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Davis, California

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Do you really have to follow your friend’s bad art account on Instagram? I asked an ethics professor

“Julie.paints_4_fun, wants to follow you”… oh shut up, Instagram

“Could you give us the backstory,” Professor Levings asked.

I shifted in my seat, “Ok, well, Julie and I have been in school together since preschool. The classic friendship. I bullied her until age six (oh c’mon, it builds character), we didn’t speak to each other for four years, and by seventh grade we had developed a friendship in P.E. class as we bonded over our fear of tampons during the swim unit. I’m pretty sure her mom still hates me; moms are weird about holding grudges. 

The girl is just about great at everything. The type of friend your grandma constantly asks about after only briefly meeting her at your birthday party. To be clear, we’re talking about my Gammy who can’t even remember her own son in law’s name (or at least chooses not to). Julie is the type of person that didn’t watch Spongebob growing up, and has never eaten at McDonald’s, but doesn’t brag to you about it. She’s smart, funny, kind, talented—I mean, she took ‘girl next door’ to the next level. 

So you can imagine that when I oh-so-quickly peeked at her art account, I was shocked. I’d never seen one of her pieces before. As I looked at her sketch of a sunflower, I couldn’t help but think of how much more youthful and innocent I was just seconds before seeing it.

 She has about eight posts. A painting of the beach, a drawing of a chandelier, some wildflowers painted on the side of her sneakers. I don’t know, it’s like she couldn’t get the proportions right, you could see the stark lines from shading with colored pencils and everything looked a little… unfinished.

Just critiquing her artwork makes me feel evil, which leads me to my question, Professor, do I have to follow one of my dearest friends on Instagram at the cost of my own sanity?”

Professor Levings sighed, “Trust me, you’re not the first to ask this. Just like you, my son is on Facegram… Instant… Instabook… I forget the name. He has expressed countless times that he also doesn’t want to waste his time with accounts he’s not crazy about following.”

“Unfortunately though, I believe that you should follow the account. Plato famously said, ‘Good actions give strength to ourselves and inspire good actions in others.’ I encourage you to think of this action as an act of service, that will create a domino effect of good actions.”

Mr. Levings’ response was not what I wanted to hear, but what I knew I needed to hear. That night, as I lay in bed scrolling on my phone, I slowly brought myself to click “Follow Back.” 

I haven’t been the same since.

Written by: Kate Harges — klharges@ucdavis.edu 

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