Social media etiquette is more of an art than a science, particularly when it comes to following your friends’ partners. And it’s a mysterious art, at that. Should you hit follow the second they start dating, become Instagram official, or just after you’ve met in real life? And, heaven forbid your friend breaks up with their S.O. — is it cool to keep following their ex for pictures of their golden-doodle? Basically, when is it OK to follow or unfollow your friend’s boyfriend or girlfriend on Instagram? This is the hard-hitting question we’re hoping to answer.
But again, social media etiquette is an art, not a science. According to Tennesha Wood — a dating coach, matchmaker, and founder of the first matchmaking firm for Black singles, The Broom List — there’s no hard and fast rule for knowing when to follow or unfollow your pals’ partners. Wood does, however, have a number of tips and tricks for deciding when it’s appropriate to hit the “follow” button. From clear communication to evaluating how often someone posts, here’s what Wood recommends if you’re struggling to decide when to follow a friend’s new significant other.
Wait Until You’ve Met Your Friend’s Partner IRL
In most situations, Wood recommends waiting until you’ve met your friend’s partner in-person before you start following them on Instagram.
“I would say once there’s an established relationship IRL, then you can start having those relationships via social media [with your friend’s partner],” she says. “So, if you haven’t met that person yet, I don’t think it’s appropriate to start following [them]... It could come off a bit like, ‘What are you saying to your friends about me? Now, this person I haven’t met is delving into my life.’ It might not be a comfortable situation [for your friend or their partner].”
If your friend is in a long-distance relationship and the only way to meet their partner is via FaceTime, that works, too! After your first virtual meet-up, the coast is clear for you two to become pals online.
Consider Your Friend’s Partner’s Social Media Behavior
It’s also important to check how focused your friend’s partner is on social media, because — in Wood’s words — “that’s going to determine what’s appropriate and what’s not appropriate.”
“If someone is an avid social media user — meaning they’re posting all the time, they’re on there, they’re always following new people, they’re always keeping up with what’s happening in social media — then you know that they’re paying close attention to their following,” Wood says. “If it’s a person who doesn’t really post, isn’t really online much… their behavior is going to differ, right? And what’s appropriate for them might be a little bit different.”
In other words, if your friend’s partner is posting Stories daily, they’re probably keen to make new connections and will be happy to see their S.O.’s pals following along. But if they only have, like, one post with a Hudson filter from 2015, it’s probably not a big deal whether you follow them or not.
Respect Your Friend’s Wishes Post-Breakup
Last but not least, if your friend breaks up with their partner, Wood says it’s totally up to you whether you choose to follow or unfollow their ex — just ensure you’re giving your friend the space they need post-breakup. Don’t take screenshots and share updates from their ex’s page (no matter how bananas their posts may be!) if your friend isn’t ready to see those yet.
Overall, be supportive — whether that means liking your friend’s aspiring-fitfluencer-boyfriend’s posts about his latest workout or keeping quiet about their ex-girlfriend’s new beau.