By @TheMarkDalton

Do you know what one of my biggest gripes is with Twitter? The whole follow back and follow for a follow thing which is rampant over the platform. It has even become a “recommended tactic” to grow on Instagram now. Forget posting high quality content, just follow as many people as you can and see who follows you back.

Then there is the aggressive follower churn which is not just a problem exclusive to Twitter but is also a problem on Instagram in fairness. Follow someone and then a few days later or a week or two later you unfollow them again and hope they don’t catch you out and keep following. I have engaged in this aggressive following strategy myself and I like connecting with people on Twitter but looking at your main feed is more often than not a disaster at the best of times.

The thing is, you can live with that over on Twitter because it is predominantly text. Sure there is photo and video content on the Twitter feed too but for the most part it tends to be text and following large numbers is something people can cope with. When you are on a platform which is completely visual the game is different and if you follow a large number of people your feed will lose all meaning. To give context of what I mean by a large number to be following – I am talking several thousand accounts here. How many people you want to follow is completely up to you but personally I was determined not to fall into that trap I ended up in over on Twitter and decided at the weekend to audit my following list on Instagram.

Why the clean up?

I have explained already about following a large number of people, when you are on Instagram and follow a large number of people things start getting messy. You see a bunch of content in the main feed and in stories which you just have zero interest in.

It is easy to fall into the hole of following large numbers of people on a platform. You connect with a brand that one time so you drop them a follow. They liked your comment so you drop a follow, you thought you might have been interested in their content so you drop a follow and suddenly the number has skyrocketed.

Then you realise you don’t want to see that content anymore but many people are afraid to do much about it. People feel guilt at unfollowing someone, what if they get offended? What if they get hurt and start asking questions of me? What if they accuse me of following them and unfollowing just to gain followers myself?

Here’s the dirty little secret though, and the reality of following people on social media…you don’t owe anybody shit. If you follow someone because you liked their content or their vibe but things have changed a few months or a year later and you don’t want to follow them anymore – why feel guilt about that? If they take issue with it then that is their problem, not yours.

It was time to audit the people I had decided to follow.

So I started working through the list of accounts I was following on Instagram. There are two ways of going about this, you can manually look at the list through the app and decide who you want to keep and who you want to dump. You can also download a third part app which will display who is not following you back and you can focus on that list if you like.

I personally don’t care if people don’t follow me back. I have an app which shows me that data but I don’t use it for that purpose. I use it to track people engaging in follower churn tactics so I can unfollow them when I see them engaging in such shitty tactics.

So I went through the list manually and looked at each account deciding if I wanted to keep them or unfollow them. I managed to ditch around 200 accounts over the space of 3-4 days which I no longer had interest in and these ranged from all kinds of accounts.

Family, old friends, businesses, brands, online influencers…I went into every profile, looked at their recent content and decided if it was something I liked seeing in my feed and that is the real key.

I wasn’t looking for quality or not in terms of photo content, I was looking to see if I enjoyed that content. What happened when I was done?

The results.

What happened was my experience on Instagram improved ten fold because I was now only seeing content from people I had reviewed and had an interest in. There has been a lot of talk about Instagram being poor for mental health recently but if you follow the wrong kinds of accounts. If you follow accounts obsessed with a perfect airbrushed body image or accounts which churn content that will naturally make people feel depressed then you are going to be depressed and it will affect you mentally. The reason why it will probably affect people more on Instagram is because the entire platform is visual content.

Its nothing personal against who you unfollow. Like I mention above, some of these accounts were old friends and family. I just wasn’t interested in seeing that content anymore and no longer felt obliged to follow them and you shouldn’t feel obliged to do so either if you don’t want to. The end result is you end up seeing the content you want to see and nothing more, on a platform like Instagram that means a lot more than you may think. You may be surprised at the number of people you once followed when you first joined up but are no longer interested in.