I Unfollowed Everyone on Instagram and It Became So Much Better

To make the Instagram process a less toxic, I unfollowed everyone. And it was great.

Yes, I know; you’re caught up in the Instagram game. You need to get as many followers as you can. You also need to be interacting with the rest of the community. Getting followers and beating the algorithm to become seen is pretty tricky. To be honest, I’d recommend not fighting it and finding other ways to gain followers outside of the platform. If you’re just trying to make the stories and posts flow more comfortably, you’ll be amazed at how simple it is. Everyone wants the return of the chronological feed, but that’s never coming back. So how do you fight it? Well, I spent three weeks eliminating everyone I followed. Then, I took a small break. And finally, I followed only a few select folks.

Instagram Will Do Everything to Stop You from Unfollowing Accounts

It dawned on me that I’m really the only one with the power to stop what Instagram does to mess with my mind and experience. I can’t just let it go. I have to be on there and Facebook for work. So, I started unfollowing accounts. When I unfollowed too many, IG locked all my activity. I couldn’t post, comment, heart a post, add a story, unfollow, etc. It’s typically a 24-hour lockdown, and so you need to just wait it out. The waiting part means that you’re just observing and taking stuff in. That’s pointless. The point of a social media platform is to interact with folks. Who would have thunk that on social media you need to actually, well, you know, be social! This causes a minor detox. You go to another app, do something else, read the news, work out, etc. Best of all, you get away from your phone and do things in real life with other folks.

This process is a slow one. But once you take the fullest advantage of it and get down to one or zero folks that you’re following, you’re golden. That’s when Instagram becomes a very surreal experience.

Follow Hashtags

Besides following accounts, I began following hashtags. I look at certain art forms, cameras, lenses, film emulsions, etc. I’ve learned that people think their composites of the moon are #nophotoshop or #GFX images. Crazy, huh? But when you’re following no accounts and only hashtags, Instagram doesn’t refresh the feed as much. What you get becomes pretty monotonous. This further causes you to leave the app. There are also no stories that come to you. In turn, it means you get to pay attention only to the feed of hashtagged content.

So Many Less Ads

When you’re only following hashtags, and fewer things are populating your feed, the algorithm serves fewer ads. It’s very nice, as Instagram tends to give you the early 2000’s equivalent of pop-up ads otherwise. It means you can just concentrate on the stuff you see. I discussed this with a woman in my yoga class. She is trying to spend no money on textiles for the rest of the year, but the algorithm keeps tempting her with ads. It can become very toxic. You can report each and every one of those ads, but that’s tedious and annoying. You’re better off not spending any time on the app if that’s the case.

You’ll Stop Simply Scrolling Past Your Feed

Something that I see people do on their phones is scrolling through their feeds. In truth, most of what they see on Instagram is stuff they don’t care about. We all see it. If we cared, then we’d spend time reading or double-tapping the content. But we don’t care. So when you’re not following anyone or following only very few people, you’re more engaged with those folks. As in real life, it’s much easier to be selective and close to a few friends than try to be buddies with everyone at the party. There’s nothing wrong with being acquainted with everyone, but your most intimate circle should be incredibly small.

You’ll Stop Tapping Each Story and Swiping

I’m sure that you all spend time looking at Instagram stories and just tapping to get through. It shows your friend that you actually care about them enough to do just that. Instead, you probably don’t actually pay attention to their content. So think about this: why are you getting it then? Just unfollow them. You can always follow them later if you feel that they’re genuinely bringing you value on the platform. But if they’re not, then forget about them! If you’re simply swiping past a user’s story set, then unfollow them. Why do you need them? It’s just Instagram. If anyone is that obsessed and angry that you unfollowed them on Instagram, then they have a severe problem.

Adapting my Facebook Philosophy to Instagram

Though folks don’t talk about or care about Facebook anymore, it’s vital. Years ago, I adopted a specific mentality to Facebook. It goes like this:

  • Cull your friends
  • Cull your followers
  • Make all your updates friends only
  • Only accept friend requests from people you know in person or have worked with for a long time

Otherwise, it’s no one else’s business what you do on social media. You’re not hiding anything: you’re picking and choosing who can pay attention to you. There are lots of folks on Facebook who lurk and look at your posts without ever interacting with you. Personally, I find that a bit creepy. If I know you in person and we end up chatting about it the next time I see you, then that’s cool. But if we’re never going to interact off of the platform, then I’ll treat you like the stranger you are in real life to me.

Less of an Attention Suck

If you haven’t realized it already, I’ve made Instagram less of a black hole. It’s not an attention sucking platform anymore, and it tells me when I’ve gone through and looked at everything posted for the last two days. If I choose to look at the feed again, that’s my choice. But why would I do that? Why not go to another app of some sort? The same goes for stories. I now know when I’m at the end of the stories because I don’t have any more to see. When I was following over 1,000 other accounts, I’d never been able to stop.

My Rule: Follow Less Than 100 People

So how do you do this? Well, try following less than 100 people. I chose who to follow based on my emotional closeness to others, how much they interact with my stories and posts, etc. When I was unfollowing accounts, I realized how many others I hadn’t talked to, worked with, or interacted with in a long time. What it ended up being is having them control less of what I see on the platform. My next move is to do this with Tumblr. I’m particular about getting inspiration from the art community on Tumblr. But now that I’ve detoxified Instagram, I may consider doing it with Phoblographer’s own Instagram account.

PS: I genuinely don’t care if you follow me. But I’m @chrisgampat. I have a private account.