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No one posts to Instagram in a void. Even private accounts want people to look and interact with their perfectly framed and tinted pictures. Unfortunately, not everyone who comes to your page likes or comments on your posts. At some point, everyone wonders “who viewed my Instagram profile,” or even just looked at one photo. The answer can be frustrating: It’s possible to tell when people are looking at your posts, but only on certain kinds of posts.
How to turn your Instagram private
For your standard Instagram posts, you can’t really answer the question “who viewed my Instagram profile or photo?” unless they interact with you. If your account is public, anyone is free to stumble upon or lurk your page whenever they want unless you’ve blocked their account. (Here’s how to tell if someone blocked you on Instagram.) Even in the case of blocked accounts, however, the user can merely log out and view your profile on mobile, or make a new account, to see your content.
If you’re worried about who is looking at your account without permission, the best solution is to make your account private. This will dramatically impact your engagement with other users on the site, and it will make it harder for people to interact with you, but it allows you to place your privacy above all other concerns. To make your Instagram account private, tap on the profile icon in the lower menu of the app. Once you’re on your profile, select the gear icon at the top right of the screen. The gear will bring the Instagram Settings menu.
In the Settings menu, scroll until you see the Account options. Halfway down, you’ll see a button for Private Account. This feature keeps anyone who doesn’t already follow you from being able to see your account and requires you to approve all new follower requests manually.
If this seems like too drastic a measure, just go ahead and block your enemies one at a time.
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How to see who viewed my Instagram Story
In summer 2016, Instagram introduced its Stories feature, allowing users to create Snapchat-like videos that last only for a limited time. The feature is massively popular, and thankfully, Stories also has the best privacy settings of any feature on Instagram.
Instagram Stories automatically follow your account’s privacy settings. If your account is private, your Stories are private. Stories posted on public accounts can be viewed by anyone. However, unlike standard Instagram posts, it becomes much easier for users to answer “who viewed my Instagram profile” — or rather, Instagram Story.
To see who is watching your Instagram Story, go to your profile and select your own Story. While it plays, swipe up from the bottom of the screen. This brings up a page showing who has viewed the videos and pictures in your Instagram story.
The features don’t stop there.
Let’s say that while looking through the list of your Instagram stories, you see someone you don’t want to view your Story. Next to each name on the list of who viewed your Story is a little X. Clicking that X allows you to block that user from watching your Stories, even if they follow you. Blocking someone from your stories won’t block them from your main feed—just your stories.
Checking out who viewed your Story may seem like a half measure, but rest assured that anyone who’s watching all your Stories is probably looking at your account too. Since Instagram won’t let you know exactly who is looking at your content, this method is a solid alternative.
‘Who viewed my Instagram’ apps
Any app (and there are a lot) that claims to answer the question “who viewed my Instagram profile or photo?” is not being entirely truthful. Some apps may be able to check who unfollowed you on Instagram since you last logged in, but it’s impossible for an app to track your followers. The Instagram API does not expose or share that kind of information, making it impossible for an app developer to provide that service.
What’s an API? An API, or application programming interface, allows two apps to talk to one another. APIs control what information apps can and cannot access, so just because Instagram can see who is looking at your account, that doesn’t mean it’s empowered its API to share that information with you or another app.
This information hasn’t stopped plenty of apps in the Android store from claiming they can show you which accounts are all up in your business. But we can’t repeat this enough: Those apps are lying. We can’t tell you what they’ll do, but you’re bound to be disappointed.
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So, can I see who viewed my Instagram profile or photos?
There’s nothing that would make us happier than the ability to check who is looking at our account. At least theoretically. Here’s the thing, though: It’s probably good we don’t know. That sort of knowledge would have only one real purpose for most people, and that purpose is stressing you out.
Would it serve your heart well to know that your crush is looking at your page? What if they never looked at your page? Or on the flip side, do you want everyone whose Instagram you lurk on to know when you’re around? There are mechanisms in place to keep people out of your social media if they make you uncomfortable, but beyond our curiosity, there’s no good reason to know who is lurking you. Accept that in a world where we know everything about everyone, we’re lucky to have this one remaining mystery.
John-Michael Bond is a tech reporter and culture writer for Daily Dot. A longtime cord-cutter and early adopter, he's an expert on streaming services (Hulu with Live TV), devices (Roku, Amazon Fire), and anime. A former staff writer for TUAW, he's knowledgeable on all things Apple and Android. You can also also find him regularly performing standup comedy in Los Angeles.