked off about for MONTHS. I hope Instagram updates their algorithm to penalize accounts that do this. It’s the most annoying thing. Especially when I find cool accounts and start interacting with people only to see that they unfollow me once I start engaging. WTF, dude? Not cool!

  • Eliot May 30, 2017, 11:54 pm

    I am also new to Instagram and this Follow/Unfollow thing has been driving me crazy. Generally speaking, you can look at a person’s account and tell immediately that they are planning on unfollowing you… The pages are usually generic and uninspired. I started sending them a small note telling them I thought they were shallow and dishonest, and that I was better off without them, but it occurs to me that it might be better to leave a comment on one of their photographs instead. Give them a brief call out before blocking them. I find it particularly offensive when it is a personal growth, spiritual, or yoga site. I mean, really!

  • Valerie May 28, 2017, 11:58 am

    I’m so glad that I’m not the only one!! I’ve been posting my favorite shots from my hikes and noticed this happening to me. I wasn’t sure if I was being “weird” for looking this up!! I’m glad I’m not… gonna check out that follower app. I love adding people to learn from them and to *connect*. Shame that we are losing our connection with others in the laziest way possible!!

  • elija May 25, 2017, 12:14 pm

    I am new to Instagram, I wasn’t exactly clear about what it was, but it seems a good place to put a personal art project I am working out. The follow, unfollow thing took me by surprise, but using the Followers App I figured it out pretty quick. Before I unfollow and block, I usually send them a note saying, Sorry to lose you. Obviously not good enough. After examining the sites of people who followed and unfollowed I realized their sites were pretty uninteresting, obviously not good enough. In my naiveté, I had assumed that people who followed were interested and it was polite to follow back. I’m still learning.

  • Andrea May 20, 2017, 12:17 pm

    This drives me crazy. Somebody follows me and I like their page so I follow back. Then they immediately unfollow me. It honestly bums me out because a lot of the people have similar pages to mine and I feel like we could draw inspiration from each other but then I have to unfollow them. I would never continue following somebody that is that self absorbed. I always leave a comment that lets them know I noticed then immediately block them.

  • Rebecca May 17, 2017, 11:22 am

    YES!!! This is 100% relatable! Im relatively new to Instagram and trying to build followers and the next day my followers would drop dramatically. It’s so frustrating especially when you feel like your posting good quality pics that would interest people. Good advice on dealing with it, I’ve started doing the same.

  • Giulia May 15, 2017, 4:44 pm

    I’m a music fan, so I’m familiar with that niche on IG. There’s a band who did this to me some days ago, that’s why I ended up on your website – I googled the phenomenon to see if I could make any sense of it.
    It’s even worse because I interacted with them through private messages and then they unfollowed me after one day.
    I then looked at their stats. 10k followers, 2100 following and 100-200 likes per picture. That’s when I realised that, while I’ve been sincerely interested in their content, they’ve only tried to use me with pre-made messages.
    While I get that musicians aren’t forced to follow each and every fan they have back, I think it was just rude of them.
    Don’t follow me at all, I say. There’s plenty of ways to have your music heard nowadays.

  • Nivedita May 14, 2017, 1:40 am

    Love your article Sheri, this happens all the time. It’s so annoying when people follow and unfollow after few days. and it appears like a status symbol to have 100s in following and 1000s in the follower list. I find very few accounts where it’s the other way round or atleast close. People are silly to get a kick from more followers than following .. shows their maturity level as you have put it.

  • Adelina May 13, 2017, 10:06 am

    Same here. I am at the beginning so people do this in a very rude way. Before were 4-5 people, now they are 20-30 who follow me and then unfollow me next day. It’s a good idea this one with message and block. I will do that. Most of the people criticize the ones who buy followers. Honestly, I prefer those than these ones who are playing people. Nothing is what it was. Everything is selfishness and mockery.

  • Maryjune May 11, 2017, 7:09 am

    Thank you for this article!! I’ve noticed on my Instagram account many bloggers doing this “bait and switch” method of getting followers. It’s disappointing that bloggers are doing this. What makes it worse the companies do not care about this method. It makes people feel like they are number. I messaged a blogger that did this to me and my friends on Instagram. She has 20k followers. Her response with hearts… that she does this to help “brands” recognize me. She other excuses that made no sense on why she did this. I’ve had several food bloggers and lifestyle bloggers to do this to me. I think this method is rude. Thank you for posting this awesome article!!

    Southern Meets Urban

  • The Iuli's May 11, 2017, 5:26 am

    Great post! My EXACT thoughts and feelings. Being relatively new to Instagram I was highly disappointed when this started happening to me. Then on the advice of a Google Search I downloaded the Followers app (love this app, 5 stars!) to see what was going on. Well you hit the nail on the head in this post.

    I hate that people are so downright rude and fake. Now I don’t follow people back like I used to out of courtesy. If I like what they’re about, I’ll follow them. However, like you said, if their account has thousand of followers but only following a few hundred accounts, they are definitely NOT getting my follow- damn users ?

  • Rebecca May 5, 2017, 11:58 am

    This just started to happen to me as I’m fairly new to Instagram! Thank you for explaining why this happens because at first I was completely baffled. I agree that the whole thing is completely absurd and pointless. The follow/unfollow behavior is just helping to create more vapidness and fewer social connections that we so sorely need!!

  • cindy May 3, 2017, 12:57 am

    Hi – I recently heard a photography podcast guest speaker talk about growing his instagram following by have a low follower to following ratio. I then realized that is exactly why I was being “unfollowed” by a few new followers every day. Yesterday I stumbled across the app “Followers” and have been unfollowing those that unfollowed me. I feel childish and petty doing so … but am happy I stumbled across your article that provides “unfollowing” as a method to do when someone does it to you. Thanks for the article.

  • Jay Apr 28, 2017, 10:47 pm

    Thanks so much for writing about this! I’ve been scratching my head for the last year wondering what in the heck people are doing following and unfollowing!! You have put a name to my first social media pet peeve!!

  • Butter Apr 24, 2017, 2:35 pm

    Just had the same thoughts so figured I’d see if this is a topic at all. I’m just starting to get serious about my photography and like you, it was exciting to see another photographer like my work. It only dawned on me when someone commented asking about my followers that the numbers weren’t adding up. I knew crazy tactics are always popping up but it was still disappointing to find out this is a THING (albeit based on your post date, clearly I’m behind the times). Especially when searching for this post, the results were surrounded by pages of “how to grow audience with follow/unfollow”. Ridiculous.

    I love photography and the fact that we have so many ways to share what we love with the world. So while I was annoyed to find this out, I’m going to just focus on appreciating the 1 genuine like/follow than the 10 a-holes employing these… actually just really sad tactics. Glad to have found your post. It’s good to know there are actual other humans out there in the webosphere.

  • Raven Apr 17, 2017, 2:58 pm

    Thank you very much for this post, it’s basically all what I think about IG and the reason I left.

    I still lurk there and there are some people I like and I’m really disappointed on how reductive they can be. I used to post my art and never followed people except by genuine interest, but many followed me just trying to bait me to follow them and left about 2-3 days ago (there were some account following, unfollowing, then following again with a generic praise to bait and then unfollowing again). I never had more than 100. I thought something was wrong with my work but there are not very good artists (both work and attitude) with over 13k, 30k, 100k, they never follow more than 700 accounts (many unrelated to art) and now I know their secret. I never understood how they managed to get 500+ followers everyday posting once in each 2 weeks or just with not so great posts. There’s also another with almost 450k but less than 50k interact. I wonder where are all the 400k people??? A friend of mine said numbers attract numbers. And another one I caught buying followers twice, the number jumped from 80 and something to 200+ in just 24 hours and then again the number was at around 300 (and declining) to 470+ in also 24h. I thought it was really strange for someone completely unknown. I felt like I was the only person interested in genuine interest, kindness and companionship but seems like maintaning the appearances sadly is better.

  • Patricia Apr 7, 2017, 3:28 pm

    I was just sitting here completely disappointed in humanity. This happens to me constantly and I’m so sick of it. It’s the rudest, meanest, selfish thing! Are there any normal people left in this world? Is anyone nice and genuine anymore? Glad I found this article. Makes me feel a little better:)

    • Maryjune May 11, 2017, 7:10 am

      I feel the same way too!! Completely disappointed with humanity.

  • tanya julian Apr 7, 2017, 1:53 pm

    following then unfollowing is not something new. It is just as bad if not worse on twitter. Then it passed on to Instagram. I know I have dealt with it. I started looking at their followers following count and stopped following everybody back exept Bama fans and a few others. I find the mute button works wonders and the person you muted doesn’t have a clue. I had one account and I was close to 10K in followers but followed all back and used lists to intercact with people I had common interests in. Then got spammed hard and had to do new twitter account where I am very selective in who I follow back! I pinned a twitlonger speech to deal with these rude people. Put direction to it in bio and the unfollowers have dwindled,

  • Charles Stevenson Apr 7, 2017, 1:10 am

    Just read your post and as a VERY new user of Instagram (under a couple of hundred followers) it’s been quite funny to go through my followers and unfollow all who’ve got zero or just a few posts but with massive follower counts.

    Then, magically, I discovered that my followed count went down by the exact same count, one for one.

    So unless EVERY one of those people were on Instagram and refreshing their follow counts (of +10k, remember) they must have been bots.

    Or at least that’s how I read it.

    Why lie; no benefit in the long run.

  • Catherine Apr 6, 2017, 6:55 pm

    I’ve been Spring Cleaning my IG account! I’m relatively new to Instagram and as a blogger, truth and honesty are important to me. I discovered the dishonesty of follow/u follow and I think it is an awful practice. My readers trust me. When I engage, it is because I like another blog or business–but don’t take me for a fool. I have unfollowed over 500 people/bloggers/businesses in the past few days and it continues–thank you for making me realize I am not alone!!

  • Drena Apr 1, 2017, 3:30 pm

    Also I wish people added their instagram feed so I could connect with some of the awesome people on this forum that felt the same way I do!

  • Sheri Landry Apr 1, 2017, 9:53 am

    Wow. I just need to stop in and say thank you for all of your comments. I am inspired by so many who feel the same about authentic connections. I read all of your comments and even though I don’t respond to all of them, I appreciate the time you take to share your opinions and struggles with the platform that we all love. I should really find a plug-in to allow the liking of comments here… because I like all of them.

    • Drena Apr 1, 2017, 3:27 pm

      This is everything! So frustrated by these people trying to build up their following and being completely fake! I also use the following app and immediately unfollow all the people who have dropped my page. I wish I could tell people ahead of time not to follow me if they are insincere because I will gladly drop them just as fast. But I don’t want to come off as harsh to all my other followers. ?

      • Andrea May 20, 2017, 12:21 pm

        Yeah, I thought about putting that in my bio too. “Just don’t even bother following me if you are just going to unfollow immediately” but it sounds harsh and kinda rude. It’s frustrating.

    • Anthony Hayes Apr 6, 2017, 2:55 pm

      This article speaks to me as a musician. I know, instagram is a great tool for the simplicity of sharing ideas, travel, and art, but when i saw this trend persisting so much recently, i wondered what was up with the influx of follow, and unfollow. It just lacks any real sense of connectivity. I’ve been seeing so many profiles do this, and i look at their stuff, and few people even care to comment on their stuff. That’s antisocial media.

    • Kyle Jun 27, 2017, 3:08 pm

      I always thought people did this as a business tactic like putting up a billboard on the side of the road. It let’s people see if you like their content and then you can follow if you like what they have. I’ve never felt any obligation to follow anyone just because they followed me. I’ve never felt “hurt” by someone unfollowing me either. It seems childish to worry that someone followed you and then unfollowed you. If you like their stuff, follow them back, if not, then don’t waste your time worrying about it. Some of those accounts are created as businesses and it’s like a billboard or radio advertisement. Others are created for vanity. In either case it’s nothing personal to the hundreds/thousands of people they follow and then unfollow.

      • Sheri Landry Nov 29, 2017, 9:16 am

        There are options to advertise yourself on Instagram to get those follows. It isn’t personal at all. My point is that it speaks to the character of the account following you, then unfollowing you. IMO, it’s the same thing as becoming friendly with someone you really don’t like in order to get them to buy something from you, then telling them to get lost. It’s just who I choose to do business with and who I don’t.

  • Ben Mar 29, 2017, 1:00 am

    Great article, I now direct message this page link to people that follow/unfollow me on instagram, with hopes of them reading it and having a change of mind :)

    • Sheri Landry Apr 1, 2017, 9:49 am

      Great idea Ben. Hopefully there will be a downside for these users in the future.

  • Bridget Mar 23, 2017, 4:02 pm

    Thank you for this. I’m like you — I want genuine interaction with people. IG is my favorite social media platform because I love photography, and I love getting to share my own photos and to see photos from people around the world. I’m new to learning about the games played there in terms of following, etc., but I’ll just do my best to ignore it and use IG for what I like about it.

  • Chelsea Mar 21, 2017, 12:40 pm

    So glad I found this article! I realized what was happening but wondered if it was just normal, and I’m so glad to see now that other people find it as frustrating as I do. It’s incredibly hurtful, even when you realize the behavior is probably prompted by a robot.

    I know that Instagram recently switched to a more algorithmic display of posts (instead of displaying the most recent posts, Instagram displays posts out of order based on which ones are getting a lot of like). I’m wondering if Instagram couldn’t also use algorithms/AI to reduce the visibility of accounts that participate in this type of behavior… for example, when an account exhibits strong unfollow behavior, Instagram could lightly ‘penalize’ the account by reducing their organic visibility.

    Just a thought. Because it does hurt the integrity of the social media channel.

  • Kelli Wright Mar 16, 2017, 2:59 pm

    I just got the followers app and actually Found you by google searching this question! It seems to be a lot of “brands” doing this and some, line you said people with a ton of followers. I’m with you sister! Let’s just have a real relationship and be REAL and share awesome content. Thank you for this post. I’m gonna stop getting caught up in it. I thought at first it was just me! Blessings to ya. -Kelli

    • Maryjune May 11, 2017, 12:53 pm

      I just got the following app too!! I’ve seen so many bloggers follow me. Once I followed these bloggers, they abruptly unfollowed. This app is genius!!

  • Manisha Mar 15, 2017, 8:22 pm

    Amazing! I have been saying this for years! It’s so frustrating. I personally have 17.8k followers and follow nearly 7000 people back. In some people’s eyes that may not look great but I don’t care, I have real connections. Someone also said that to me, they bragged that they don’t follow people back!

  • Larch Mar 15, 2017, 4:23 am

    Thank you Sheri for this article. It is so frustrating when you look at your followers and get that warm fuzzy feeling that you are providing images that people want to see and then the “followers” disappear as soon as you follow them. I have decided only to follow profiles that I really enjoy and if I only have 60 followers who actually like my photos, great!!

  • Get About Travels Mar 14, 2017, 6:52 am

    Your article is on point. I found it quite refreshing that someone else thinks it’s a “dick move” too.

  • Get About Travels Mar 14, 2017, 6:52 am

    Your article is on point. I found it quite refreshing that someone else thinks it’s a “dick move” too.

  • Shel Mar 13, 2017, 8:51 pm

    A million times, yes!!! Could not agree with you more.

  • Ross Mar 9, 2017, 5:38 pm

    Thanks for your article. I was perplexed as to why my following count would go up and then down. I thought I was turning people off with the odd photo. But your article uncovered the ugly truth about people who desire to be popular. I had that issue on the school playground 30 years ago. But IG for me is about expressing my photography and my style. Those who wish to hop on and watch the journey – great. For those who aren’t interested – don’t follow me. Simple.

  • Jo Galbraith Mar 8, 2017, 7:56 am

    Wow – great post! I am new on Instagram too and have noticed the very same thing – I would see my numbers increase and then drop…took me a while to figure out but like you I would see people with 50,000 followers and following 200!! So yeah the lightbulb went on and I realized I wasn’t so special to them after all! It is a slimy move though and goes against all my principals. I am trying to go through my account slowly but surely to see who has done this…quite a few it turns out. At least I am aware now but yeah just lost a little more of my faith in humanity. What is wrong with people???

  • Iron Arm Mar 3, 2017, 10:49 am

    This happens on Twitter also. But you don’t need an app to figure anything out. I just go through the list of people i’m following once and a while. On Twitter, It indicates you is following you back. So you can just unfollow the dicks that unfollowed you. I don’t know why Instagram doesn’t have that feature. I would be pretty easy to add.

  • 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.

  • Jennie Feb 28, 2017, 10:47 am

    Yes! I am guilty of following a few people and then realizing their content wasn’t really my niche or their comments were brash and offensive so I then unfollowed but it’s not a game. I want people who appreciate my work and mindset and look for people about whom I feel the same way. It’s not a contest. ❤️

    • Sheri Landry Apr 1, 2017, 9:48 am

      I can see your point Jennie but there is a difference in following then unfollowing a couple of times because you made a mistake in judgement versus doing it 20,000 times because you could care less about authentic connections.

  • 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 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!!

    • Sheri Landry Feb 27, 2017, 9:37 pm

      I’m glad it helped Joanna. Thanks for commenting.

  • 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…

    • Lol May 20, 2017, 9:25 pm

      Yep u pretty much summed up everything I’m going through…

  • 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:

    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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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 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.