Most of us have heard the phrase “It’s business, not personal,” which was famously quoted by Michael Corleone in The Godfather and made even more famous by Joe Fox in You’ve Got Mail. The point of the phrase is that sometimes, people have a good reason for the actions, or do it out of necessity, and it’s not always meant as a personal shot at someone. This is a phrase that I would encourage all social media users to keep in mind. There are several aspects of social media that some people take personally, but the one I want to focus on is the “follow back.” When Myspace and Facebook ruled, connecting with friends was simple. They would request you, and you would (usually) accept their request, and you both become “friends.” The only thing that some people took exception to was when they did not make someone’s “top friends” on Myspace. Soon Twitter came along and made the “follow back” option popular. Instead of sending a friend request for someone to accept, you choose to follow them in the hopes that they will follow you back. Some people are casual with who they follow and follow back anyone who follows them. Some people are more selective in who they follow. I am one of the latter.

My rule on Twitter and Instagram is to have more followers than people who I follow. This way I don’t end up following too many people and my feed doesn’t get out of control. Because of this standard I do not follow just anyone. I will always follow people who are close to me, but I am more hesitant to follow people I don’t know that well. I usually check to see the quality and frequency of their post to make sure they are worth spending a follow on. I also like to save a large number of my follows for celebrities, athletes, news outlets, businesses, and my favorite sports teams. I have done this ever since I joined Twitter, and it did not take me long to discover that some people took this personally. They assumed that receiving a follow back is a common courtesy that I had neglected in order to spite them. I am not the only person this happens to. A friend recently told me that an acquaintance had begun to act strangely around her. The acquaintance, who was normally friendly, stopped saying hi, and talking to her. One day my friend found that the acquaintance followed her on Facebook so she followed them back. Within hours the acquaintance approached her and said, “I’m so glad you followed me back on Twitter. Now things won’t be so awkward anymore!” The acquaintance assumed my friend did not follow them back because she did not like her, when it was really only because my friend had not noticed that this person had followed them.

If you are someone who takes it personally when you don’t get a follow back, I would urge you to realize that it is probably not because the person dislikes you. There is probably another reason. You may also want to review what you post and see if you can improve it, or post less frequently. The number one reason people choose not to follow someone on social media is because they post too much. If it really bothers you, unfollow them and don’t let your insecurities get the better of you. If you receive a follow, strongly consider following the person back. If you don’t know them that well, or don’t like their posts, that is understandable, but the last thing you want to do is to offend someone because of something as petty as social media. If someone has a problem with me not following them back, I may try to explain why, but usually, I just follow them and avoid the drama. Whichever side of the spectrum you are on, I urge you to avoid getting upset. Remember, it’s Twitter, not personal.