woman taking iPhone picture of city for Instagram

Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ

Accidentally liked a picture on InstagramCheck out my post about privacy and notifications for liking and unliking on Instagram.

Some nuances to privacy settings are unclear on Instagram Help, so let’s shed some light. Skip to ii. Privacy below if you know enough about basic account management and third party tools.

Instagram of two dogs
Atlanta’s favorite startup mascots Coleman and Paloma at Strongbox West

i. Instagram FAQ

1. Can I have multiple usernames?
Yes. Each must be associated with a different email address.

2. How do I toggle between multiple Instagram accounts?
First, login to one account. Go to your profile and tap the gear icon (iPhone) or verticle three dot icon (Android) in the top right. Scroll down and tap Add Account. Enter your other username and password.

To switch between accounts you’ve added:
Go to your profile. Tap your username at the top. Tap the account you’d like to switch to.

3. Can I see Instagram pictures on a desktop/laptop or in my browser outside the app?
Yes, at instagram.com/USERNAME. Alternatively, users can directly share pictures to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, and via direct message, text message, or email. If a user simply tweets a link to the IG picture, you can see the picture by clicking the link (it used to appear in twitter.com’s native display). However, you won’t be able to login and Like or comment when viewing IG pics shared to these other networks; the likes and comments would be native to those platforms. To like or comment within Instagram on your browser (not using the app), login to instagram.com.

4. Can I like and comment on Instagram pictures outside the app? How can I manage my Instagram account in a browser?
Yes. For both, the simplest way is to login at instagram.com.

Third Party Instagram Apps:

There are several third party Instagram services worth trying. Here are 7 great Instagram apps including Layout, Hyperlapse, and Latergramme (list created July 2015).

A. Check out Flow for looking and liking (not posting). It’s a sleek iPad and iPhone app with a layout and interface superior to Instagram’s. Bonus: it’s ad-free. Preview thumbnails allow you to swipe through an array of photos and videos. Standard IG features like clicking through to profiles, liking posts, and seeing posts that you’ve liked are there, plus you can bookmark what you’ve liked.

Unfortunately, due to Instagram’s API changes, Flow will most likely stop working on June 1, 2016. As I’ve been saying for years, Facebook will kill Instagram.

B. Ink361 (formerly Inkstagram) A webviewer for Instagram photos. Login with your Instagram credentials. You can do everything you can on the iPhone app except add new pictures.

5. How can I print my Instagram photos?
Try socialprintstudio.com (formerly Printstagram) or try the iPhone app PostalPix to print four-inch squares from your Instagram library for 30 cents each.

ii. Privacy Tips

Sweetwater Brewery Instagram picture
Years ago Instagram photos appeared natively within Twitter. No longer, unless you use IFTTT.

You can block any user. This means that even if they are following you, they will not see your photos in their feed, nor will your actions (commenting, liking) show up in their following feed. However, a blocked user can still see your photos in other ways:
1) If you’re public and you share an IG post to another social network where they can see your posts. For example, I was private on IG but I shared to Twitter when I uploaded this photo. Anyone could see this photo on Twitter, but only IG users who I have approved to follow me can A) view it natively in their IG feed, B) view it within the IG app, and C) like or comment.
2) If you’re public and they create another account.
3) If you’re private and you accept a new follower you don’t know, it could be the person you blocked.
4) And unfortunately, you have to remember that anything you post can always be captured on a screenshot and shared privately between other users.

Private mode

You can toggle “Private Account” on or off in your Profile settings.  (Tap the person icon on the bottom right of the app, then tap the gear icon in top right for Options.) Anyone who followed you while you were not in private mode will not be affected, but new followers will be in approval purgatory. More on viewing private photos online here.

pretty nails taking iPhone picture of city
Photo credit: Jay Wennington


If you are already private and still have a particular user you don’t want to have access, be wary of new followers. If an unfamiliar user has few pictures (less than 5-10), few legitimate followers, or bot or spam accounts interacting with their photos, this may be a fake account. Oh, and the obvious red flag is having no profile picture.

Tip: If you’re concerned about a stalker, save all of their email addresses in your phone contacts. When a new user joins IG with an email address you stored, IG announces, “Your friend (NAME) just joined Instagram.” Not knowing this, the stalker will assume that their fake profile is unbeknownst to you. Block.

Deleting comments on Instagram

You can delete others’ comments on your photos and any of your own comments. When viewing your photo, tap the talk bubble icon below the photo. If you slide your finger to the left over any comment, you’ll have the option to delete it. If you accidentally delete, you can tap to undo.

This blog is not affiliated with Instagram in any way. My knowledge is based on my own experience and experimentation.

Update 4/27/16: Due to time constraints, I’m no longer able to post individual answers to your questions, but if you comment below someone else from the community may answer your question.

Update 3/28/16: I’ve updated this post for Instagram version 7.19 for iOS

Update 8/27/12: Instagram 3.0 was released on 8/16/12. This app update introduced Photo Maps and greater privacy over the following and follower lists for private users (now these lists are not visible to non-followers). This post was originally published on 12/6/11 and the comments predating 8/16/12 reflect Instagram 2.0. I won’t go back and edit all the comments but I will answer in real time going forward.

This was the original featured image for this post when I first published it in 2011. #tbt …

Tip: CTRL + F keywords in the comments to see if your question has already been answered. Up-vote the comments that you care about the most.

  • Searchingforsoul

    when i view my friend’s profile in instagram it says she’s following 20 people, but i can only view 18. how is that so?

    • The two users who are accounted for in the twenty but whose usernames do not show up to you have blocked you. Test: Create a dummy Instagram account and go to view your friend’s following list. You should be able to see the usernames of all twenty people she follows.

  • Olivia

    Hello Emily, 

    If I block someone on IG why if I search their name does it still show them visible? I have people blocked on FB and the only reason I can see it works is because when I search their name it does not come up. I went to the people I have blocked on IG and when I hit block again it gives me an option of “unblock” which means they are still blocked from access to anything I say or post. However, how do I make it so that I can’t see their name in the search engine? 

    Thank you!

    • Hi Olivia, unlike Facebook blocking, when you block someone on Instagram, you will still be able to pull them up in search unless they have also blocked you. In a way, this is good, because you may want to go back and delete a comment or like you posted on one of their photos. Here’s why: as long as your username appears on a comment or like that they can see (for example, one of their old photos) they can access your profile (but will see no photos), even though they are blocked and cannot search for you.

  • guest

    is there a way to stop what photos i have liked coming up in people follwing me’s news ?

    • No. Anyone who follows you can see your liked photos in their news feed. You would have to block the person to prevent this.

  • Does someone know when you Block them?

    • Not directly. They can figure it out by trying to search for you and noticing that you cannot be found (assuming they understand how Instagram blocking works).

  • Sorry just found the answer below 

  • Can you change your user name once you have started an account? 

  • Ccastloo

    I created an Instagram account for the brand that I manage. The brand’s Twitter handle (company name) was taken already. I created a slightly different name, but want to change it now. If I change the IG “username” will it change my @ handle to match that? If so, will my followers be effected at all?

    Don’t want to loose the followers that I’ve built up, just want to make it easier for consumers to find us moving forward.

    • You can change your IG username and your followers and account settings will come with you. So if your Instagram username was @brandx and you changed it to @brand_X, your followers and following and photos and account settings would all stay the same, just under the new name. The name change will not affect your Twitter handle or account.

  • Gabbie Smith

    Hey if I block someone from viewing my photos will they know? Like will it come up for them saying idk, you cannot view this photo because you have been blocked?

    • No, they won’t be directly notified. They won’t be able to search for you. If they find your username in an old photo comment or like and tap it, they will be taken to your profile but will not be able to follow you or view your photos.

  • Jeweljewels98

    on instagram it only lets me like photos when i click the like button but it wont let me double tap the picture to like it! what do i do?

    • Just tap the like button. Double tap to like doesn’t work.

  • Question

    My friend and I blocked each other for a joke. I want to unblock, but when I look her username up it doesn’t show up. How do you get to the blocked user page?

    • Vilma_escalante

      have you tried getting to your friends page through a picture he/she previously liked?

  • Scratchie

    Hi Emily, thanks for posting all of this it’s great and very informative! I have a question around blocking.

    I have blocked someone and been through all their old photos and removed my likes and comments. There are a few photos in there that I am tagged in – will those tags still link through to my profile? Also, what about mutual friends posts where I have been tagged? Will they still hyperlink to my profile or will they not see my account tagged at all? I assume that part of the blocking means that post-block, anything of my likes / comments / tags on mutual friends photos are not visible to the person who has been blocked?

    • Hey Scratchie. Photos you are still tagged in will hyperlink to
      your profile even though you’ve blocked the user. They won’t be able to
      see new instances of you being tagged. Post-block, your
      likes/comments/tags on photos will not appear to that person you
      blocked. But anything from pre-block will still appear.

  • Ashblaize

    so in trying to block my ex boyfriend, I’m still seeing his comments in my feed under people that we mutually follow. is there a way to make it so I won’t see his likes and comments without having to ask him to block me?

    • No, you will be able to see the blocked user’s comments and likes unless he blocks you as well.

  • Ryan

    My profile was public, and someone unknown to me liked one of my photos and I did not like that, so I blocked this user and made my profile private. I would like to know how to delete their like on my photo, how can I do that, thanks!

    • Unfortunately, you can’t delete likes. Only that user can delete their like. To do so, they would need to have access to that photo.

  • gv_gram

    lets pretend my profile is on private…
    if i use a hashtag on a picture, are people going to be able to see it still under the hashtag?

    • No. Only people who are following you can see the photo.

  • Crzybiotch

    I deleted all my followers and it still days I have one. Why?

  • Gotaluvfrankie

    I blocked someone but there pictures still show up on my wall how do I not see them at all??

    • Log out, log in, refresh the app, and wait for more new photos to fill up your feed. Those new photos getting posted over time will push the blocked person’s photos to the bottom if the refreshing doesn’t remove them.

  • K Giglio

    Is there anyway to remove a tag that someone placed on your.  My son has kids tagging his username and writing rude/mean comments.  Can we remove those tags?

  • Lexi

    On instagram, can you lookup a picture you were mentioned on if the user is private and you are not following him/her? I would appreciate if you can answer my question! Thank You 🙂

    ig: lexi_cornejo

    • This is interesting. If a private user you’re not following @ mentions you in their photo, you’ll get a notification which will say:
      username1 mentioned you in a comment: “(insert comment xyz xyz) @__yourname__”
      You will see the thumbnail of the photo. If you tap the notification or thumbnail, however, it will say the feed item is unavailable. So you technically cannot view the photo normally, only as a thumbnail, and you will not be able to comment on or like the photo (unless you start following that user).

  • Sarah4525

    when you block someone, they cant see your photos, but you can still see theirs. how do you block them completely to where you cant see their photos?

    • i would like an answer to this as well, i dont want to see them ‘liking’ all my friends posts and stuff, i dont want to see ANYTHING.

    • You can’t do this — they would have to block you in order to make you unable to view their photos. If you don’t want to see their photos, just don’t visit their profile. Since they’re blocked, their photos won’t show up in your feed.

  • Eastoverplace

    Hey. I started an IG account to “monitor” my 11 and 14 ear old daughters and their friends. Well this made one of their friends mad and I’m guessing she blocked me. If I go to their profile via a previous photo. I can’t see their photos but the option to follow them is there- what will happen if I press it? I don’t want them to know that I’ve attempted to follow them again or even that I’ve realized that I’ve been blocked

    • Great question. If you attempt to follow the user who has blocked you, you will not be able to even make the follow request. Tapping that follow button does nothing. They will not be notified in any way.

  • Cool_tingting10

    so i’ve blocked sooo many people on instagram… but not i want to unblock them all but i can remember who i’ve blocked. is there any way i can see the list of people i’ve blocked? 

    • No, there isn’t a simple way in Instagram to view the list of people you’ve blocked. There may be a web app that uses the API to get this information but I don’t know of one yet.

  • Adam R Thompson

    Can I stop people from seeing photos I’ve liked?

    • If you are public, no. If you are private, only your followers can see
      the photos you’ve liked in their feed but anyone can see that you have
      liked a photo by viewing the photo; they just wouldn’t be able to see your photos unless they
      were following you.

  • Shawna

    Hi when I post pictures on instagram and click share for Facebook, my picture doesn’t show up on my wall and I can’t find it in my newsfeed on fb. I get a couple likes on them on fb but not as many as if I posted it directly on my wall. I checked my sharing settings on instagram and it says it posts to my wall on fb. What can I do to make it show up?

    • So this the case: When you originally post to Instagram, you’re opting to post the photo to Facebook as well. It is posting to your Instagram photo album but not to your Facebook wall. The post isn’t showing up in your friends’ newsfeeds. Is that all accurate? Sounds like you might have some default Facebook privacy settings for photos, for certain albums, or for any post where only certain users can see the post.

      Try this: Post a photo just to Instagram. Afterward, go to the photo and tap the small ellipse icon on the bottom right. Tap Share Post. Check the Facebook settings. Make sure you have enabled posting the photo to your own profile page. You should have Instagram as an authorized app for Facebook. See that it’s authorized for Facebook and tap Okay, not Cancel. Then go back to the sharing screen and post to Facebook with the green Share button. It should show up as a wall post.

  • M P

    can people see when you have viewed their profile?

  • 1s0nia

    My friend followed me on instagram a few days ago, and I could see her pictures. We had an inside joke, that she found annoying, so I commented it in her post as a joke.
    I didn’t go back to her profile for a while after that, and today I checked it. Then to my surprise, I couldn’t see her pictures, and when I tried to re-follow her, the button blinked, and did nothing. I searched her name, nothing. I went onto her followers, and there was my user. 1s0nia. Did she block me? And by the way, it said her photos were private. I don’t see why she would block me, so I wanted to confirm- and any other signs to show she blocked me? Can she now see my pics? I am private by the way.


    • If you search for her username and find nothing, but you can find her profile when you tap her username from a comment or like that you can still see, yes she blocked you. If you are private and she is not following you, she cannot see your photos. If she is following you, then she can. If you’re private and want to remove a follower without blocking: unfollow-> block-> unblock. This would remove her from following you only if she was already following you. She can follow and block you at the same time.

      • 1s0nia

        Okay, thanks. She said she didn’t block me, but I’m not sure. Pretty much all the signs are that she blocked me.
        Thankyou! xx

  • You

    On my main page on instagram I only have 3 rows of photo when I usually have 5 rows of photo like everyone else. Can you tell me why I only have 3 rows of photo displayed verses the standard 5?

  • Jjd

    If i delete my IG account will my history still be able to be found. Wrote some rotten stuff i do not want my parents to see. Trying to do better

    • Glad you’re trying to do better. Fortunately for you, when you delete your account, your photos, comments, likes, and
      friendships (everything) will be removed permanently and will not be
      recoverable. This is unlike most things on the social Internet.

      • nrz

        I deleted my account but still saw my old username as “liking” a picture, which I did not want. Does that ever go away?

        • Hi nrz, that Instagram like should go away soon if it has not already. First, make sure you’ve fully deleted your account following these steps: http://www.wikihow.com/Delete-an-Instagram-Account

          According to Instagram’s Help page: “When you delete your account, your photos, comments, likes, and friendships will be removed permanently and will not be recoverable. We cannot reactivate accounts. Additionally, you will not be able to sign up with the same username again.” -http://help.instagram.com/448136995230186/

          There may be a time lag in removing your activity if the system is busy.

          1) Where exactly did you see the like: in the iPhone app, Android app, or online at a third party service like webstagram?

          2) Was this an Instagram like or perhaps a Facebook like of an IG photo posted to Facebook?

          3) Was this photo public — if so, send me the shortlink to the photo and your username (it’s fine to message me privately on my contact form).

          Refresh the app, fully close the app, then open it and view the picture again (while logged in with a different account). You could also look at the photo online if you have a weblink to it (which you could access by tapping the ellipse below the photo on the IG app, then tap “Tweet” and copy and paste the link to your browser. Or you can see the weblink if the photo was tweeted or posted to Facebook, Tumblr, etc.). Let me know how it works out.

          • nrz

            I assume the account has been properly deleted because I can’t log in with that username or password any longer. I created another username and password and logged in a few hours later with my Android app. I had another user view the photo about two hours after I deleted the account and she could still see my username, which was my first and last name. When she clicked on the username, it said something like “no user found” so it registered that the account was gone but the “like” was still there with my username.

            I registered for this account so I could decide whether or not to let my 13-year-old have one and was looking at stuff that the kids were putting out there and obviously don’t want my username on any of their photos.:(

          • nrz

            At first I was getting the message when I tried to log in that the account was “inactive” and now I get the message that it’s “closed.” There must be a difference?

  • Nez

    I want to block someone that has blocked me. How do I do this because I can’t go to their profile to do so?

  • Zach

    Why does my profile display only three rows? Also my following counter is off by 250. Is there anyway to fix this?

    • Quby

      I have the same problem with my instagram! Its only showing 3 rows… Why is this?!

  • HELP

    Hi. This morning, like usual, I went onto my instagram to check it.
    I expected it to perfectly work like it normally does- me being able to see other peoples posts, news feed, my photos.
    But it can’t refresh feed. This is a normal thing, so like usual, I exited the app, and went back on. Still can’t refresh feed. I reloaded it. Still can’t refreh feed. So I tried posing a picture. Right away failed. I tried again- no loading- just says failed.

    I tried to shut down my phone and go Back on
    I tried checking the wifi- it was fine.

    I tried shutting down the app and going back in. Nothing worked.

    I don’t know why it’s doing this, but is there any way I can fix it? Is anyone else having this problem?


    • Confused

      Now it says I have no photos.

    • I can’t help unless you tell me what kind of phone you’re using. Make sure you’ve updated the app. Try to log out then fully close the app then log back in.