Is your Instagram account private? If so, you’re off to a solid start. If your content is public, however, you might want to take a serious look at your Instagram Stories privacy settings.
Instagram Stories is one of the more fun, carefree social media features. Stories offer a perfect space to share visual snippets of your life and creative, engaging content with followers — everything from photos and videos to songs you love and personal polls. But have you ever stopped to think about the safety of your Stories and who exactly can see and share them?
Recently, while rewatching one of my own Instagram Stories and scrolling through the lengthy lineup of friends, colleagues, and family members who had viewed it, I noticed a few complete strangers and several spam accounts had made the list. A twinge of panic coursed through my body and a series of questions ran through my mind. Who were these people? How did they find my profile? Did someone send them my story? How long have randos been getting a behind-the-scenes look at my life?
For some context, my Instagram account is public and I have 580 followers. It isn’t a huge following by any means, but it’s significantly more people than the number of friends, co-workers, and family members I’d consider close. I have loose acquaintances from high school and college following me, former colleagues, people I’ve never met who started following me after reading an article I wrote, and a number of other random connections. I have no problem with any of these people seeing the content I share to my Instagram feed, but the thought of strangers seeing the personal, casual, oftentimes goofy, occasionally vulnerable content I post on Stories makes me feel uncomfortable and exposed.
In search of a solution, I clicked the three lines in the upper righthand corner of my Instagram profile, explored the platform’s easily forgotten Settings tab, navigated to Privacy, and selected Story. There, I found a number of easy-to-implement ways to make my Instagram Stories more secure. If you’re a Storie’s aficionado like me who’s paid little attention to Instagram privacy settings in the past, here are six safety steps to consider taking.
1. Set up a Close Friends list
After realizing that several strange accounts had viewed my Stories I started individually blocking users I didn’t recognize. For a while, I stopped posting public Stories all together and started relying on Instagram’s Close Friends feature — the only Story posting that truly makes me feel safe.
When people think of securing their Instagram Stories, creating a Close Friends list is probably the first thing that comes to mind. For those who aren’t aware or just haven’t tried it out yet, Instagram launched the Close Friends feature in 2018. Close Friends gives users the ability to curate a list of trusted followers with who they can share their Stories privately, rather than posting Stories for all followers to see.
To make or edit your Close Friends list:
- Click the three lines in the upper righthand corner of your Instagram profile
- Select “Close Friends”
- There, you can browse a list of all of your followers (or search for specific people by name) and choose which users to add
No one you add or remove from the list will be alerted, and nobody but you is able to see your Close Friends list. If someone is given permission to view your Close Friends content, they’ll know thanks to a little green label that appears in the upper righthand corner of your Close Friends Stories.
2. Hide specific people from seeing your Stories
While the Close Friends feature is fairly popular among users, a less widely known safety precaution worth taking is choosing to hide your Instagram Stories from specific followers.
If your account is public you’ll likely be surprised at the sheer number of random users who have followed you over the years without your knowledge. While recently browsing my follower list I learned that a number of local businesses, random influencers, and several people I’m just not comfortable sharing personal updates with had the ability to see any public Stories I posted.
The realization made me incredibly anxious, so one day I set aside a few minutes, made my way to Settings > Privacy > Story, and clicked the “Hide Story From” feature. The feature gives you the opportunity to review a list of all your followers and manually select people who you don’t want to see your Stories or live videos. Like Close Friends, the people on your “Hide Story From” list won’t receive an alert that they’ve been added. They just won’t see any future content you post on Instagram unless it’s uploaded to your main feed or you remove them from the list.
The Story-hiding process can be a bit time-consuming depending on how many followers you have, but it’s worth it in the end. It took me about 10 minutes to thoughtfully review my follower list, and I wound up hiding my Stories from a whopping 200 people. I felt a serious sense of relief once I was done, and it’s nice to know that you always have the option to unhide your Stories from people in the future.
3. Monitor individual Instagram Stories as you post them and consider restricting accounts
If you’d rather not scroll through your entire list of followers at once, you can always monitor your Instagram Story-by-Story to keep track of unwanted viewers and decide how best to proceed on a case-by-case basis.
Once you see an unwanted viewer on your Story, click the three dots next to the user and you’ll be given the opportunity to remove them as a follower, hide your story from them, restrict their account, or block them altogether.
Here’s what each of those Instagram settings means:
- Restricting an account lets you limit interactions with the user without blocking or unfollowing them. This is more helpful to limit interactions on posts since restricted users will still be able to see your Stories. If they try to reply to a Story, however, their chat will be moved to Message Requests instead of your normal inbox.
- Hiding a story, as mentioned above, means you’ll prevent a user from seeing any photos, videos, and live videos you post to Stories.
- Removing a follower will forcibly cause someone to unfollow you without their knowledge. With this option, there’s always a chance that the person can eventually realize they no longer follow you and follow back, but you can worry about that if the time comes.
- Blocking a user prevents that person from finding your profile, posts, or Stories on the platform.
Should you choose to restrict or block a user, they won’t be alerted in any way, and like hiding Stories, you can always undo the limitations should you change your mind in the future.
4. Tweak your “Replies and Reactions” settings
Perhaps you’re OK with everyone seeing your Instagram Stories, but you wish that certain people weren’t able to reply. If that’s the case, head to Settings > Privacy > Story and find the section labeled “Allow Replies and Reactions.”
Here, you can choose between three reaction/reply settings. You can give everyone (whether or not they follow you) the ability to reply and react to your Stories, you can permit only people you follow to reply and react to you, or you can ban everyone from replying or reacting to your Stories. (Note: The latter feature is a great way to shut down Instagram Story reply guys.)
5. Disable sharing your Instagram Stories
While you’re tweaking the reply settings for your Stories, why not manage the sharing settings as well? One simple way to make your Stories more secure is to disable sharing abilities among followers.
By navigating to Settings > Privacy > Story, then scrolling down to the bottom of the page, you can switch the toggles off for one or both of the following options: “Allow Resharing to Stories” and “Allow Sharing as Messages.”
“Allow Resharing to Stories” lets other people add your posts to their stories should you tag them, which means all of their followers can see your Story, your username, and gain easy access to your account should they choose to click on it your original Story. On the other hand, “Allow Sharing as Messages” lets people who view your Stories share them with others via DM, which gives recipients the ability to view your Story and profile as well.
I personally like having a public account so friends can easily share Stories I tag them in and anyone who’s curious about my life can learn more about me by browsing my feed. If you’re a pro-public account but sorely lacking in any Story-related privacy settings, the above steps should be super helpful.
If you get fed up with tweaking your Story settings, or would rather eliminate as many privacy concerns as possible, though, you can always opt to weed out any unwanted followers and then make your entire account private to lock down your Stories once and for all. To fully secure your account, go to Settings, hit Privacy, and flip the toggle at the top labeled “Private Account.”
Instagram Story privacy settings ultimately come down to personal preference, but it’s crucial to get the full scope of who’s able to view and share your Stories so you can make an informed decision and determine which security measures are right for you.
Happy (and safe) posting, everyone!