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

Learn how to send direct, private messages on Instagram

The Ultimate Guide to Instagram
The Ultimate Guide to Instagram

Instagram Direct is a private 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
  • 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 was finally 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 useful if you have a lot of followers and need to share specific information with specific people. Sometimes, not everything necessarily needs to be shared with everybody—especially if you have such a large audience. It's also useful if you want to connect more privately with 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 exactly 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 them to any user you're not following, but they'll show up as a message request in their inbox that they have to approve first.

Keep in mind that they 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.

You can 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.

If you use Instagram Direct, you need to know about how Instagram notifies users of screenshots.

Facebook, which owns Instagram, added the feature to send Instagram Direct messages to your Facebook contacts in 2020. How to do this isn't apparent, since the two apps aren't actually merged. You can find Facebook contacts and send them messages using the search box in the Chats section of the Instagram app. Type in a name and look for them under the More on Facebook section.

Where to Find Your Instagram Direct Inbox

Each time somebody sends you a new message, you'll be notified when using the app and possibly through push notifications if you have them enabled. On the home tab at the top of the screen, a mail icon is displayed to the right of the Instagram logo, which takes you to your Instagram Direct messages.

Three screenshots of the Instagram app for iOS.

The app also displays notifications when you receive new messages or interactions, which may pop up as instant notifications on your device if you have them enabled for Instagram.

You can tap the mail icon in the top right to access your inbox and start composing a new message by tapping the plus sign (+) icon in the top right corner of the screen. Just type the usernames of the users you want to include in the To: field.

Existing conversations appear in your main messages feed. Tap any conversation to see your messages and reply, or swipe left on any conversation and tap Delete to remove it.

Optionally, you can merge Instagram Direct with Facebook Messenger. You'll get all the features of Facebook's messaging feature accessible from your Instagram. Plus, messages from Facebook users will appear in this merged inbox.

Instagram also 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.

Sharing Posts via Instagram Direct

Directly beneath every Instagram post, there are several buttons you can tap to interact with the post. One of those buttons is marked by the Instagram Direct paper airplane icon, which you can tap to share the post via private message.

Users previously shared Instagram posts with their friends by tagging their usernames in the comments. Since these come up as notifications, they could be easily missed if tagged users receive a lot of them, making Instagram Direct a better option for making sure shared posts are seen.

Reporting, Restricting, and Blocking Users in Instagram Direct

If someone is sending you abusive photo, video or text messages through Instagram Direct, you can report them by opening the conversation and tapping the circled "i" in the top right.

You have three options to choose to limit their communication with you:

Restrict: Limit unwanted interactions with the user without unfollowing or blocking them, control whether others can see their comments on your posts and move their chat your Message Requests so they won't see when you've read their messages.

Report: Inform Instagram whether a user is spending spam or inappropriate content.

Block: Block a user to remove them from your followers and completely prevent them from messaging you, seeing your profile or re-following you.

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