Here’s How To Follow Someone On Social Media You Should Have Been Following Forever Ago

I like to think that I navigate awkward situations well, but there's one scenario I've yet to conquer. What do you do when when you want to follow someone on social media you should have been following forever ago? Or — even worse — you unfollow someone in a fit of rage and have to embarrassingly re-add them? Tragically, I have a lot of experience with the subject matter. My first memory dates back to 2010, when my crush asked me if I'd blocked him on AOL Instant Messenger. I had to confess that I'd gone to extreme measures so I wouldn't be tempted to message him. It was, as the kids say, deeply embarrassing, but I convinced him to marry me some time later, so it worked out in the end.

But most late follows will probably not end in marriage. At one point, I used an app that shows who's unfollowed you on Instagram, and the horror it wrought was straight out of Black Mirror. One night, I realized my own sister no longer followed me — so naturally, I called her at 1 a.m. to confront her. She was apologetic, but said she had no idea what happened. (Likely story.) I let it go — because really, when you think it through, what choice do you have? But I've also been in her shoes, both accidentally unfollowing and realizing I wasn't ever following close friends. I'm now blogging regularly on top of posting to an array of social media accounts, so it's even harder to keep track.

Tragically, there isn't a way to stealthily follow someone, which makes sense — if you're a private person, you want to know who's following you. But it makes life harder for those of us who want to avoid sending the person in question a notification. So what do you do when you decide to finally follow someone? Here are four totally not awkward at all ways to go about it — because it's definitely going to happen.

1Lie

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This is, by far, my premium choice. Accidental unfollows do happen, so I always pretend I've been following the person for years and somehow stopped, even if I unintentionally unfollowed in the first place. While it may not be the most ethical response, it avoids the exhausting back-and-forth that engaging with someone about a follow could bring. If you start following someone who will be startled to see your name pop up in their notifications, just say you got sloppy when unfollowing randoms. Is it true? Who cares? Is any of this even real?

2Come Clean

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If you haven't been following someone, whether deliberately or accidentally, you have the option of sending a message apologizing for not following them previously. While it's a noble plan, it also seems... exhausting. I barely want to have necessary conversations most days, let alone a conversation about why someone hasn't been following me. A few years ago, a friend messaged me and was like, "Sorry I blocked you on Snapchat — I just found your rants annoying, but I've unblocked you." I would like to say I was grateful for the information, but instead, it made me realize how profoundly silly this drama is.

3Criticize Them

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The nuclear option — if you don't really care about a friendship that much, that is — is to tell someone you intentionally didn't follow them or engage with their posts because their content is bad or you hate their political views or you don't think their baby is cute or you're tired of all of their posts about their upcoming wedding. Not ideal for most of us, but if you don't feel like using pleasantries and want to get to the point, it is something to consider. I used this one right after the 2016 presidential election with friends who were gleeful about Donald Trump's win, and I don't have any regrets. Think of it as doing their content a favor.

4Don't Say Anything

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Honestly, this is probably the most rational of your options. Even if you take the Internet extremely seriously, there's a chance the person in question does not and will be weirded out by you explaining something that doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things. Just smash that follow button and move on with your life.

At the end of the day, most things that happen on social media barely register in real life, so your best bet is to not overthink things. If you're obsessing over followers or accidentally giving someone an awkward notification, that's probably a sign you should take a break from the Internet. I'm personally too far gone to stop posting, but it's not too late for most of you.