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What’s the deal with that one friend who won’t like your Instagram posts?
A psychotherapist weighs in—and also shares what to do when you find a friend’s post too cringey to like.
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I have a friend who whizzes through Instagram, double-tapping every photo as she goes. She doesn’t care what you post, only that you posted it. You, her friend, who she happily, blindly, supports. I have a few friends with similar Instagram behaviour. And then I have a few at the other end of the spectrum. The ones who treat their likes like they’re drink tickets that must be rationed. But of course, they’re not—they’re free, and they’re aplenty. So why are these friends being so stingy?
Sara Foster talked about this same phenomenon a few months ago on her podcast, The World’s First Podcast. She wondered why so many strangers are happy to like and comment on her posts when some of her closest friends won’t.
Now, of course, I don’t think it’s fair to expect anyone to like everything their friends upload onto social media apps (and certainly not their acquaintances’). And that’s not what Sara was saying either. But when a friend’s floating head is perpetually absent from the reaction tab, yet watches every story, you’re bound to wonder, what gives?
Now, I think I’m pretty good at double-tapping, both friends’ posts and acquaintances’, primarily because I’m quite active on the app. But when I don’t like a post, it’s admittedly, because of one of three reasons:
I missed it—either I was scrolling too fast or I saw it too quickly after you posted it and didn’t want to like it right away and forgot to go back to it.
I’m feeling sensitive about something I don’t have (marriage, kids, a house, etc.), and I’ve already liked 1000 first-day-of-school pics and can’t physically like another one.
It’s annoying. (There! I said it. You know we all feel this sometimes. Proof: This Reddit thread.)
So, I wonder: Are we handling our friendships on Instagram well, or are we needlessly getting offended or starting beef? To find out, I reached out to Megan Rafuse, a Hamilton-based psychotherapist and co-founder/CEO of Shift Collab, Canada's largest online mental health practice. She tells me she gets questions like this a lot.
Renée: What do you think are the reasons for not liking a friends’ post?
Megan: I like the three you shared! But also, some people just like to scroll without engaging, and that’s fine!
R: What do you think is healthy Instagram behaviour for friends?
M: I have to say, I love the constant cheerleader, the one who’s just liking everything! But at the same time, I respect the person who maybe doesn't tend to like things because of whatever reason. Some people get tied up getting their validation from likes versus the actual friendship, and I think that's really important to separate. We can get validation from our friends in multiple ways, and getting likes on social media is just one of them. What’s more important is how healthy your relationship is offline.
R: What do you do if it’s bothering you that a friend won’t like your posts?
M: First of all, tell them! If a like is important to you, communicate that. For example, if you're building a brand, let your friends know how they can best support you. They may not know that it's nice to leave a comment, because that might help drive up the algorithm. Without clearly communicating our expectations to the people who are close to us, we can’t expect them to know how we feel or what we need.
But also, make sure you’re not taking your friends’ social media habits too personally. You need to look inward: Maybe you have a history of feeling insecure, and when you see people not engaging with you in the way you had hoped, unhelpful thoughts come spiraling back—I'm not good enough, I don't fit in, etc. If you find yourself stuck in negative feelings, see a therapist. You don't have to sit in those emotions alone.
R: What do you do if you don’t want to like what a friend is posting? You find it annoying or cringey, but feel bad about having those feelings!
M: This is a good question. I would sit and ask myself, what is it about the content that feels annoying or cringey to me? Is it not aligning with my own personal values? Do I feel like this just doesn't represent them? Then I would open up the dialogue with my friend to find out why they’re posting what they are. I recommend asking questions that feel curious, not judgmental. Then ask your friend if they’re open to feedback. Sometimes people don't want it. They feel good about what they're doing. Other times, they’ll be open to it, and we can say, this feedback may be tough, but here's what I'm noticing….
In the words of Brené Brown, “clear is kind!” Because when we’re able to have clear and open conversations with our loved ones, our relationships grow.
(This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.)
After writing this, I may have a lot of feedback coming my way. But listen here: I’m open to it! If a friend (and to anyone reading this, I now consider you a friend, lucky you!) takes a minute to offer their thoughts, it means they care about my success, and I think that’s the best gesture a friend can make—better than any social media like.
Until next Sunday,