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An Etiquette Guide For Following Your Coworkers On Insta Without Looking Like A Total Creep

We’re all at work for two reasons: to be able to afford Lululemon leggings and find our soulmate work bestie. We want the Cristina to our Meredith, the Gina to our Captain Holt, the Dwight to our Jim. I don’t care what the employee handbook says, this is just a big playground for adults to slide into each other’s DMs in a non-sexual way (or maybe a sexual way too, I see you, Jake in Operations).

But you don’t want to scare off your potential work bestie too soon by immediately commenting on their pics. And what about the people not cool enough to be your Cristina, but you just want to follow them out of curiosity? What’s an appropriate level of social media interest?

It’s time to discuss the to do’s and don’ts of following your coworkers on social media. Let’s cover the etiquette, the timeline, and how not to look like a fucking creep.

UNITED STATES - SEPTEMBER 24: GREY'S ANATOMY - "Rise Up" - The Chief announces to the residents that a solo surgery will be awarded, and the news sends them into a competitive frenzy. Meanwhile Derek turns to Bailey for advice when he feels Cristina is interfering in his relationship with Meredith, and Erica discovers a shocking connection between one of her surgical residents and a longtime patient, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 6 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Scott Garfield/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Image Credit: Getty Images

The Etiquette

  • If they’ve quit, it’s too late to follow them. If Kyle from Sales decides to follow you, of course you can follow them back. But otherwise, you must respect their privacy and desire to erase all memories of this hellhole you call an office.
  • The smoothest way to swoop in to their socials is to find a reason for them to follow you. For example, recommend a restaurant and ask for their Insta handle to forward the account to them. Talk about a funny meme, and suggest you DM it to them. You’ll look less bunny boiler and more in-the-know.
  • If a coworker does not accept your follow request, you must NEVER mention it, NEVER, EVER, EVER, AGAIN. Bury yourself in shame, smile at them in the office, and cry in the cubicles.
  • Don’t follow a manager or boss. You can only follow down the food chain but not up, it’s considered sucking up. But if they follow you, obviously you can accept and follow back. But keep in mind, this means you have to be careful not to post stories from your girls’ trip to Tulum when you’re supposedly working from home.
  • Remember that thirsty pics are not being posted for you. Obviously, they’re trying to remind their ex how hot they are or get a date in time for their bestie’s wedding. Don’t remind them of their coworker’s presence by liking or reacting to it. Allow them to enjoy this thirst trap in peace.
  • Don’t mention their social media posts in front of more coworkers. You’re likely special for being allowed into the inner circle, so don’t embarrass them by bringing up how they soft-launched their new boyfriend with a hand on the steering wheel in front of non-VIPs. 

UNITED STATES - AUGUST 21: GREY'S ANATOMY - "Brave New World" - Meredith freaks out when Derek discovers her mother's old diary in the house, Callie frets as she prepares for her first official date with Erica, and Cristina stumbles into a part of the hospital that neither she nor her fellow residents have seen before, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, OCTOBER 16 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Randy Holmes/Disney General Entertainment Content via Getty Images)
Image Credit: Getty Images

The Timeline

1 Day

DO NOT FOLLOW ANYONE JUST YET! This would be super creepy. Don’t be the overeager beaver that arrives and tries to follow everyone. Imagine if someone doesn’t recognize your name and sends the dreaded, “Sorry, who is this?” You would legit have to quit this job and move to Siberia. And do you even know where Siberia actually is?

1 Week

Okay, you’ve had your first week at the job, and you’ve hopefully even had a post-work drink with people. This is an acceptable time to follow a few people you’ve directly interacted with. Do not go on an unhinged follow spree of anyone and everyone. Pick a maximum of three colleagues, and let the rest find you. Don’t message anything to accompany it, play it cool like a cucumber. 

GREY S ANATOMY meredith and cristina
Image Credit: Getty Images

2 Weeks

You’re allowed to like any new posts from this point onwards. Do not go for any old posts (even though you obviously looked through all of them and now know they graduated from NYU in a purple cap and gown, their sister’s boyfriend’s cousin is a lawyer, and they prefer hot yoga over soul cycle, especially the 11am Sunday class with Jessica). Make sure to check the date of posting as Instagram can be a sneaky one. Just a simple like will do, but make sure it’s not within the first two hours of posting as that would be CREEPY. 

1 Month

It’s finally time to step it up: You can engage with their stories. But you can only like their stories, as an emoji reaction would create that awkward message in their inbox. So just a simple like. Wholesome, sweet, naive. If they post a bunch of stories at once, only like one of them per day. This demonstrates you’re a good person, but doesn’t put you on blast like an emoji reaction would. You’re just a name among many. A face in the algorithm crowd.

2 Months

Omg, I am so proud of you!! You’ve solidified the friendship enough that you can now emoji react to their stories! You can be all HAHAHA LAUGHING CRYING FACE. Or HEART. Or like wow, FIRE YOU’RE SO HOT!! You’re engaging with them but still without the use of words, as that would be slightly TOO personal.

3 Months

Let’s prove to your coworkers that you can actually read and write — take that, Lea Michele! You now have free reign to reply to their stories with ACTUAL WORDS. For example, if they post a yummy-looking donut, you could ask, “Yum! Where is this place?” Keep it short and snappy, and very purposeful. 

Image Credit: Getty Images

4 Months

Time to show off more of those lexical skills…. *drumroll* you’re officially allowed to comment on their posts!! Start nice and slow to ease into things, with just a fire emoji or heart-eyed smiley. But then later, you can move toward “Gorgeous!!” and “Love it!” 

5 Months

You’ve laid the foundation and now it is time to revel in it. You are finally allowed to reach the ultimate level of coworker social media: sending each other funny videos and memes. Now when you see a TikTok that reminds you of Mark in Accounting and his corporate jargon, you can actually send it to your new work bestie, Jessica, to laugh at it together. This is it, you’ve really made it. You’ll glow with pride every time they reply “lol so true” or “omg us!”

GREY S ANATOMY Cristina and meredth
Image Credit: Getty Images

6 Months

Did someone say “BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE”?! You can now post pics with your coworkers. Friday night drinks can finally make it onto the feed, so your ex can see that you have a thriving social life and haven’t rewatched Buffy to the extent you can quote it entirely heehee. Make sure to tag your coworkers as this shows everyone in your life that you are cool enough to have friends you didn’t make at college. Also then they might share your story and their hot single friends will see you. WIN WIN WIN.

Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman
Fleurine Tideman, a European-based copywriter. She’s interesting (cause she’s from Europe), speaks multiple languages (again, she's from Europe), and is mentally unhinged (despite socialized healthcare). You can find her European musings on Twitter @ByFleurine and her blog, Symptoms of Living, both of which are written to the sounds of unhinged Taylor Swift playlists.