How to lower your profile on Instagram

Learn how to use Instagram's privacy settings to limit who can see your photos, block followers, and delete comments. Plus, discover a tool that lets you remove ghost followers in bulk.

Matt Elliott Senior Editor
Matt Elliott is a senior editor at CNET with a focus on laptops and streaming services. Matt has more than 20 years of experience testing and reviewing laptops. He has worked for CNET in New York and San Francisco and now lives in New Hampshire. When he's not writing about laptops, Matt likes to play and watch sports. He loves to play tennis and hates the number of streaming services he has to subscribe to in order to watch the various sports he wants to watch.
Expertise Laptops | Desktops | All-in-one PCs | Streaming devices | Streaming platforms
Matt Elliott
3 min read

If you've been on Instagram long enough, you've likely acquired a few followers whom you don't know. Of course, if you are trying to build your Instagram brand, you'll take all comers. If you are like me, however, and use Instagram primarily to share pictures of your kids with friends and family, you are wary of strangers in your midst. Thankfully, Instagram provides some privacy settings that can help you gain better control of who can see your photos.

In this post, I'll show you how you can use Instagram's settings to restrict who can follow you, block current followers, and delete comments. I'll also show you a Web site that lets you remove ghost followers -- those people who lurk in the background, following you but never liking or commenting on your photos.

Set photos as private
When you first sign up for an Instagram account, it is set up so that anyone can see your photos and follow you. Instagram offers one privacy setting, however, that requires you to approve people before they can start following you.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

To access Instagram's settings, tap the button in the lower-right corner to view your profile and then tap the button with the gear icon in the upper-right corner. Go to the last line in the Account section and tap to turn the toggle switch to ON for the line labeled, Photos Are Private. Now, when someone taps to follow you, they'll send you a request, which shows up on the News page of the Activity section of Instagram. Tap on their name and tap Approve or Ignore.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Block current followers
Setting your photos as private in the step above doesn't change anything for your current followers. I have a couple of followers who started following me before I set my photos as private, for example, and they like nearly every photo I post, perhaps in an effort to boost their Instagram profile and land on Instagram's popular page. For such followers, I suggest you block them.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

From your profile page, tap on the followers button at the top and then tap on a follower you'd no longer like to have access to your photos. When viewing this person's profile, tap the share button in the upper-right corner and choose Block User. Now, they will not be able to see, like, or comment on your photos (if you also took the other step of setting your photos as private). And they will not be notified that they've been blocked.

Delete comments
If you block a user, their previous comments will still remain. To delete a comment, tap the comment button for the photo and swipe on the comment. Tap the garbage can icon and then tap the gray delete button to confirm. You can also use the red Delete & Report Abuse for any particularly offensive comments.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Remove ghost followers
If your account is public or was for any stretch of time, I bet that when you go to your list of followers, there will be a few names you've never seen before. These are people who follow you but have never popped up to like or comment on a photo. You could simply block these ghost followers, but if you have amassed a substantial Instagram following, there is a Web site that lets you remove such followers in bulk.

Screenshot by Matt Elliott/CNET

Point your browser to the IGExocist Web site and log in to your Instagram account. Click or tap (there is a mobile version of the site) on the big, green Request Rebuild button. After a few seconds, it will spit out your stats, including the number of inactive followers you have over four time periods (60+, 90+, 120+, and 180+ days). Click or tap on one of the four time-period links for your inactive followers and you'll see a list of these followers, complete with profile photos. At the top of this list is a big, red button that will cull all of the people on the list.

For more, check out Sharon Vaknin's Five essential Instagram tips.