It’s Okay to Irish Exit a ‘Close Friends’ List

Thank you, but no thank you

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Photo: Shutterstock / Icon: Jack Koloskus
miss type
Miss Type

Welcome to Miss Type, a column about etiquette in the digital age. This week: How do you quietly leave someone’s “Close Friends” list?

Vampires cannot enter a home without invitation. It’s nice that they have a rule. In the modern horror of our daily lives online, people can insert themselves into our personal digital space without so much as a request; showing up in our email, our DMs, our Venmo, our text messages, our Twitter mentions. You try to go about your daily life and suddenly a person is attempting to get your attention publicly, and who even are they? Go away!

This intrusion is never as unusual as it is with Instagram’s “Close Friends” list. Here, an Instagram user you have agreed to follow — a friend, a former coworker, a person you knew in high school, a person you’ve never met but have friends in common with — can add you to an exclusive list of followers who can see secret, not-for-everyone’s-eyes Instagram Stories. The secretive nature of these Stories is denoted by a green circle around the Story poster’s icon.

The ‘Close Friends’ list can serve as a welcome refuge of gossip and fun friend pics; things you want and are delighted to experience from those you consider friends, or those you like enough to feel honored that they might add you to this sort of list. It can also serve as a portal into a world you wish you had never known — one with photos you wish you could unsee, stories you wish you could unhear, and all manner of … information.

Yes, sometimes being added to a “Close Friends” list feels like receiving a big hello hug from a stranger at a party; someone you do not know, but who has immediately struck you as odd due to their too-familiar behavior. When will this stop, you think. Oh god. Oh no. Why is this happening to me?

As a non-”Close Friends” user myself I do not have a personal window into the “Close Friends” psyche, but I can guess. For those with public-facing jobs, I’m sure it can be used as a tool to separate people one might actually know from people one will never meet. For others, I’m sure it can be used as a tool to not show your thirst traps to all of your aunts. I don’t believe the too-familiar “Close Friends” users are necessarily evil; they may just be adhering to these guidelines, and thinking their behavior is acceptable. However, in some cases, it is not.

Let’s say you have found yourself included in a “Close Friends” situation you do not want to be involved in. You’re being subjected regularly to things you would rather not see: nudes from a person it makes you uncomfortable to see nudes of, or conspiratorial first-person monologues from someone you just don’t know. Maybe it’s like, this person thinks their “Close Friends” want to watch them cook, or plan a surprise for their hubby. Ugh. Leave me out of it.

So, what to do? In a perfect world you would be able to “soft block” a “Close Friend”; a technique popular on Twitter of blocking and unblocking someone you’d rather not be followed by in order to get them quietly, and unnoticeably, off of your followers list. Unfortunately, no such technique is possible for the “Close Friends” list. You cannot remove yourself from the situation. You are locked in. You have been taken to a second location and your moves have to reflect the desperate nature of your current state.

One route is to message the person in question and request to be taken off of their “Close Friends” list. I imagine you aren’t going to do this. But if you’re brave enough, I admire you and, more than that, I fear you and, actually, I would like to be taken off of your “Close Friends” list.

Another route to consider is a complete unfollowing. If you do not know this person well enough to want to see their private musings, do you need to follow them at all? The answer might be no. It’s a conversation to have with yourself.

The route I suggest, if you don’t want to unfollow (and though it does come with its own bumps), is muting. Unfortunately, this means you won’t be able to see their regular Instagram Stories. But if you do not feel like the positives of seeing this person’s Instagram Stories outweigh the negatives of seeing this person’s “Close Friends” Instagram Stories — and I assume you don’t — just mute their Instagram Stories. (You do this in their profile. Go to where it says “Following” and choose “Mute” and then toggle the “Stories” option to the right.)

Will they notice you’ve muted them? If they’re the kind of freak who’d add a stranger to their “Close Friends” list, they’re probably also the kind of freak who checks to see who is watching their content and makes note of who isn’t, so, yeah. But do you care? No. You do not. You are brave. Life is short. C’est la vie.

In a few days you won’t even remember that person exists, and you will be free.