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Mastering Your Instagram Privacy Settings: An Expert‘s Guide

Instagram has become one of the most powerful social media platforms in the world, with over 1 billion monthly active users as of 2021.[^1] For many people, Instagram is a fun way to share photos, connect with friends, and express their creativity. But as with any online platform, it‘s important to be aware of your privacy and security on Instagram.

As a digital technology expert who has studied social media extensively, I‘ve seen firsthand how poor privacy practices can lead to issues like oversharing, cyberbullying, and even identity theft. That‘s why I believe every Instagram user should take the time to understand and customize their privacy settings.

In this guide, I‘ll share my expert insights on Instagram privacy, walk you through all the key settings and features, and provide practical tips for protecting your personal information while still enjoying the platform. Whether you‘re a casual Instagrammer or a social media poweruser, this advice will help you take control of your online privacy.

Why Instagram Privacy Matters

Before we dive into the technical steps, let‘s discuss why privacy on Instagram is so important in the first place. A 2021 survey by the Pew Research Center found that 69% of U.S. adults use Facebook, but a significant share of users have taken breaks from the platform or deleted the app due to privacy concerns.[^2] While Instagram hasn‘t faced quite the same level of controversy as its parent company Facebook, privacy is still a major issue on the image-sharing app.

Aside from general privacy best practices, there are a few specific reasons to pay attention to your Instagram privacy settings:

  1. Protecting personal information: Instagram bios, posts, and stories can reveal a lot of personal details like your location, contact info, daily routines, and more. You may not want this info accessible to strangers or even casual acquaintances.

  2. Maintaining professional boundaries: Many people use Instagram for both personal and work-related purposes. Customizing your privacy can help you maintain boundaries between your professional and private life.

  3. Avoiding oversharing: Even if you‘re not posting anything super sensitive, it‘s easy to get caught up in Instagram and share more than you originally intended. Stopping to check your privacy settings can prevent accidental oversharing.

  4. Blocking harassers and trolls: Unfortunately, Instagram isn‘t immune to bullying and toxic behavior. Strong privacy settings can help you block or limit interactions with harassers.

Now that we‘ve established the importance of Instagram privacy, let‘s get into the nitty gritty of accessing and adjusting your settings.

Navigating Instagram‘s Privacy Settings

The first step to mastering your Instagram privacy is simply knowing where to find the settings menu. Here‘s a quick overview of how to access privacy options on the mobile app:

  1. Open the Instagram app and go to your profile page by tapping the icon in the bottom right corner.

  2. On your profile, tap the three horizontal lines in the top right, then select "Settings."

  3. In the Settings menu, tap "Privacy." This will open the full list of privacy settings and options.

Instagram‘s privacy settings are divided into several sections:

  • Account Privacy
  • Interactions
  • Connections
  • Ad Preferences
  • Branded Content and Shops
  • Guides
  • Supervision

We‘ll go through the key settings in each section to help you understand what they do and decide how to customize them for your needs.

Account Privacy Settings

The Account Privacy section includes two of the most important Instagram privacy settings: Private Account and Activity Status.

Private Account is the option that switches your entire Instagram account from public (viewable by anyone) to private (viewable only by approved followers). With a private account, anyone who wants to see your posts and stories will have to send you a follow request first.

According to Instagram, over 100 million accounts have gone private since the feature was introduced.[^3] Switching to private is a good choice if you use Instagram just to share with friends and family. However, keep in mind that even with a private account, your profile picture, username, and bio will still be visible to everyone.

Activity Status is a newer Instagram feature that shows other accounts when you were last active on the app. You can easily turn this off by toggling the "Show Activity Status" option to off. No one will be able to see when you were last on Instagram.

Interactions Settings

The Interactions section is where you can customize settings for comments, tags, mentions, and messages. Here are the key options to know:

  • Comments: Instagram gives you several tools to manage who can comment on your posts. You can allow comments from everyone, only people you follow, only your followers, or turn off commenting altogether. There are also filters to hide comments with specific words or phrases.

  • Tags: If you don‘t want other accounts to be able to tag you in their posts, you can adjust your tag settings to allow tags from no one, only people you follow, or everyone. You can also manually approve tags before they show up on your profile.

  • Mentions: Similar to tags, you can allow mentions (when another account includes your username in their post) from everyone, only people you follow, or turn them off completely.

  • Messages: To limit who can send you direct messages on Instagram, you can choose to receive messages from everyone, only people you follow, or turn off the message feature. There are also options to filter out message requests that contain offensive words.

One of Instagram‘s newer features in this section is Limits. If you‘re dealing with harassment or just want a temporary break from interactions, you can turn on Limits for a set period of time. During that time, comments and messages will be restricted to only your followers.

Connections Settings

The Connections section is all about managing the accounts you interact with on Instagram. Key settings here include:

  • Restricted Accounts: If there are specific users you want to limit interactions with without fully blocking them, you can add them to your Restricted Accounts list. They will still be able to see your posts, but their comments will be hidden unless you approve them.

  • Blocked Accounts: For more severe cases, you can block an account entirely. Blocked users won‘t be able to find your profile, posts, or stories. To block someone, simply go to their profile, tap the three dots in the top right, and select "Block."

  • Muted Accounts: Muting is a less nuclear option than blocking. When you mute an account, you‘ll no longer see their posts in your feed, but you‘ll still be following each other. The muted user won‘t know they‘ve been muted. To mute someone, tap the three dots on their post and select "Mute."

  • Close Friends: On the flip side, Instagram‘s Close Friends feature lets you create a special list of trusted followers to share more personal content with via Stories. To add someone to your Close Friends, go to your profile, tap the three lines, and select "Close Friends" from the menu.

Stories and Live Settings

Since launching in 2016, Instagram Stories have become one of the platform‘s most popular features, with over 500 million accounts using Stories every day.[^4] Stories and Instagram Live videos have their own set of privacy options:

  • Story Controls: In the Story Controls section, you can choose who can see and reply to your Stories. Options include making your Stories public, restricting them to followers only, hiding them from specific users, or creating a Close Friends list for more private Stories.

  • Sharing: The Sharing section lets you control whether your Instagram Stories can be shared in messages, to Facebook, or to other third-party apps. You can also decide whether others can share your regular posts to their Stories.

  • Live: For Live videos, you can limit who can view your broadcast to only people you follow or a specific set of users. You can also filter out comments with offensive keywords during a Live.

Expert Tips for Instagram Privacy

Now that we‘ve covered all the key settings in Instagram‘s privacy menu, I want to share a few bonus tips from my experience as a digital technology expert:

  1. Think before you post. No privacy setting is a substitute for common sense. Before sharing anything on Instagram, ask yourself if you‘d be comfortable with that content being fully public. Avoid posting sensitive info like your address, financial details, or confidential work projects.

  2. Use a strong password. This may seem obvious, but you‘d be shocked how many people still use weak, easily guessed passwords. For maximum Instagram security, use a unique password that includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider using a password manager to keep track of all your login credentials.

  3. Enable two-factor authentication. In addition to a strong password, enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) is one of the best ways to protect your Instagram account from hacking attempts. With 2FA enabled, you‘ll need to enter a special code sent to your phone in addition to your password whenever you log in.

  4. Be selective about third-party apps. Instagram allows certain third-party applications to connect to your account for features like auto-posting or analytics. While these apps can be useful, be cautious about which ones you approve. Only grant access to reputable apps from trusted developers, and revoke access for any apps you no longer use.

  5. Monitor your tagged photos. Even if you have a private account, photos and videos you‘re tagged in by other users can still be visible to the public depending on the poster‘s privacy settings. Regularly check the "Photos of You" section on your profile to see what content you‘re tagged in and remove any unwanted tags.

  6. Teach kids and teens about Instagram privacy. If you have children or younger family members using Instagram, make sure they understand the importance of privacy settings. Walk them through the process of setting up a private account, go over what types of content are appropriate to post, and check in regularly to monitor their activity. Instagram offers special privacy tools for users under 16.

The Future of Social Media Privacy

As I mentioned at the start of this guide, privacy concerns have become a major issue across all social media platforms in recent years. But how are companies responding, and what does the future look like for online privacy?

Instagram‘s parent company Meta (formerly Facebook) has faced intense scrutiny over its data collection practices, content moderation, and role in spreading misinformation. In response, Meta has rolled out a number of privacy-focused updates across its family of apps.

In 2021, Instagram added several new features aimed at protecting younger users, including defaulting new accounts for users under 16 to private and limiting ad targeting options for users under 18.[^5] Instagram is also working on an AI-based anti-bullying feature that can proactively detect and hide harassing comments.

Other social platforms like Twitter and TikTok have similarly introduced more granular privacy controls in recent years. Twitter now lets users control who can reply to their tweets and toggle off mentions from people they don‘t follow.[^6] TikTok offers a private account option and recently added family pairing settings for better parental controls.[^7]

Looking to the future, I believe the trend toward greater user control over privacy and more robust safety features will continue. Governments around the world are starting to crack down on social media companies with stricter regulations around data collection and content.

At the same time, decentralized social media platforms built on blockchain technology are emerging as potential alternatives to centralized giants like Facebook. Decentralized platforms aim to give users more control over their data by building social networks on distributed, open-source infrastructure. While still a nascent industry, blockchain-based social media could reshape the privacy landscape in the coming years.

Key Takeaways

Here are the key points to remember about Instagram privacy:

  • Instagram offers a range of privacy settings and tools to help users control their experience on the platform. Key areas to pay attention to are account privacy, interactions, connections, and Stories.

  • Every Instagram user should take the time to review and customize their privacy settings based on their unique needs and comfort level.

  • Switching to a private account is a good way to limit your content to only approved followers, but it‘s not the only privacy tool at your disposal. Instagram lets you customize settings for comments, tags, messages, and more.

  • Blocking, restricting, muting, and close friends are other ways to manage your interactions with specific accounts.

  • Security practices like using a strong password and enabling two-factor authentication can help protect your Instagram account from hacking and unauthorized access.

  • Parents should take an active role in educating kids and teens about social media privacy and safety.

  • Looking ahead, social media companies will likely continue introducing more advanced privacy features as user demand for control grows and regulations tighten. Decentralized social networks could also disrupt traditional models.

The bottom line is that social media privacy starts with you, the user. By taking advantage of the many settings and tools Instagram provides, you can create an experience that feels safe, authentic, and true to you. Stay informed, stay mindful, and most importantly, have fun sharing your world on Instagram!

[^1]: "Instagram: monthly active users worldwide." Statista, 2021,
[^2]: "Social Media Use in 2021." Pew Research Center, 7 Apr. 2021,
[^3]: Pardes, Arielle. "A Guide to All of Instagram‘s New Privacy and Security Features." Wired, 8 Dec. 2021,
[^4]: "Stories are everywhere." Instagram for Business, 2 Aug. 2021,
[^5]: Pardes, Arielle. "Instagram Will Now Default Young Users to Private Accounts." Wired, 27 July 2021,
[^6]: Perez, Sarah, and Amanda Silberling. "Twitter rolls out new safety features: Controlling unwanted mentions, more proactive safety enforcement, more." TechCrunch, 21 Sept. 2021,
[^7]: Gartenberg, Chaim. "TikTok adds new safety features aimed at keeping teenagers safe." The Verge, 12 Aug. 2021,