Instagram selfie by jeuxdelle

Instagram Tips: Liking and Unliking

So you accidentally liked a picture on Instagram.

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, which has received over 500 comments. 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. You’ll see a horizontal array of apps that are running (updated as of iOS 9.1). Swipe upward on each app to fully close it. (Battery life hint: close apps that you’re not using often, especially ones with location services turned on.)

Question: Can someone tell I liked their Instagram post if I unlike right it afterward?

Answer: Maybe.
Scenarios:

  • 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 on their iPhone home screen when actions are taken, such as users liking their photos or leaving comments. (Adjust this in iPhone Settings -> Notifications -> Instagram -> choose Alerts, Banners, or None.)

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 their IG feed between your like/unlike, your action will show there.

 

Instagram accidental like - tips by Emily Binder - laurennnepIt’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). Can you see why this is not a simple answer?

With the IG app closed, the news feed is not updated until you launch the app. So using your spidey sense, do your stalking and risk accidental unlikes while your frenemy has Instagram closed or is on a plane.
If the 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 Instagram 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:

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.

Here are some neat Instagram apps to play with as well as info for developers. Product Hunt has a good list of Instagram apps.

*This blog is not affiliated with Instagram in any way. These tips are based on my own experience and experimentation.

Looking for tips on LinkedIn privacy? You may have uploaded hundreds of your contacts to LinkedIn by accident. How to Manage LinkedIn Privacy Settings and Remove Imported Contacts

Post updated 10/23/15

Thanks to Sarag for the original question in 2012 that sparked this post.

The majority of IG users are too young to remember it looking really old. Here are screenshots that were the featured images of this blog post when I first published it in January 2012. Wayback:

Instagram photo of keys street art by vinguyen23
How Instagram used to look (2012)

Instagram notifications new follower

  • Ann

    Hi! I’m in great need of help about the news feed. Do my followers news feed get clogged up if i like tons of pics at once, 20-30? I’m making a point of liking great pictures from the ones i follow and the ones i don’t and i didn’t know if by liking so many pics at one sitting will clog up their news feed and get annoying (I know that uploading too many pics at once can)
    Thank you in advance, i’ve been searching for an answer to that question and can’t find it

    • Hi Ann. Their regular home feed won’t get clogged (what you view when you tap the home icon on the bottom left). The feed that shows up when you tap the fourth bottom icon, the talk bubble with the heart in it) shows your likes and the likes of your followers. Your likes will show up in a batch with a maximum of eight thumbnails at a time. You won’t take up much more room than others.

      • Guest

         i accidentally liked a girls photo we dont follow eachother i immediatly unliked it, blocked her, changed my username and picture, blocked her friends, i dont think she had instagram open, did she get notified? if she did which username did she see my old or new one? help!

        • Guest

           @emilybinder:disqus ^ please answer that and i dont think she was on instagram

  • Pingback: Instagram Privacy Tips and FAQ | emilybinder.com()

  • Michelle

    I unliked some pictures.. But it still says I liked them. Why does that happen?!

    •  Refresh the app. Log out and back in. Make sure you’re updated Instagram to the newest version. Does that solve the problem?

      • Guest

        This happened to me as well. I logged out, turned off the iPad, etc. If someone else searches the picture it doesn’t show “liked” by me, and it doesn’t show as a “photo I’ve liked”. However, when I access the picture it still shows “liked”. Is this a function of when they log on?

        I have also blocked that person. If they log on after I block them, will my “like” show up as a notification (assuming their app was closed)? Or will it show at all?

        Thanks.

        • That’s interesting: no, it isn’t a function of the user who posted the photo logging in or out; your likes and unlikes should post in real time if you’re using Instagram.

          the other user had the app fully closed during the time you liked the photo and unliked it, they will not get the notification.

          • itsjustme

            hi1 just to clarify one thing. when you say FULLY CLOSED, the user should log out totally? or just exit the IG app?

            • By fully closed I mean the app is closed and not running in the background. On iPhone you can tell if an app is running in the background by double clicking the bottom home button and swiping across the app icons on the bottom row. If you want to close one, you tap down and hold on that app icon until it starts wobbling and has a red minus sign appear on its top left. Tap that minus sign to fully close the app.

  • Guest

    ugh I hate when I accidently like someone’s photo. Especially if its from a while back because then they know I was stalking through their pics and it didn’t just pop up on my feed. Come on you know thats happened to you too…

    •  Guest, you just might be the voice of my generation…

    • Another Guest

      This just happened to me and i’m so embarrassed -___-

      I was just procrastinating and looking at random old classmates pics and of course my fat fingers liked someone’s really really old pic. Not even a crush or a friend or an enemy — just boredom/procrastination — and now i’m gonna look like a creepy stalker ughhhhhh

    • Looohooser

      Yes this happened to me. It was my coworker. So now I have to see her everyday knowing that she knows I liked and quickly unliked a photo on her IG from 84 weeks ago. Fml.

    • Looohooser

      And to make it even worse… she made her account private a few days after. I will never scroll IG continuously again….

    • Nami

      Stalking my crush…..

      Accidentally liked his old photo a minute ago…

      Kill me.

      • Rae

        don’t worry. I accidentally liked my crush’s brother’s picture from 48 weeks ago.

  • Guest

    Hi. I accidentally liked a photo of someone in instagram. Then I unliked the photo as quickly as I can and blocked him after that. Would he still receive the notification that I just liked his photo? 

    • Read the above post. “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).”

  • Ayo 7

     i want to know why when i toggle my photo privacy off it changes my photo profil to what i don’t want it to be

    • This is a bug that Instagram is supposedly working to fix.

  • guest

    If push notifications are turned on does that mean it will not recognise i changed my username (after i liked a photo i shouldn’t have) when the person checks their iphone next? 

    • They will get the notification of the like associated with your old username if they follow you and have the app running with push notifications on. If they tap your username, they’ll be forwarded to your new profile.

  • Lol

    Is there anyway I can make a follower unlike my pic? Even after I blocked them their “like” is still there.

    • There is no way to remove a like, unfortunately. Only the user can unlike (and if they’re blocked, they cannot).

  • EL

    Hi Emily,

    If someone’s profile is set to public, will they be informed when I looked at their photos even if I do not like or comment on any of their photos?

    • Hi. No, they will not know you have viewed their photos as long as you don’t take any action (liking or commenting).

  • gue

    what happens if you like by accident then unlike and delete the account. do they still get the notification and see the username?

    • They will get the notification if they have Instagram running at any point during the time you liked the photo and the time you unliked it. This is true even if you delete your account after you like or unlike the photo. If they refresh the app, your like will go away. But before the refresh, they could see the like. If they tap your username, they’ll get an error message that no such account exists or something similar.

  • Karen41254

    I accidently liked someone’s photo and I hit the unlike button. I also blocked them. It still showing my like on their page and after you block someone are you still suppose to be able to see their page?

    • If you unliked the Instagram photo, the like should disappear regardless of whether you were following, not following, had blocked them, or had not blocked them when you unliked it or after. And yes, you can still view someone’s page after you’ve blocked them. The advantage is that you can still access their photos and remove your own likes and comments (unless they block you or go private). Removing your likes and comments on their photos is a good idea if you don’t want them to be able to access your profile, which they can do by tapping your username where it appears in a like or comment on any photo even once you’ve blocked them. Note that they won’t be able to see your photos, however.

  • Carolepineda

     how can i unlike the likes of the person whom i do not know

  • Guests

    on instagram it only allows me to like pictures clicking the like buttuon, but it wont let me double tap the picture to like it. it wasnt like this before, so what do i do?!

    • A double tap to like has not been available for at least a year on iPhone. I don’t know if it is available on Android or ever was. You’ll just have to tap the like button.

  • Guest

    Whhat if I deactivated my account? Would they still see my like and unlike?

    • No. When you delete your Instagram account, your photos, likes, comments, and
      friendships (everything) will be removed permanently and cannot be recovered. You cannot ever activate an account with the same username again.

      • Nate78tolliver

        Are you absolutely positive they won’t know who liked the picture? If they have their notifications on an I accidentally liked the pic and immediately unlinked it an then deleted my account will it still show in their notification that my username i liked it

      • Lottieg

        I accidentally liked a picture, unliked the picture immediately and then deleted my account. What will this person be able to see?

  • Guest

    If my account is set to private and one of my followers likes my pic, can his followers see his “like” in their feed? 

    • No. Say you are Henry and you’re private. Emily (who is public) follows Henry. CJ follows Emily (public) but not Henry (private). CJ can see the photos that Emily likes
      only if those photos are from users that CJ is also following. So if CJ isn’t following Henry, he won’t see Emily’s likes of Henry’s photos.

  • Gforce2012

    If someone comments on my picture and I delete their comment, will they be notified?

  • guest

    Hello! I recently liked a picture, and then unliked it. Below the picture it does not list me as a person who liked the picture anyomre, but if I click on ‘photos you liked’ in my app, the picture still shows up. Is there any way to get rid of this picture in my ‘photos you liked’ gallery on the app? Thanks!

    • guest

      i’m having the same problem. any luck figuring it out?

  • Becy

    If I have blocked someone on Instagram, can they see the comments I make and will it be visible for them on the mutual “friend”‘s photo if I like it? 

    • No, anything you post after blocking them will be invisible to them.

  • Cupboardunderthestairs

    What if you block the user straight after you unlike it? Will they still get a notification if they have push notifications?

    • Yes, if their push notifications are on and the app is running.

  • Musicgrl44

    Why do photos that I’ve unlike still come up in my “photos you’ve liked”?

  • Carbrewer

    Hi, I had a friend following me than he was no longer on my list when I go into his profile it says user not found and only his name appears the # pics # followers #  following are not there it’s blank and there is not follow botton however his likes for my pictures are still there what does this mean?

  • kirk

    Ugh this sucks.. Can u pls instagram people do something about this??!!!
    I accidentaly liked a photo that im not supposed to like.
    Cant u guys add a confirmation button that asks u first if u wud like to
    Like or unlike a photo or not?! “like this photo? Click yes or no if not. Like a pop up button to confirm. I cnt bliv u cnt even come up with it after all the money u guys are making!

    • A confirmation button would solve the problems of at least half the people who’ve commented on this post. Good idea.

  • kirk

    Ugh this sucks.. Can u pls instagram people do something about this??!!!
    I accidentaly liked a photo that im not supposed to like.
    Cant u guys add a confirmation button that asks u first if u wud like to
    Like or unlike a photo or not?! “like this photo? Click yes or no if not. Like a pop up button to confirm. I cnt bliv u cnt even come up with it after all the money u guys are making!

    • Curious me

      How is instagram making profit? You can always just ‘unlike’ the photos

  • drake

    I know that push notification ON is IG’s default setting, so it’s hopeless for my like to be unseen. But will the recipient at least not know WHAT picture I liked?

    • The push notification will show “[username] liked your post” as text without the picture. See screenshot: http://www.emilybinder.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/07/20120708-204651-e1341794940365.jpg But if the recipient taps that notification, they’ll be taken to the Instagram picture you liked. It will also display the picture you liked in their Instagram news feed.

      • Hayden Morrisses

        Hi Emily! “But if the recipient taps that notification, they’ll be taken to the Instagram picture you liked. It will also display the picture you liked in their Instagram news feed.” does that stilll apply even if i unliked the photo already? thank you!

  • Allie

    Hey I updated to ios5 and then after it finally updated my instagram was gone and I didnt delete it. What happened? And what do I do?

    • Just reinstall Instagram and log in. Your account should still be there. Make sure you update the app.

  • Shihui_chooi

    I accidentally liked people photo and people will think i stalk hem so i straightly delte my instagram account.

  • Loveangls6

    If you unlike a photo and change your username can they somehow still find you 

    • Yes. If they have the notification of the like, it will show that your updated username liked the photo. They could then tap that username and see it was your same profile but with a new name. Changing your username is retroactive, meaning it will change your old username to the new one where it appears in past comments, likes, etc.

  • Nelle

    Hi, I am a public user and mentioned a private user that I am not following. Will they receive the notification?

  • Curious me

    Hey guys I was wondering if it’s possible on ig to stop people from seeing your activities without blocking them thankyouu 🙂

    • Itsashame

      yea does your current ig account have a picture still and says “user not found”

    • Yes, if you’re a private user only your followers can see your activities. You have to approve people who request to follow you, so the general public can’t see your activities. If you’re talking about your own followers, then no, there is no way to hide your activities such as likes and comments.

  • Curious me

    Hey guys, I was wondering if it’s possible to stop people from viewing your activities without blocking them?