Friendship Reboot

The New Rules Of Friendship Online

Including what to do if your friends send you the worst memes.

So you need help drafting an opening line on Hinge. You hit up your group chats for backup since they’re the most clever group of people you know. Then… crickets. No response. Or perhaps you were feeling cute last night — that is, until you saw the photo your friend tagged you in. Or maybe your bestie has sent you approximately 536 TikToks that you have to parse through, but their sense of meme humor just hasn’t been hitting lately. Where do you go from here?

In a world where we can stay virtually connected 24/7, friendship extends beyond telling your friend they have something in their teeth and agreeing you’ll all show up to brunch in “jeans and a nice top.” Now, there are also expectations for how to interact with others online. To figure out what behavior is OK versus kind of cringe, Bustle asked readers about their biggest pet peeves when it comes to texting in group chats, taking photos during a night out, unfollowing exes, and more. (Don’t worry, more than half of respondents are cool with their friends tagging them in giveaway posts.) Read on to learn how real friends should act behind their screens.

Please Keep Following Your Friends’ Exes

Although 30% of readers will unfollow or even block their BFF’s ex, a solid 70% will continue following them… for research purposes, of course. After all, who else is going to tell your best friend that what’s-his-face just adopted a goldendoodle with his new partner?

In The Comments, “HBD” Doesn’t Cut It

Sure, you already helped them pick which photo to put first in their dump and workshopped caption ideas for a solid 15 minutes before they posted it, but nobody needs to know that. Sixty-five percent of readers will comment as if they’ve never seen the picture before, and when it comes to engagement or birthday posts, nearly 55% will say something more inspired than a plain fire emoji or, “Congrats!” Have writer’s block? “You dropped this, queen 👑” is always a crowd-pleaser.

Asking Permission To Post A Photo Is The Least You Could Do

You know the golden rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Would you want your bestie to post a shot of you in 4K looking less than your best? Probably not. As a general guideline, 54% of people said it’s best to get approval from others first. That is, unless it’s a group snap from a special occasion that revolves around you, like a birthday or bachelorette party — in such a case, you have free rein to post the pic you prefer, even if others get caught in the crossfire. Nearly three-quarters of Bustle readers won’t speak up if they don’t like how they look, so take this as your sign to think before you post: Do you really want to be that person? A gut check never hurt anybody.

Your Friends Might Actually Hate Your Memes

Seventy-three percent of respondents will simply like a meme to show that they saw it, but you can also steer your friends toward the right content for you in a lighthearted way. “My friends and I rate the videos,” one person says. Nearly 80% will let it go if they didn’t actually LOL at a meme unless the content is problematic or offensive. So for the sake of your friendship and FYP, go ahead and let your friends know if their memes aren’t your cup of tea.

Close Friends Stories Aren’t A Real Sign Of Close Friendship

If it walks like a finsta and talks like a finsta, it probably is, and let’s be honest with ourselves: That’s so 2017. Nearly 55% of respondents said they don’t use the cheugy Instagram feature at all, but those who do aren’t all that choosy about who gets to see the exclusive content. Don’t think being added to the private story means you’re actually besties. As one person put it, your greenlit list should mostly be “people who pass the vibe check” — meaning yeah, they don’t actually have to be part of your inner circle.

Don’t Be The Party Pooper Who Hates Taking Pics

“I am 100% ALWAYS down to get the perfect shot [for a friend],” one respondent says. “I will even hold up my own flash to make sure the lighting is right, but I don’t want it to be the focus of the occasion/outing.” Fifty-six percent of people agree they’ll do whatever it takes to get the perfect shot, so if you’re the stickler in the friend group who doesn’t love taking photos, you might want to power through or compromise with some sort of “15-minute” rule. Whether it’s a simple ’fit check or a calculated thirst trap, real ones make sure their girlies always get a snap they love. If you’re the one in front of the camera, though, be conscious of how long your photo shoot takes, and make sure it doesn’t impede on the purpose of the hangout. It’s always nice to ask your go-to photographer if they want some pics, too.

You Don’t Have To Follow Everyone Back

It really is OK not to follow back every person you meet who finds you online — and yes, this includes the random girl you became best friends with during those five fleeting minutes in the bar bathroom. Only 31% are certified #TeamFollowBack in every case. If you didn’t really vibe and you’re worried about how it might look to not follow someone you just met, go ahead: Follow them and then unfollow them later, as 37% of our readers do. As one person said, “I’ll probably forget to unfollow them so will see their posts for years to come and forget where I know them from.” Relatable.

Respond To Texts Within A Few Hours (But Never The Next Day)

Unless you’re doing some FBI-level research to figure out if that couple from high school broke up, don’t expect immediate responses. Give people some grace, and assume a reply is coming within a few hours. In fact, you should probably manage your expectations based on what you know about your friends’ average screen time habits. If you know they’re chronically offline, it’s unfair to think they’ll get to your message ASAP. Of course, context matters here, so if your bestie is asking for immediate post-breakup advice or needs cheering up after some bad news at work, a timely response is superior. On your end, though, don’t procrastinate too much: Only 19% of people think it’s OK to text a day late.

You’re Not A Bad Friend If You Just Send iMessage Reactions

If you don’t have the time to craft a thoughtful answer, an iMessage reaction like an emphasis or heart is more than enough, nearly 50% say, but only in group chats where others will probably chime in. “If it’s an explicit question, it always warrants a response,” one respondent says. For one-on-one convos, a reply within a few hours is the standard.