How to Use Instagram: 24 Tips for Beginners
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Are you snap happy? Then you probably have Instagram on your phone. The photo-sharing app has 1 billion monthly users; 500 million use it daily.
There have been many (Snapchat-influenced) upgrades to the platform since it was sold to Facebook; so many that Instagram's co-founders resigned without warning. Kevin Systrom often stressed that what he loved most about his creation was its simplicity. Now Instagram is anything but simple, but these tips can help. And be sure to follow PCMag.
Get some face time without FaceTime
If you want to video chat with someone who slides into your DMs but don't want to exchange phone numbers, chat right in Instagram. When you're in a DM, tap the video camera icon to start a call. If you're in a group chat, the video call can include everyone. To select who can video chat you, go to Settings > Notifications > Direct Messages. Under Video Chats, choose whether to turn it off, only receive calls from those you follow, or to receive them from everyone.
Share your favorite movies, music on Instagram Stories
One way to share your favorite music or movies is to give them a shoutout in Stories. To post a song, album, artist, or podcast from Spotify to Stories, for example, go to Spotify, tap the ellipsis after the item, then Share, and select Instagram Stories. The same goes for anything on Netflix.
See the accounts you interact with the least
Instagram ditched its chronological feed several years ago, and unlike Twitter, it does not offer the option to switch between algorithmic and chronological. You can, however, choose which accounts show up the most and least in your feed. Go to your profile and tap Following. At the top, Instagram will list the accounts with which you interact the most and least. Peruse these lists, and unfollow or mute those you can do without, so they're not clogging your feed.
Mute Instagram posts, stories or both
How do you mute? Go to the offending account's page, tap Following v and select Mute. You'll then be given a choice about whether you want to mute just posts, just stories, or both posts and stories. You can also do this by tapping the ellipses on an account from your feed. Follow the same process to unmute.
Share Stories With 'Close Friends'
Not every story has to be shared publicly. For Instagram Stories that are a little more personal, designate a list of close friends who'll be the only ones who can see them. Go to your profile, select the hamburger icon on the top-right, and tap Close Friends. Find those you want in this group, and tap Add next to their names. When you go to post, you'll be able to choose whether to share with all your followers or with this more exclusive list.
If you want to know if you're someone's close friend or at least an Instagram-sanctioned "close friend," you'll see a green ring around their Stories icon and a green badge on the Stories themselves.
Be more accessible
Instagram is a largely visual platform, but that doesn't mean the visually impaired can't enjoy it. Artificial intelligence is being used to write up descriptions of each image so screen readers can read them out loud. While this is a definite improvement, you can go one step further and write in a description of your own for all your posts to make them even more descriptive, accurate, and accessible. After you've selected a filter and tapped Next, you'll see a screen that says Advanced Settings at the bottom. Tap that, then tap Write Alt Text, write in your own description and save it. Add descriptions to old posts by selecting them, tapping Edit and selecting Add Alt Text.
Manage multiple accounts
Instagram allows you to switch between up to five accounts without logging out and then back in. Go to the Settings menu, scroll to the bottom and tap Add Account. Enter the user name and password of an additional account. To switch between them, go to your profile page, tap your user name at the top of the screen, and select the account you wish to view in the pop-up menu (which also provides the option to add another account). Or long-press on your profile icon on the bottom right of your home screen and select the account you want.
On iOS, meanwhile, those with multiple accounts but just one message to share can regram posts to their other accounts. In the last step of posting, there's a Post to Other Accounts section, where you can shift the slider next to the accounts you want to share the post to.
See how much time you spend on Instagram
With Apple's Screen Time or Android Pie Digital Wellbeing, you can get alerts about how much time you spend on social media, but to drill down into Instagram usage alone, tap the hamburger icon on your profile and select Your Activity. This will tell you how much time, on average, you spend using the app each day.
If the number is alarming, set time limits on your snooping of snaps. Choose Set a Daily Reminder to set the maximum amount of time you want to spend on Instagram. If you go over it, you'll get a notification. Of course whether you truly stop scrolling is up to you. To avoid getting drawn into Instagram in the first place, tap Notification Settings (or navigate to Settings > Notifications) and toggle Pause All to on. Or choose which types of notifications to allow.
Find out if you're talking to a scammer
Not everybody is who they say they are. I know, shocker. But on Instagram you can at least see if that account you're talking to has had dozen of different aliases over the years, which should be a big "scammer" red flag. In any profile, tap the ellipsis on the top right and select About This Account. This will tell you when that account was created, where its creator is based, accounts with shared followers, what ads they've placed, and perhaps—most usefully—what other usernames they've had over the years.
Torch the trolls
If trolls make their way to your profile, get rid of nasty comments. For iOS users, swipe left on a comment you want to delete and click the trash can icon. For Android, tap Comment under the photo, tap the one you want to delete, and click the trash-can icon at the top of the screen. On both platforms, you can also report the comment as abuse, if necessary via the exclamation point icon. To see the status of your reports, go to Settings > Support Requests. If you are not pleased with the action Instagram takes, select Request a Review for a second look.
If reporting or blocking seems too harsh or could cause more problems with a person, you can restrict an account. This means you won't receive notifications from them, comments between the two of you are only visible to both parties, and messages they send to you will go to Message Requests instead of your inbox. To restrict someone, go to their profile, tap the Following button, and change it to Restrict. Or go to Settings > Privacy > Restricted Accounts and add them.
Block people from commenting on your posts
If you're consistently getting hate in the comments, Instagram now lets you choose who can comment on your posts: everyone; people you follow and your followers; people you follow; or your followers. Just go to Settings > Privacy > Comments > Block Comments From and search for the account(s) you want to block.
Here, you can also toggle on Hide Offensive Comments, which will hide comments Instagram believes "may be offensive" from your posts, stories, and live videos.
To disable commenting before you post, click Advanced Settings on the screen to add a caption and share, and slide Turn Off Commenting to the on position. To turn off comments on an existing post, tap the ellipsis at the top, and select Turn Off Commenting.
Go Live on Instagram
Broadcast live to followers by tapping the camera icon or swiping right, selecting Live from the slider at the bottom of the screen, and tapping the Instagram Live icon. You'll see how many viewers your broadcast has at the top right of the screen. Comments will appear on the bottom, but if you want to disable them, tap the ellipsis and select Turn Off Commenting. When you're done, tap End at the top right of the screen.
To broadcast with a friend, go live and tap the icon that looks like two superimposed faces. Choose a person to go live with, and if your friend accepts your request, there will be a split-screen view of the two of you. To remove them, tap the X at the top of their part of the broadcast.
To save a live chat, tap Download Video after you end a chat. It will save to your camera roll, minus the comments, likes, number of viewers, or interactions—provided your phone has enough storage.
If a follower goes live, meanwhile, a pink play button icon will appear beneath their avatar in the Stories section up top and a notification may appear as you browse Instagram.
Save photos and create collections
Some images you just want to stare at forever but Instagram feeds, depending on how many accounts you follow, can go by too fast. To save photos (without alerting the owner), tap the bookmark icon right below it. To see them later, go to your profile, tap the hamburger menu on the top right and select Saved. Beats taking a screenshot.
To organize all those saved posts, create a Pinterest-like Collection. In the Saved menu, tap the plus (+) button on the top right. Type a name for your Collection and hit Next. You'll be asked to select the photos you want added to a Collection; hit Done. Collections will appear in the Saved tab.
To save to a Collection directly from a post, go to the post, and long-press the bookmark icon. Here you can save the image to an existing Collection or create a new one by tapping the plus sign. If you don't have any existing Collections, the pop-up will ask you to start one (pictured).
Hide photos from your feed without deleting
Need to banish an ex or frenemy from your public profile without deleting the photos entirely? Go to a post you want to hide from view, tap the three dots at the top and select Archive. Followers will no longer be able to see it, but it won't be deleted. When you want to see it, tap the hamburger icon on your profile and select Archive. In the drop-down up to, select Posts. To restore the photo, tap the three dots on the top right and tap Show on Profile.
Follow a hashtag
You can follow accounts on Instagram, of course, but you can also follow hashtags. Tap on a hashtag in a post or source them by performing a search. To search, tap on the magnifying glass icon, start typing, and go to the Tags tab. Once you've found a tag you're interested in following, tap on the phrase and then the blue Follow button underneath it.
A picture says a thousand words, so Instagram now allows hashtag emoji. If you want to know who else is using your favorite emoji, you can also search for them.
Report posts about self-harm or suicide
Very few people's lives are actually Instagram perfect, but if you see a post or live video stream that has you concerned about self-harm or suicide, you can report the post by tapping the three-dot menu and select Report > It's Inappropriate > Suicide, self-injury or eating disorders. Instagram will reach out to the account holder. Also call local law enforcement and encourage the person to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or chat with the service online.
Scroll and shop
You can't buy an entire lifestyle that you've seen on Instagram, but you can shop there. There are several ways to purchase something, the most direct being visiting Instagram's Shop page. It has shoppable posts that are searchable by category: Beauty, Clothing & Accessories, Home, Jewelry & Watches, and Travel. Some brands (Ray-Ban, Warby Parker, MAC Cosmetics, NARS Cosmetics) let you try products on via AR and share the look to Stories. If you are not ready to buy something but want to consider it, you can save it to your wishlist by bookmarking it. The first time you purchase something on Instagram, your checkout information is saved for future shopping trips. Shipment notifications and tracking are available in-app after you buy.
Access Instagram on the Web
Access your Instagram profile on the web by going to Instagram.com and signing in. You won't be able to upload or edit photos but you can watch Stories, get notifications, browse your feed, like and comment on photos, and search for people, places, and hashtags online.
Request Instagram verification
Instagram has its own Twitter-like blue check-mark verification. If you want one, go to Settings > Account > Request Verification and fill out the form. You'll have to submit a photo of a government-issued ID with your name and date of birth. Requesting verification doesn't mean you'll get it, but you have nothing to lose by trying.
Appeal a disabled account
If you have ever had your Instagram account disabled, the Instagram Help Center often does not live up to its name. But there's now an appeals process in place. When you try to get into a locked account, an in-app appeal option appears. Add your full name, email, an explanation of your issue, select Request a Review, and hope for the best.
Revoke Third-Party Access to Your Account
Third parties access your Instagram account data in a variety of ways. Maybe you've had some prints made or you uploaded some photos to another app. You can review settings and revoke access, though. Go to Settings > Security > Apps and Websites > Active to see who has access to your account data. Tap Remove to revoke access. Going forward Instagram will notify you when an app is asking to access your profile.
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