It hurts to stop following on Instagram – Here’s why we take it personally


Clicking to find out who hasn’t followed you on Instagram is like signing up for the devastation of Olivia Rodrigo’s repeat listening. Losing a follower – even if it’s just one person, and even if you barely knew them – can ruin a day (or at least a good chunk of an evening).

Think back to when The Weeknd ditched Selena Gomez, or when Kylie Jenner (then the rest of the Kardashian clan) abandoned Jordyn Woods. Or that time the entire beauty community on YouTube took a stand in the summer of 2020. The act of social media can be so dramatic it does. the news. (Celebrities are like us.)

James, 27, says he hates it when he loses a follower. “When someone is no longer following me, it basically triggers my fight or flight response,” he tells Bustle – but he can’t seem to look away. In fact, James admits to checking his tests 50 to 100 times a day, or every time he picks up his phone. And when his account goes down, it puts him in a bad mood.

But, while some people need to investigate the non-tracking, others decidedly … don’t. Either you are resolutely in the tracking camp, or you are good at not knowing who has unsubscribed from your feed. Either way, you have to admit that watching the one that escaped might sound like crap.

Why it hurts when someone no longer follows you on Instagram

Failure to follow is, in essence, a statement that a person is on you. Sure, it’s social media, but from a psychological standpoint, your hurt feelings stem from a very real feeling of rejection. “As humans, we are all wired with attachment needs,” says Hala Abdul, MA, RCC, Certified Clinical Advisor. And Instagram has a way of delivering that. If you have a good number of followers and people like your posts, everything will look good in the world. But if someone decides not to participate anymore, you’ll probably feel weird about it.

The fact that people have to go out of their way to click “unfollow” only adds to the drama. “In real life, losing touch with people happens naturally,” says Dr. Holly Schiff, Psy.D., registered clinical psychologist, in Bustle. A group of friends can graduate, get on with their work, and possibly stop responding to the group chat. In the world of social media, however, Schiff says unsubscribing is a “willful act.”

But whether or not you choose to know who has no longer followed you is entirely up to you. If you do want to get into a thriller, there are plenty of apps for that – you can basically search your app store for “followers of non-followers” and pick the one that’s right for you. But instead of announcing that “Everybody loves you” or saying “With that number of followers you’re destined for glory,” these trackers just reveal that your longtime second-year friend has chosen to. ignore you forever.

Losing a follower – even if it’s just one person, and even if you barely knew them – has a way of ruining a day.

You can also scroll through your friends list for the missing name of one who dared to turn his back on the fun of your Instagram feed. This is the most common response to a drop in numbers, says Abdul. “You go into detective mode to try to figure out what happened and why,” she says.

Why people like to know who abandoned them

It sounds like a form of psychological torture, but a lot of people want to know when these things are happening in real time. Rachel, 24, says she launched an investigation when she noticed a few high school friends had abandoned her. She delved into their pages for clues that indicated that they thought its content was “too much” or if it was not “aesthetic enough”.

Some social media users like to know who unsubscribed them because it gives them revenge: immediately unsubscribe that person. Sarah, 28, tells Bustle that she’ll hit her unsubscribe’s unsubscribe button the second she sees the act of betrayal happen. And, when it’s someone she knows – even a cousin who lives across the country or a friend of an ex – it makes her fly. “I can simmer for hours,” she says. “Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I end up archiving some of my messages because I feel like they were the one that caused the unsubscribe.

The case for not knowing who unsubscribed you

Some people barely notice – or literally don’t care – when they lose a subscriber. Ashley, 31, is one of them. “If we weren’t close and I realize we’re not friends on social media, I’ll assume the other person made the choice for their own well-being,” she said. at Bustle.

“Sometimes I cry. Sometimes I end up archiving some of my messages because I feel like they were the one that caused the unsubscribe.

Ashley is able to shake it off by viewing the no-follow-up as a housecleaning act. After all, everyone has gone through their friends list at some point to clean up and remove “friends” they no longer talk to – and that doesn’t mean anything. “Sometimes having a lot of people or additional information on social media takes up too much space,” she says.

If losing followers makes you feel bad and / or you want to go for a Kylie Jenner-style deletion wave, Schiff recommends trying to stop regularly checking your subscriber list and, more importantly, d ‘Avoid tracking apps. Not only are they a solid way to ruin your day, but they’re also pretty much guaranteed to amplify your anxiety.

Dolores, 31, a tall blogger who uses Instagram for her business, admits she used to be “so salty” when she lost followers because they matched partnerships and opportunities. But over the past year or so, she has decided to accept the ebb and flow more. “Either you love me or you don’t love her,” Dolores said. “Gone are the days of trying to create a feed specifically to attract new followers or what I think someone wants to see. I’m either your cup of tea or you don’t like tea. As simple as that.


Hala Abdul, MA, RCC, Certified Clinical Advisor

Dr Holly Schiff, PsyD, Registered Clinical Psychologist


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