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.

  • 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

  • peas

    Hi, I don’t have an instagram account, but I was looking thru some public photos and accidentally pressed like. It wouldn’t register anything, right?

    • As long as you weren’t logged in, then you’re correct, it wouldn’t register your like.

      • peas

        On the other hand, I was logged into Facebook and Twitter, but I had never signed up for instagram before. Only instagram users can like a photo on instagram right? Would the person be able to see my facebook/twitter profile? Thank you!

        • What service were you using when you liked the photo: Instagram itself on a mobile device or did you Facebook Like an Instagram photo that was posted to a Facebook wall? If it was the latter, then the Facebook user would see the Like but it wouldn’t be an Instagram like that logs on the photo or sends an IG notification to the person who posted it.

  • 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!

  • somebody.

    I accidently “liked” a photo on instagram via Facebook, I am to have no contact with this person.  I immediately unliked the photo on Facebook and even went as far as deactivating my account.  My question is, will the person see the like?  I do no have an instagram either.

    • They would see the like if they had Instagram running when you liked the photo. Until they refresh the app, the like under your username will show in their newsfeed. After you deactivate your account and they refresh, they will not see the like. If they did not have the app running, they will not see the notification.

  • 22617

    Dear Emily Binder, I assume the same goes for ‘follow’ then ‘unfollow’ quickly after? if ‘push’ notification is on or they are actively on their ig account at the time they will get the notification. Is that correct? Thank you.

    • Yes, correct.

      • MT

        But there’s no push notification for gaining followers… Just likes, comments, and when someone mentions you…

  • Carolr_smile

    How can you block people Bering ale to see who your following?

  • Camachor24

    I made an account on instagram about 1 week ago at 3:00am to follow someone to find out sec later I couldn’t find that person, today same time 3:00am made a new account to follow that same person secs later I can’t find them. The persons amount is still there But I can’t find them and I am blocked on FB on the person’s page. What happened?

    • I am having trouble interpreting your comment. When were you able to find the person? How do you know their account is active? If you’re blocked on Facebook and they have seemingly blocked you on Instagram or gone private, perhaps they have a reason. I don’t know your situation but it could be for the best to respect their privacy (for your own sanity too, I’d imagine).


    I blocked someone and when I checked their profile, I accidentally liked one photo! Will that person be able to see my name or see my profile, while still being blocked by me?

    • Yes, if their app was running in the background, they will be able to see your like, including your username. If they tap your username from that notification, they’ll get to your profile but will not be able to see photos or to request to follow you. If you unlike the photo, your username at least will be less accessible to them. They cannot search for your profile. They can only get to your profile if they find your username on a comment or like on any photo or on any notifications in their feed.

  • Guest

    if you like then immediately unlike a photo, will your followers see the original like in the news feed or will it be removed?

    • They will see the like if they have Instagram running when you originally liked the photo.

  • nono ubiz

    I accidently liked a photo then quickly unliked How bout if u block them after will they still get alerted on that like

    • Yes. It will appear in their newsfeed or notifications if they had the app running when you liked the photo.

  • K.F

    Hey Emily. If you like then unlike a photo right away, will your followers see that you liked the photo in their news feed? Reply is much appreciated.

    • They will see the notification if they have the app running when you liked the photo.

  • Jessie

    hi how do you copy a picture from instagram and set it as your home screen in I phone? Thanks

    • 1) One way is to automatically save your Instagram uploads to your iPhone photo library. While logged into Instagram, tap the gear icon in the upper right. You will see your Options. Scroll down and make sure that under Save To Library, you have “Filtered Photos” turned on. You may save originals as well here. I would turn this setting on if you want your photos easily accessible, and so that you own them.

      2) If it’s too late for a photo you’ve already posted, try this: Go to your photo you want to save for your home screen. At the bottom right, tap the ellipsis (three dots). Tap “Copy Share URL.” Go to Safari and paste that URL. It will pull up the image on the web. Hold down with your thumb on the image until the three options “Save Image” and “Copy” and “Cancel” appear. Tap on Save Image. Now it will be in your photo library and you can make it your home screen via your phone’s Settings –> Wallpaper.

  • Michael

    If I block someone who is one of my friends on IG, can I still see their pictures? Whether public or private?

    • Yes, you can still see their pictures if they are public. If they are private, as long as you are following them, you can still see their pictures.

  • dumplin1010

    hey there! if I request to follow someone and changed my mind a minute later and un-followed, will they see that i started following them either way? awkward! (thanks for all your help in these matters!)

    • Hi, maybe: If you request to follow someone, the request will appear in their newsfeed if they have the app running. As soon as you take the follow request back (by tapping “requested” so it turns back to “follow”), if they refresh the app, your follow request will disappear. So if they did not have notifications running during the time between your request and your reversal of the request, they would not see it. You will never know for sure what happened. You’re welcome.

  • Steven

    If l accidentally liked someone’s photo on Instagram, yes I was cyber stalking, and then I immediately unlinked it, blocked the user, then just decided to deactivate my account, will they still get a push notification saying I did it?

    • They may have gotten the notification if they had the app running when you first liked the photo. Even if you blocked them, your like would still appear in their feed. Once you deactivated your account, the notification would not show up if the other user refreshed the app. It’s possible they didn’t see it.

  • suz

    If i was following a private user and I accidentally tapped the “following” button,
    do they have to accept my request again or can I just re-follow them?

  • Hayden Morrisses

    Hi! so i already unliked the photo i accidentally liked, will the user know what photo i liked whenever the user enabled the push notifications? Sorry i don’t know how an IG like notification looks on iphone. 🙂

    • Hi Hayde, the user may know that you liked the photo if they had notifications turned on when you liked it. If they had the app totally off, they will never know. If the app was on and the notification came in their feed but not on their home screen as an alert (push notification) and enough other notifications showed up in their newsfeed to bury yours chronologically, they also may not have seen it. There is no way to tell for sure on your end.

  • blble

    If you have someone blocked on instagram and you accidently like their photo, will they get that notification, or are you safe because you already had them blocked from the beginning?

    • A blocked user will get the like notification whether the app is open or closed no matter how quickly you unlike the photo.

  • Mom

    If a private user “likes” or “comments” on a photo that a public user uploaded, their like/comment will be visible and their username will be click-able below that public user’s photo. If a public user can click on a private username, can the public user then see all the private user’s profile, pics, etc?

    • No, the public user will only see the private user’s profile picture, number of photos, followers and following, and bio. There will be no photos visible unless the private user approves a follow request.

  • Brittany

    If you block someone then can they see my photo if they’re following someone who liked my photo in their “following newsfeed” ?

  • Carl Chua

    is there a limit on how many likes you can give on instagram a day?

  • Zuzu

    What’s the case in Android? Is it the same as with an iPhone? Also, are push notifications enabled by default?

  • Loser

    That sucks. This just happened to me. This is the downside of technology. Once you click, you can’t take it back. Sigh.

  • summers

    Hi if i accidently like someone’s photo that i’m not even following but then quickly unlike and i go to see the photos i liked but the photo i accidently liked isn’t there does that mean the person didn’t get the notification that i liked it?

    • Not necessarily. You really have no way of knowing whether they saw the like notification or not.

  • Guest

    I accidentally liked someones photo but then i quickly un-liked it . Now every time I leave their page my phone re-likes it on it’s own. How can i stop this?

    • What kind of phone are you using, have you updated your Instagram app, and are you sure you unliked the photo? Try this: Go to and search for that user’s name. Find the photo and see if you are on the list of people who liked it (the usernames below the photo). If the heart and “LIKE” box is greyed out (to bottom right of photos) then you are not a liker. If the heart is red, you can click that box to remove your like. Check again on your phone app – refresh to see if it took.

  • Cope77

    Okay, so I have already liked this persons photo on Instagram then accidently liked it again weeks later, will she still get the notification that I like her photo agian even though I liked it when she first put it up?

    • Good question. The short of it is that they may get the notification, especially more likely if they have Notifications for the app turned on (badges, alerts, or icons.) Whether you liked/unliked the photo in the past is irrelevant.

      Yes, Instagram serves the notification that you liked the photo again. However, they may not see that notification if they do not have Notifications turned on to appear on their phone when not actively using the app. If they open the app and go to their Feed, it refreshes and won’t display the story of your like. I.e., if you unlike the photo quickly and they are not at that moment in the Instagram app, your like will disappear when they open their feed to refresh.

      But if they have Notifications for Instagram turned on in their phone settings, they may see a banner alert or a badge icon that you liked their photo. They wouldn’t be able to see the story in their News feed though once it refreshed.

  • GrrBaby

    If I like then unlike someone that I’m not followings photo, will it still show in my friends “following” feed that I liked it?

    • Yes it will show up temporarily. If you’re wondering if your friend saw that you liked this other person’s photo, they may have, depending on whether they had their Instagram following feed open during the time you liked photo A. If you unliked it immediately, it’s pretty unlikely your friend saw the like story.

      Regardless of whether you’re following the user or not, any photo that you like will show up in your friends’ following feeds immediately. If you unlike the photo, the story will disappear. Note that in the following feed, the likes of people you are following appear in chronological batches. Let’s say you liked two photos from two different users in the last minute and these show up together in your friend’s following feed – that you liked photo A and photo B. You unlike Photo B. That deletes the story from the feed even though you still like photo A. The next time you like any photo, if it is close enough to the time you liked photo A, then photo A and the brand new photo you liked (photo C) will show up in the story together.

      • baby

        So just to sure, if you unlike a video then it will no longer show on your followers feed that it was liked in the first place?

        • It will show in their feed that you liked it until they refresh their feed. So if their feed isn’t open during the time you like and unlike, and they only view their feed after you’ve unliked, then they won’t see that you liked it.

  • ackbar shabazz jones

    alright , so i like this girl , i follow her she doesnt follow me but knows who i am. i liked her pic last night , obviously i want her to see it it , literally two seconds later i see that my like is not there anymore , she had 36 likes for the pic , i clicked like it went to 37 i continue to scan instagram and before i logged off looked at her pic once more and saw that it was at 36 likes again and that the like button had not been clicked by me , being that this was like 330am on a weekday and shes a student , im wondering can someone unlike a pic that you have liked? i mean logically she would have been sleeping and this was instantaneous…. and im thinking god damn does she dislike me so much that the thought of me liking her picture pisses her off. and why wouldnt she just block me then , basically right now i want to kick her in the ovaries.

    • The only way that your like would not have registered is if you were
      blocked. If you try to like a photo posted by a user who has blocked
      you, it will not take. (The likes would remain at 36). Note that for a quick
      second, if you tap the like button while you are blocked, it will show 37 likes then
      return to 36 and stay there.

      My guesses are 1) that she blocked you recently but you still had her photo pulled up on your screen, or you had navigated to that photo by tapping her username elsewhere (as it wouldn’t show up in a username search if you were blocked). If you had not refreshed the app since she had blocked you and had the photo pulled up then tapped the like button, the like would not take (would not register).

      2) Unlikely but possible: someone else had logged in as you and removed the like. Does anyone have your password, or did you leave yourself logged in on another device or Instagram third party web app like Webstagram?

      No user can remove another user’s like on their photo — only the liker can remove their own like. Even if a user blocks you after you had initially liked the photo when you were not blocked, your like will remain on their photo unless you remove it yourself.

      Simple way to check if you’re blocked, which would explain your situation: Search for her username in the Explore tab (tap the second icon from the left which looks like a star/compass at the bottom of the Instagram app). If her username shows up, you’re not blocked and you should be able to like her photos.

  • guesthelo

    i accidently liked someone’s photo and unliked it quickly, someone i really dont want to know that i was looking at their photos. i decided to delete the account and start one where i let less people follow me instead. since i deleted the account will they still receive the push notification??

    • Hi there, if that user had the Instagram app running, yes they would receive the push notification immediately when you liked the photo. If the app was fully closed, and by the time they opened it you had unliked the photo, then no they would not receive it. Deleting your account would not affect their receipt of the original push notification because it’s instant. As long as that user had not yet refreshed the app, your like under your deleted username would appear. However, if they tap on the username, it would show that no such profile exists.

  • Bee

    What if you liked the post and then unliked and ended up deleting instagram. Will the fact that you liked it still show up in notification?

  • Needtounrequest

    Is it possible to take back a following request? I accidentally hit the follow button on someone I do not want to know that I have and Instagram and it now says request sent. Can I take that back or is all hope lost?