photo: Pawel Czerwinski

How to make a list of people who don’t follow you back on Instagram without an app

Every once and awhile we’ll clean up our instagram following list. In my opinion, there’s not really any reason to continue following accounts that don’t follow you back unless they’re ones you deeply care about. It’s purely a business decision. I don’t have to like the modern world of mandatory social media, but I have to live in it as a small business.

note: please don’t be abusive with this.

Google bares little results on how to do this safely. There are so many apps out there that are either 1) Predatory and will steal your information or 2) Will get you shadow banned almost immediately. I hate it.

However, I finally cracked the code on how to do it without using any apps. It’s way simpler than I thought. There’s still a manual process to it, but it’s far better than the alternative.

If you want to skip to the final result without learning how to do any of it, scroll to the bottom of the article.

Step 01 — Download Instagram Data

Instagram has a feature that allows you to download ALL of the data it has on you to stay compliant with GDPR.

Using a browser on a computer, pull up Instagram and login. From there, navigate to Settings > Privacy & Security > Download Data

From there, you’ll be asked if you’d like to download JSON or HTML. We want to go with HTML.

🎉🎉🎉

It may take awhile to get the information. I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe someone has to manually authorize it? Regardless, you’ll get an email some time later from Instagram with a download link. Follow the link and download the insanely massive .zip file. We’re after the subfolder called followers_and_following. It’ll look something like this:

We’re going to need (obviously) the following.html and followers.html

Open these files up in either a code editor like VS Code or the default text editor on your system.

Step 02 — Extract Links

This whole thing works around comparing the two lists. If you look at those html files, they’re an absolute beast of a nightmare. So we need to extract the usernames and get rid of the code. However, we also want to get the URLs to the profiles we want to clean up, otherwise we would have to add a bunch of extra clicks to the process.

There’s a ton of sites out there that will extract URLs for you, but I’m personally a fan of this one. It’s no-frills, which I love. Copy and paste the code from the followers.html file into the box and it’ll download a .csv file. Do the same for following.html.

I’m not sure what the process is for PC, but on mac you can open these two files in Numbers.

Delete the first row so all you have is data columns. It’ll look something like this once you’re done:

Step 03 — Google Sheets

Here’s where the magic comes in. I use Google Sheets, but I think the process should be about the same with Excel.

Make a new google sheet. Name the first three rows Followers, Following, and Not Following Back, respectively.

Starting on line two, paste all of the URLs from the two .csv files into their respective columns.

In the cell C2, paste the following formula:

=sort(if(COUNTIF(A2:A,B2:B)=0,B2:B,))

This formula compares the two lists and says “If one of the cells in the B column does not exist in the A column, make note of it in the C column

And just for extra fun and self-depreciation, we can put this formula in the cell D1:

="Total 1-Way: "&COUNTIF(C2:C,"<>")

This formula will count how many items are in the C column, which tells you how many one-way followers you have.

And just like that, you have your list in an easy-to-use link format.

Step 04 — Hop to it, Tiger

I’ll go down the list, and CMD + Click names in groups of 25. Holding down CMD will open them in a new tab without switching over to that tab, which means less clicks needed.

I wouldn’t unfollow more than 100 to 150 accounts per day. Going higher might result in a shadow ban. If you have a newer account (less than a year), stick to 50 a day for good measure.

Boom

There you have it. Sure, it’s still technically a manual process. But there’s no reason what-so-ever to spend money on a ‘service’ that automates this process for you. Between having your account hacked and getting banned, it’s not worth the risk. Every morning, sit down with your cup of coffee, and make your way through your list slowly.

As a present just for you, here’s a blank version that you can make a copy of. The formulas are already in there, all you need to do is enter the followers and following:

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1nkXZw4h7MTHe-p5-cwvzRvwDpmf1yicID_o2Fy295oI/edit?usp=sharing

A few things of note:

  1. Don’t be a dillhole. Wait a few days to start this process from the last time you followed someone. Following and immediately unfollowing isn’t cool, man. Give everyone some breathing room and time to follow you back.
  2. Use sparingly. I only do this process once a year or so.
  3. Nothing matters. At the end of the day, it’s important to check yourself and make sure you’re not getting to wrapped up in this. It’ll wreck your mental health. It makes sense to do this periodically, but don’t dwell on it. People don’t follow back for a plethora of reasons. Make peace with that. It doesn’t mean they hate you.

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