“Like, 30,” says Devyn Chatterby, as she counts the people on her Close Friends list on Instagram. “My sister, my group of hometown friends, my roommates, etc. People who will vote Yes in my poll about whether to post this thirst trap to my grid. You know, my closest friends.”
“Okay, and maybe some guys I have crushes on,” she adds with a grin.
For most Instagram users, the coveted green list consists of a select few--best friends, family members (if they’re cool), coworkers (who aren’t narcs), and that guy you hooked up with who hasn’t texted you back (but will totally DM you after you post that thirst trap).
However, not everyone treats ‘Close Friends’ as intimately as Devyn.
“When I saw Tom’s name with a green circle around it, I was shocked,” she tells us. Tom Waits, a 25 year-old software consultant known on Instagram as @shaggywheezy, attended the University of Texas with Devyn four years ago.
“We were in one class together,” Devyn says. “A sociology lecture. Maybe we were in the same recitation. I honestly don’t remember.”
Although Devyn was initially confused, she was also intrigued. Perhaps there was more to Tom Waits than a handle he made in high school and five photos of cars. Perhaps there was some saucy side that he did not want other people to see--and she would have an exclusive, front row seat to the drama.
“So I opened it and it was just, like, a photo of some limp asparagus he made for dinner and a J. Cole song.” As she speaks more about it, she becomes visibly upset. “I just hate getting disappointed. Close Friends is for seeing tasteful sideboob and screenshots of messy conversations. Or seeing if that guy you hooked up with watched your story instead of answering your text. I don’t f*cking care if some filter says you’re a Hufflepuff or Ross from Friends.”
But Devyn says she soon forgot about the incident (and filters) a few weeks later, when Covid-19 swept through the world and news articles and Zoom meetings consumed her screen time. In the months following, she and her roommates had countless conversations about how to isolate conscientiously.
“We all have Virgo in our charts, so we are super strict about our Germ Pod.”
This term ‘Germ Pod’ (also called ‘Germ Squad’ by straight men and ‘Quaranteam’ by your mom) refers to the small community of friends that people see in isolation. In order to reduce the spread of the virus, Devyn and her roommates selected these individuals very intentionally and cautiously. Even as their neighborhood reopened, they chose to only interact with siblings, friends who lived alone, and long-term partners.
But one Tuesday in July, she went to Trader Joes and ran into @shaggywheezy in the flesh, who was probably buying limp asparagus.
“First of all, Tom recognized me. In a mask. 5 years after college. And then… he offered me a hug?! Like, I know we’re all starved for human affection, but no, I’m not about to break my very strict no-contact rules for MF @shaggywheezy.” And the interaction didn’t stop there.
“The next day, he DMed me on Instagram and invited me and my roommates to come hang out. With his roommates. At his apartment. INDOORS. Can you believe that?”
It turns out that Tom isn’t the only one with boundary issues right now. In a recent poll of Instagram users, 88% of people said they were on someone’s Close Friends list that they did not understand. These ranged from “Aunt Margaret, who is estranged from the family,” to “an ex who got my best friend pregnant,” to “this guy who I worked with at Foot Locker one summer when I was 17.”
In another recent study that we acquired by simply bribing Instagram, a whopping 93% of people who said they would make out with a total stranger right now (mask off) also had Close Friends lists that exceeded 100 people.
“So irresponsible,” Devyn says, still mulling over Tom’s flaccid vegetables.
Despite her complaints about social media, Devyn finds solace in posting to her Close Friends list while away from her regular social life. “I love voting on which nude my friend Lara should send. And I love the meltdowns that my friend Tristan is having after spending five months alone in rural Wyoming. Responding with the 100 emoji is the perfect way to remind them I care.”
And as for her number?
“29,” she reveals. “That guy I hooked up with never texted me back.” ●