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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at KU chapter.

The Harsh Rules We All Follow and Why We Follow Them

Say please and thank you. Lie about loving your friend’s new hair. Let it ring a few times before you hit decline. These are among the numerous silent principles of behavior we follow daily. As these exist in social situations, so they also exist on social media. 

On Snapchat and Instagram especially, the stakes are high. How you dress, talk and act in front of people on the daily makes an impression, but it often feels as though an Instagram page is where you broadcast your image. Not to mention, social etiquette is nothing new because we learned it from our parents. What the Gen Xers couldn’t prepare us for and can’t guide us through is the heavy pressure of social acceptance that comes bearing down on us when we don’t know how to post a get ready with me TikTok without feeling embarrassed, or slide up on someone’s story without sounding weird. Most of us can’t even draft a text to a cute classmate without a few proof reads from the girls. This is the etiquette of social media, and it is brutal. 

The double snap

If you’re left on delivered, don’t snap again. If you’re left on opened, absolutely do not snap again.

Instagram stalking

Stalking is acceptable, just don’t get caught. Avoid liking a post older than their most recent one. And, if the top post is older than ten days, you can’t like that one either. When it comes to old story highlights, view at your own risk.

Sliding into the DMs

If you’re messaging a potential fling, don’t. Flirting should go down on Snapchat where it belongs. If you’re messaging a potential friend, don’t start with “hey girly” because you’re going to make her think her boyfriend cheated on her. Also, use as many exclamation marks as possible so you don’t sound like a mean girl. 

Social media activism

Tasteful infographics only. Avoid bright colors or you’ll look like a performative activist. A statement you wrote yourself with white plain text on a black background is usually received well. 

Photo dumping

People will think you are shallow if your Instagram is only gorgeous pictures of yourself. To appear genuine, post a photo slide of a fancy dinner you had, your outfit from the neck down, your friends all hanging out in perfect lighting, a picture of a tree or the sky or an animal, something cute in a shop or your room. The more candid looking, the better (even if it isn’t actually candid). 

These rules are intimidating, but we follow them like our social life depends on it, because it sort of does. Etiquette is incredibly valuable and most of these rules exist for a reason. The danger comes from the pressure young people experience whenever they use social media, a place where image is everything. When double snapping is desperate and posting a sexy photo on Instagram is vain, we are left anxious about how the world perceives us. My solution and final rule is to never care. Break the rules if you want to. Maybe don’t leave a comment on Guy You Met in the Boom’s post from 2019, but definitely don’t care about my or anyone else’s opinion if you do.

Baya Burgess is on her first semester with Her Campus as a writer at the University of Kansas chapter. She researches, writes and publishes articles for the magazine. Baya is studying journalism at KU and is set to graduate in 2026. Working as a photographer for the University Daily Kansan, she covers KU sporting events, Lawrence art and culture, news and campus life. She is pursuing her minor in photography at the KU School of Architecture and Design. There, her artwork is displayed in student galleries. Baya is passionate about journalism and is pursuing a career in photojournalism. She adores to eat good food, read and write poetry, snowboard in the mountains, swim in the ocean and try on beautiful clothes. She prefers to do these things with her twin sister/ soulmate/ best friend, Brooke.