It’s 11PM and you’re settling down to sleep. Everything is fine. You plump up your pillows, turn off the lamp. You reach for your phone to set an alarm. But then your thumb absent-mindedly taps the Instagram icon, and before you know it you’re scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. Slowly at first, then faster. You’re on the Following tab now, scrolling, scrolling, scrolling. The blue rectangle of light is burning into your irises. Scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.
And then you see it: exactly what you came here for. The person you’ve been sleeping with for eight weeks liked some random girl’s selfie two hours ago. They must be sleeping with her, too. They're probably obsessed with her. What kind of a name is “Jess” anyway? You’re on her profile now, seeing if they've liked any of her other pics. They have. It’s 1.19AM now and you're raging. Even more so because you did this to yourself.
Yesterday, Instagram confirmed to Buzzfeed News that they are getting rid of their Following tab – a vicious feature launched in 2011 that allows users to see what the people they’re following are liking, commenting on and who they’re adding. According to the company's head of product, Vishal Shah, “simplicity was the driving factor” – meaning they got rid of it because it looked messy, and was taking up space. Apparently it will be gone by the end of the week.
But the Following tab was more than just aesthetically messy. It was psychologically messy. And it’s hard to tell what good could have ever possibly come from a feature that lets you monitor the activity of others in the most minute and subtle way, inevitably drawing wild and complex conclusions from minor movements which are probably completely meaningless (if you don't give a shit, good for you, but some of us have anxiety, Sarah). Think about all the photos you like without thinking about it. Someone may have even seen that, once, and injected needless significance into it. The whole thing is an absurd hellhole, and it can suck you in.
Obviously the Following tab wasn’t only used for tracking the movements of crushes, lovers and exes. Gossip sites and Insta accounts also relied on it to see which selfies Drake was smashing like on this week, or who Kendall Jenner had or hadn’t followed etc. Again, this is no great loss to anybody's day-to-day lives. Think about how much time you'll save now you don't have to read about why someone from Love Island who is still in a couple keeps liking pics of models’ butts. You could, IDK, get into embroidery, or take up pole dancing. The world may really start opening up for all of us.
The decision to get rid of the Following tab comes after the news that Instagram may start hiding the number of likes on our posts – something they are currently trialing in seven or more countries, including Canada, Ireland, Australia and Japan. These alterations might feel weirdly stressful for those of us who are addicted to social media – or influencers – but it is positive to see the platform at least try to take precautions when it comes to protecting their users' digital and mental health (also, by this point, lots of users probably didn't know the Following tab existed, which Shah alluded to).
I mean, they'll probably roll out some new creepy feature in the near future – like a constant, mandatary live-stream, or a rating system where you can number people on a scale of boring to popular (I'm copyrighting that). But in the meantime: sayonara Following tab! And fuck you!