Instagram photo of keys street art by vinguyen23

Instagram Tips: Liking and Unliking

Many Instagramers have a burning question:

If I like then unlike a photo, will the user who posted the photo know?

iPhone home screen floating appsThis is a follow-up to my Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ post, which received many excellent questions. The answer to this like/unlike mystery is worthy of its own post because it deals with the concepts of push (notification outside of the app) versus pull (user activity/refreshes within the app).

First, understand this: iPhone apps that you open then leave to use another app are still running in the background. To fully close an iPhone app, on the home screen, double click the home button. Across the bottom, you’ll see the apps that are running. Press on any app icon for two seconds. They will start floating. Click the red minus circle to fully close each app. (Do this often: it saves memory and battery. Only run what you need.)

Can the other user tell I liked their photo if I unlike it afterward?


  • Recipient has push notifications on (regardless of IG app running or not): like notification received
  • Recipient has push notifications off and IG app actively in use: like notification received
  • Recipient has push notifications off and IG app open but not actively in use: like notification not received
  • Recipient has push notifications off and IG app not open: like notification not received

Why: Some users have Instagram notifications turned on so that they get alerts or banners on their iPhone home screen when actions are taken on IG, such as users liking their photos or leaving comments. (Adjust this in iPhone Settings -> Notifications -> Instagram -> choose Alerts, Banners, or None.)Instagram notifications new follower

The other user seeing your like is first dependent on if notifications (push) are turned on regardless of whether the IG app is open or not. If the user does not have notifications enabled and happens to refresh News between your like/unlike, your action will show there.

It’s not how quickly you unlike after a like, but how soon the recipient actively checks the app. If you like then unlike an hour later with no activity on the recipient side (the one who posted the picture) during the hour, then no notification will be received (unless push notifications are on).

With the IG app closed, the news feed is not updated until you launch the app. So using your intuition, squeeze in your unlike while your frenemy has IG closed or is on a plane.
If the IG app is open and actively being used, the like/heart icon appears above News briefly but goes away (see left- the 1 would appear next to the heart). Immediately unliking won’t change this.

Simply put:

If notifications are turned off and the like/unlike recipient does not have IG actively running (i.e., in the background), then the recipient will not notice nor receive a notification. If notifications are on, all bets are off: they may see the like. This applies to deleted accounts as well:

Updated 5/28/13:

If I like a photo then delete my Instagram account, will the other user know?
Maybe. See above paragraph. If notifications are turned on, then yes, they may see the like even if you have deleted your profile right afterward.


Thanks to Sarag for the great question.

Here are some neat Instagram apps to play with. This week I’m trying out InstaFlow (free iPhone app).

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

  • Guest

    Can you pls tell me why do i get the following message when trying to view a member’s pictures. (I am not a member but was able to view their profile before…..and i am using the right URL, the user still exists and they still have their profile….)
    “Sorry, failed to load this page.Please try reload.
    Also there are some possibility you are seeing this message.
    You are trying to see wrong URL.
    The user does not exist.
    The user deleted his/her profile.”

  • Notmyname

    If one of my friends has another one of my friends blocked, can they see each others activity on my Instagram? Are they able to see that I am friends with that person?

    • Emily Binder

      Yes, they can see each other’s like and comment activity. Say you are friend 1. Friends 2 and 3 are both your friends or are at least not blocked. If 2 likes your photo, 3 can see that 2 liked it.

  • nobiggy

    if other people liked the same photo will it show up as myname or will it just say the number of people who like the photo until they actualy open the app?

  • Guest

    Why are you all really making this such a big deal deleting your accounts for liking a picture by accident? I accidentally liked a photo that was a drawing of a dick lol but I just unliked it and ditdnt think any more about it. Its not such a big deal.

  • anglea murphy

    if i liked a photo and then deleted my account will the other person know I liked their photo

    • Emily Binder

      The other person will see the like notification if they had the app open and running at the point you liked the photo.

  • Guest10

    Hi I had the same thing happened to me. I was just scrolling through instagram and I came across my crush’ video and I was trying to play it and pausing it at the same time, but I accidentally hit “like”. I don’t want him to know I like the video.. Its bad enough that the username I used had like my name on it. So I unliked the video right away, changed my username to random (hopefully he wont see my name if he gets notified) should I worried? did he see my username before or right after I changed it. help please?

    • Emily Binder

      Instagram videos behave the same was as photos when it comes to liking and unliking them. The other user will see the notification that you liked the video if they had Instagram open and running at the time you liked it. If that is the case, and you changed your username after the unlike but before the other user refreshed their app (which would update the status of your newly removed like and make it disappear) they would see your new username had liked the video.

      If the app was fully closed and you unliked the video before they had IG running and open, they would not see the notification. When you open IG from it being closed, it refreshes to the moment and shows what is currently active/true: likes that are current are shown, but likes that happened and were unliked while the user had the app closed (and not pushing data) would not appear.

      When you changed your username, if the other user had IG open, it would likely show that your new username liked the video. When you change your username, your previous actions taken under your old username are updated to appear as your new username took those actions.

  • cookiemonster

    What if the persons phone is shut off completely because they’re on vacation for the summer?

    • Emily Binder

      They will not see a notification of anything when the phone is shut off. When they turn it on, if you have already unliked, there will be no notification.

    • Emily Binder

      What is your question? If their phone is shut off during the time you like and unlike a photo, by the time they open Instagram, the notification will not appear and they won’t know you ever liked the photo.

  • P

    Hi, if I accidentally liked a photo of someone I didn’t follow then immediately unliked it and changed my username (My original username showed who I am) Will the like notification show the original username or the updated version??

    • Emily Binder

      The like notification will appear as your original username until the recipient of the notification refreshes the app.

  • Rainy

    I accidentally liked one of my crush’s photo and I’m not even following him. so what I did was unlike the photo and blocked him, removed my picture and changed my name in hopes that he won’t identify me and see me as a stalker. ohgad. Now I’m in Google trying to find out if my method worked.

  • Emily Binder

    That’s odd. What happens if you like/unlike the photo from the phone app? Can you provide a link to the photo and let me know your username?

  • lilly

    How do I know if I liked a picture in instagram first and then unliked it?
    because I’m not sure whether I liked a picture and then unliked it.
    It’s really confusing..please help me..

    • Emily Binder

      There is no way to see whether you have liked and unliked a picture by looking at that picture. It is possible that if you had a friend who follows you check their Following feed around the time you liked the photo, that they would have seen you like it, but this would go away when they refresh the app. It is unlikely that you will be able to find out at this point since other activity has come in since you liked it.