by Lark Breen
Over Christmas, I went to Omaha, Nebraska, to spend time with my extended family. Omaha is actually a technologically advanced place, (it is nicknamed the Silicon Prairie because of the rising number of startups in the area due to property affordability and availability), but my grandparents don’t even know how to retrieve a voicemail. While I was at their house, we had conversations about dictation, driverless cars, and numerous other advancements and effects of technology. One of the most difficult subjects to explain was social media and its effect on relationships and interactions in real life. What my grandparents didn’t understand was that people would choose not to follow their friends back on social media. I must say, I agree completely with my technologically-challenged grandparents on this front. Unless you truly couldn’t care less about the person you neglect to follow or their opinion of you, you should always follow people back on social media.
There are three basic reactions a person, whom we will henceforth call “the user,” might have upon realizing that someone, “the jerk,” chose not to follow back on Instagram, Twitter, or any other social media outlet. The first is that the user recognizes that the jerk is not a close enough acquaintance either to recognize the user’s profile picture or to care about what the user has to post. In this situation, the user will likely not be very upset because he or she does not have much of a connection to the jerk anyway.
The second reaction is that the user is disappointed that the jerk refused to click the “follow” button. In this situation, the user might confront the jerk, or might wait a while to see if the jerk changes his or her mind before considering hitting the unfollow button. If the user is especially tolerant and kind, he or she may even choose to ignore that the jerk doesn’t want to follow back.
The final reaction is that the user gets angry and holds a grudge against the jerk for as long as they deem necessary. In this case, chances are that the jerk 1) knows the user and 2) has no reason to choose not to follow back, unless the jerk honestly has no interest whatsoever in what the user has to contribute to his or her social media feed. In this case, the jerk may in fact have some hidden grudge against the user, and the hidden enmity will only grow between the two of them.
I usually react in the third category. This reaction is perfectly justified in most situations because when it comes right down to it, it is not particularly cumbersome to press a single button and tolerate scrolling past an extra picture about every three weeks. It is not difficult to follow someone back, and if your hesitation comes from an unwillingness to sacrifice your delicate ratio of followers to following to show how popular and desirable you are, then you truly are a jerk.
If you do not mind the fact that the person whom you decline to follow may possibly hold a bitter grudge against you for years to come, then by all means, ignore them. However, if the possibility that there is bad blood between you and someone with whom you share classes, teachers, acquaintances, and a parking lot makes you ashamed, nervous, or even slightly regretful, find their account and hit follow immediately. It is not difficult to be a decent person, but it might come back to bite you if you aren’t, jerk.