Loyal Insta followers are the best. They Like all your posts, send you hearts in the DMs, and tell you your thirst-trap pics are hot. But could they cut it as real-world friends?
Lots of seeming BFF-doms now spring up online, and they can be legit connections. But so-called Follow friendships don’t necessarily carry the same perks as ones you nurture IRL. “You might know what she had for lunch, but she doesn’t know that you’re going through a hard time because you don’t post about it,” says psychologist Andrea Bonior, PhD, author of The Friendship Fix.“Social platforms make things murky,” adds friendship researcher Miriam Kirmayer. “People might have different perceptions of how close you are.” If you do post about a rough patch, you might hope she calls or comes over, but she may feel she’s being supportive with nothing but a sad-face emoji.
That’s not to say digital friendships can’t morph into the real thing. But you might never get there until you spend actual one-on-one time together in person, says Kirmayer. “It adds a layer of understanding and helps get you on the same page.”
Still, there’s lots of gray area between just an FF and a total BFF, and sometimes it’s hard to suss out who’s what. These are the three most common types of insta-friends !
A. Actual Buds
One-on-one convos (like texts and DMs) and face-to-face plans are your MO, and your bond is real. “You have an understanding of who the other person is,” says Kirmayer. Continue to prioritize your IRL hangouts, and make sure that when you’re together, your smartphones are stashed...at least for a bit.
B. Legit Pal Potential
Constantly comment on and Like each other’s posts? Use this as a starting point for an offline friendship, says Kirmayer. Send a DM asking to meet up or make plans to go to a concert or movie together. Or if you’re not in the same town, you could even—gasp—talk on the phone. “A real back-and-forth will lead to more authentic interactions,” says Bonior.
C. Just Follow Friends
If your entire relationship consists of tagging each other in funny memes or sending each other Snaps, chances are, you’re not more than Follows. And that’s totally okay, says Kirmayer. Having pals on social media can add a dose of joy to your life. Just don’t expect a super-deep connection or for her to show up at your door when shit gets real.
"Ugh, I Hate My BFF’s Online Persona”
So you just had brunch with your bestie, where you caught up on life, love, and the pursuit of free champs. You hugged, said good-bye, and parted ways. An hour later, you scroll Insta and see she posted a photo from the meal with a caption that’s so...not the experience you actually just had.
“This can be confusing because when you feel like you’re close to somebody and they seem like someone else online, it feels almost like a betrayal,” says Miriam Kirmayer. Your pal may be projectinga certain persona so others find her more Like-worthy. If that’s the case, consider muting her feed. (No need to block—that’s a little drastic.) “This lets you both remain connected on social media and preserves the healthier aspects of your friendship,” says Kirmayer.
On the other hand, if you have a pal who seems to overshare deep details online, she could be seeking help. Sometimes it’s easier to write about tough stuff than admit to it face-to-face. Ask your friend about it gently offline. Try: “I saw your post, and I wanted to check in and make sure you’re okay. Do you want to talk?”