Public vs. Private on Instagram

In our parent’s guide to Instagram, we talked about what Instagram is, how teenagers use it, what FOMO is, and a bit about Rinstas vs. Finstas. In this post, we’re going to discuss how Instagram’s privacy settings work and what exactly they control. If you need help reporting cyberbullying on Instagram, see our post on reporting cyberbullying on various social media sites.

How to Set Your Profile to Private

By default, posts on Instagram are public. This means that anyone using Instagram can see your pictures, stories, and comments. There are also external sites, like Insta Stalker, that let people without Instagram browse the site.

To change your profile to private, go to Settings. Then, go to Account Privacy. Then you can toggle Private Account to on.

When you set your Instagram profile to private, only people from your followers list will be able to see your pictures, stories, comments, followers list, and following list. If your profile is set to private, new follow requests will be sent to you for approval before they’ll be able to see your posts. If there is someone on your followers list and you don’t want them seeing your posts, you’ll have to block them. To block someone, go to their profile, tap on the icon with three dots, and then tap Block. To unblock someone, it’s the same process, but you tap Unblock.

If you block someone, Instagram will not notify that user that they are blocked. However, that person may be able to guess that they are blocked based on the fact that they can no longer find you on Instagram.

Other Sites

Note that if you have your Instagram linked to another social media site, changing your profile on Instagram to private won’t change who can see your posts on the other site. For example, if you share an Instagram post on Twitter, anyone who can see your Twitter posts will be able to see that particular Instagram post.

Third Party Access

To revoke third-party access to your Instagram posts, go to Settings, then tap Authorized Access. You will see a list of apps and websites linked to your Instagram account. If you want to decouple one from your Instagram account, tap Revoke Access, and then click Yes.

Direct Messages

Anyone can send you a direct message, even if they are not your follower and you have your profile set to private. If you no longer want messages from a particular person, you may block them as described above.


When you like a post, it’s visible to anyone who can see the post.

If your account is set to private, only approved followers can see your posts, but when you like a public post it will be visible to anyone who can see the post and your username will be clickable. Your username will be visible, but your pictures will not be.


If you have a private profile and you mention someone who isn’t an approved follower in a post, that person won’t get a notification.

If you have a private profile and comment on someone else’s public post, your comment will be visible to the public and your username will be clickable.


If your profile is set to private and you use a hashtag in a post, it won’t appear in a public search for a hashtag. Only your followers will be able to see the post.

An Important Caveat

Even if you have your Instagram privacy settings as tight as possible, something you say or post could still make it out into the broader world. It’s easy for a risqué picture or a mean comment to be screencapped and sent around to people beyond your follower list. Remember that privacy settings can be circumvented and that a bit of caution when posting online is always a good idea.