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  • Vivian Teo

I'm not obliged to follow you back on Instagram!

Three years of using Instagram can really open up your eyes to the type of people out there and one of them is entitled people who think you are obliged to follow them back after they had followed you.

So, recently I got a message from a stranger who seems miffed that I didn't follow her back on Instagram. This person DM-ed me about a scam account impersonating me on IG along with a pic of the scam account (anyway this scam account thing is a separate story which you can read in my IG post and IGS highlights). And I thought, this person is really nice to let me know though she doesn't follow me!

So, like I do with everyone who had informed me, I thanked her for letting me know and said that if she could report that scam account, it would be great. The message that came back from her was simply awesome! She said she wouldn't report it because she had followed me in the past but I didn't follow her back. And that since she was seeking a "mutual connection" which we do not have, she has already been kind enough to let me know about the scam and it's basically not her business to report the scam account.

Okay, I'm really not bothered about whether she reports the scam account or not because knowing from past experience how incompetent IG can be when it comes to taking down impersonating accounts, I don't have much faith in IG's reporting system. I'm just blown away at how this person thought that I should have followed her back when she followed me! I have never seen her interacting with my posts/IGS, in fact, I barely recall this account following me!

If this person knows me (obviously she doesn't and I don't know her too), she'll know I don't indiscriminately follow people back.

2 years ago I wrote a blog post about Instagram users who follow you, then after you follow them back, they unfollow you (There's also a part 2 here if you want to read it).

Given that it's one of my most-read blog post and the feedback I heard back from readers, I think I can say many of us can relate to it and really detest such behaviour. And it is because I had too many times been "baited" into following such dishonest people, I've decided to only selectively follow back people.


Many people who use IG are trying to build followers for legit reasons (I'm not talking about private accounts or those who use it to share pics/vids with their family and friends). Many are businesses who want followers so they can promote their brand and/or show the popularity of their business/products. Influencers want more followers to attract brands for sponsorships and to earn income from their posts.

There are many ways to build followers. Obviously having good content helps but one widely used way by those trying to build followers fast is to actively follow other accounts on IG because there will be people who will follow you back, either from reciprocity and/or they become aware of and become interested in your content.

That said, my social media account is to let people know about my books and the person who writes those books. I'm not one who is actively trying to build followers so I don't go around following people indiscriminately and I only selectively follow back people who followed me. And by doing the latter, I know full well that those expecting reciprocity will unfollow me soon after if I don't follow them back and that is really OKAY with me. I've said in the past that I'd much rather people who follow me are doing so because they are interested in my content.

Someone I follow and who's also following me on IG once said that she really hates people who would DM her and ask her to follow back, as they expect a follow-for-follow exchange. She said if she's interested in a certain account's content, she will naturally follow back, if she's not interested in the content, she won't follow back, so why ask? I cannot agree more. No one wants to keep seeing content they are not interested in popping up on their feed!

So yes, above are the reasons why I follow back selectively. And I think most people are okay if you do not follow them back. When you do not follow back, those who had followed you just to build follower numbers and are uninterested in your content will simply unfollow soon. No hurt feelings on both sides, we all move on.


That said, I have also followed back those whose content I may not be genuinely interested in but only because I've noticed the person often likes my posts, comments on my posts, and/or engages in conversation with me via DM.

Whether or not these people are genuinely interested in me and my content, I do not know but I can see that they are trying to reach out and build a relationship with me by supporting my content. They do not take for granted that just because they followed me, I have to follow back. And I appreciate that because I do the same for many accounts that I follow - you can call it relationship building or a mutual support of each other's content.

Even if I have not met many of my followers in person, it's because we often reach out to each other - be it chatting about our kids, giving advice on school and health matters, or encouraging each other's writing journeys - there is some sort of connection and relationship there.

Forming a connection on relationship on IG isn't just about following a person, it's about really putting in an effort to engage and it works both ways - a one-sided engagement usually will just see one side losing interest in forming that relationship. Of course, that is, IF you want to form a relationship. Some people are just happy to follow someone, read their posts and not really interact with the account, which is ABSOLUTELY FINE!

So to that person who was obviously miffed that I had not followed back, don't lecture me about what "mutual connection" when all you did was press a follow button and I'm supposed to magically have some "connection" with you and be so grateful for that! Maybe you operate this way, but I don't.

I actually thought of explaining to her that I hadn't notice her following me but later I thought, what if she then follows me again and expects me to follow her back? I really do not want to have any "connection" with someone so entitled. You'll never know if she'll come back and complain that I didn't like her posts back though she liked mine! It was better that we didn't have anything to do with each other and really, we are essentially two strangers who do not have any interest in each other's content. So please, you do you, I do me, okay?

And I actually do find it a bit creepy that if you're not following me, why are you still lurking around and warning me about a scam? If you say it is out of goodwill, then isn't it ironic that you said you can't report the scam because I didn't follow you back? Imagine you witness a crime, but you tell the victim, I can't call the police because the last time you didn't follow me back on Instagram. The pettiness is unbelievable! Reporting a scam on IG is as easy as clicking a few buttons on IG and I've done it for people I do not follow when I happen to come across scams, ONLY BECAUSE it makes the platform a safer place FOR EVERYONE. So in a way, I'm really glad I did not form a "connection" with this person - best to have nothing to do with such petty and self-entitled people.

So yes, using IG over the years really opened my eyes to the people out there. But that said, for the many weirdos and scammers I had come across on social media, I have also met just as many nice, kind and supportive people on Instagram. Social media is really a double-edged sword but no regrets there. I really do have a very supportive IG community and for that, I am grateful.

(Note: Just to reiterate, I do not follow back private accounts because I understand many are only for family and friends, so I do not want to be intrusive. If you'd like me to follow your private account, just engage a bit more with me and I'll usually send that follow request. But of course, if you don't want me to follow you, feel free to ignore that request, no offence will be taken...unlike certain people.)

Disclaimer: My opinions and reviews here are strictly my and my family’s own.

©Vivian Teo. All content and photos are copyrighted to Vivian Teo unless otherwise specified.

1 comment

1 Comment

Jan 10

Absolutely agree! It's surprising how some folks feel entitled to a follow-back on Instagram just because they hit that 'follow' button. Following someone should always be a matter of genuine interest in their content, not an obligation. Everyone should have the freedom to curate their feed with what they truly enjoy and resonate with. It's all about mutual respect and enjoying the platform in a way that suits each individual. Quality over quantity, always! You can also popularize your songs with instagram promotion:

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