What Is Instagram Direct? An Intro to the App's Messaging Feature

Learn how to send direct, private messages on Instagram

Instagram Direct is a private instant messaging feature on the popular mobile photo-sharing app Instagram. It allows users to share the following with one or multiple users in a group:

  • Plain text messages
  • Photos or videos from your device's library
  • Photos or videos you take through the Instagram app
  • Disappearing photos or videos you take through the Instagram app
  • Instagram profiles
  • Instagram photo or video posts
  • Instagram hashtags
  • Instagram locations

Although Instagram has been around since 2010, no private messaging was available on the platform until Instagram Direct launched in December 2013. If you wanted to contact another user, you could only do so by commenting on one of their photos or tagging them in a comment on another photo.

Why You Should Use Instagram Direct

Instagram Direct is helpful if you have a lot of followers and need to share specific information with certain people. Sometimes, not everything necessarily needs to be shared with everybody, particularly if you have a large audience. Instagram Direct is also useful if you want to connect more privately with friends or someone you discovered (or who discovered you) on Instagram.

Instagram Direct lets you get more targeted and personal with specific individuals or groups so that you don't end up spamming everyone else's feed with photos or videos that aren't relevant to them.

You might also be interested in learning about Instagram's Close Friends feature, which allows you to share your stories only with a certain group of people.

How Instagram Direct Works

An Instagram Direct message can be sent to anyone you're following. You can also send a message to a user you're not following, but your message will show up as a message request in their inbox that they have to approve first.

Keep in mind that the recipient can reject your request. This helps protect users' privacy from potential spam and abuse. If they approve your request, however, all your future messages will be sent to their inbox even if you're not following them.

Access and Use Instagram Direct

The Instagram Direct icon is at the top right of your app screen. If you have an older version of Instagram, the Instagram Direct icon looks like a paper airplane. If you've updated Instagram, the Instagram Direct icon is the Messenger logo.

If you have any new messages, you'll see a number in red by the Instagram Direct icon. Tap it to open your message inbox. Unread messages will have a blue dot.

Reply back to an Instagram Direct message the way you would on any other private messaging app. All message replies appear as bubbles, so you can easily follow along with the conversation.

Instagram with the Messenger logo, new message indicator, and reply field highlighted

To start a new message, tap the Messenger icon (or paper airplane, if you have an older Instagram version). Tap the new message icon (or tap a current conversation). Search for someone, or tap a suggested friend, then tap Chat to start a new conversation. Type your message in the message box, add emojis if you like, then tap Send.

Instagram new message process with the Messenger logo, Chat, and Send highlighted

Tap multiple people to start a group chat. Instagram gives you the opportunity to give group messages a name and the option to mute incoming group messages whenever you want. You can also leave any group conversation you're part of without deleting the whole group message itself.

Facebook Integration

Facebook, which owns Instagram, integrated messaging between Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger in 2020. The Facebook Messenger chat system is the core of direct messaging in these apps.

The messaging integration between Facebook and Instagram means you can use Instagram Direct to message a Facebook friend, even if that user isn't on Instagram. To do this, tap the Messenger icon at the top-right of the screen, then tap the new message icon. Scroll down the list of suggested friends and you'll see Facebook Friends. Tap one to start a message.

Instagram highlighting the Messenger icon, new message icon, and "Facebook Friends"

Sharing Posts via Instagram Direct

If you come across a post you'd like to share, use Instagram Direct to send the post to someone or multiple people. Users previously shared Instagram posts with friends by tagging their usernames in the comments. Using Instagram Direct is a much clearer, straightforward method.

On the post you'd like to send, tap the share icon (paper airplane). Search for the name of the person with whom you'd like to share the post, or scroll to find and tap a suggested Instagram or Facebook friend. Write a message, if you like, then tap Send. If you tap multiple people, tap Send Separately.

Instagram with Share icon and Send highlighted, showing how to send a post

Reporting, Restricting, and Blocking Users in Instagram Direct

If someone sends you abusive photos, videos, or text messages through Instagram Direct, report these occurrences to Instagram. If it's a text-only message, tap and hold the message, tap Report, then choose a reason why you're reporting it.

If it's a video or photo message, tap the three dots, then tap Report and select a reason. To report an account, go to the profile page, tap the three dots at the top right, and choose Report.

There are more choices when you'd like to limit or eliminate contact with someone:

Restrict: When you restrict someone, you control whether others can see their comments on your posts, and their chats are moved to your Message Requests so they won't see when you've read their messages. To restrict someone, go to their profile page, tap the three dots in the top right, and then tap Restrict.

Block: Block a user to remove them from your followers and completely prevent them from messaging you, seeing your profile, or re-following you. To block someone, go to their profile page, tap the three dots in the top right, and then tap Block.

Alternatively, you can use safety features like Limits and Hidden Words. Limits restrict who can message you or comment on your posts by restricting that access to people who either don't follow you or just started. Hidden Words let you flag specific words, phrases, and emojis. Messages containing the terms you specify will go to a separate folder where you don't have to see them if you don't want to.

  • How do you change the Instagram Direct message color on an iPhone?

    To change the theme and colors of your Instagram DMs, go to a specific chat thread and tap the information icon. Then, in the Details screen, select Theme and pick one of the presented options.

  • How do you disable direct messages on Instagram?

    There's no way to disable all direct messaging on Instagram, but there are some things you can do to prevent receiving DMs from someone. One thing you can do is 'restrict' certain users to hide their comments and messages, and limit what they can post on your profile. To restrict, go to their conversation thread, tap their name > Restrict. Or, to block someone on Instagram, go to their page and select More > Block.

  • How can I view my old direct messages on Instagram?

    To access your DMs, swipe left on the Instagram feed. Here you'll see a list of recent chats. Tap on one to see your previous conversations with a person.

  • How do I send direct messages on Instagram on a computer?

    Log into your Instagram account on a desktop, then select the paper plane icon. You should see all of your DMs, along with an option to start a new DM conversation. Enter the name of the user you want to contact > type a message.

  • How do you retrieve deleted Instagram direct messages?

    You can't recover deleted DMs, but you can restore deleted photos, videos, reels, IGTV videos, and stories. Open the Instagram app and select your profile > hamburger menu icon > Settings > Account > Recently Deleted. Deleted stories that are not in your archive remain in this folder for up to 24 hours, while everything else is automatically deleted after 30 days.

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