Take Control of Your Privacy: How to Turn Off Instagram‘s Last Active Feature

Instagram‘s activity status feature, introduced in 2018, shows your followers the last time you were active on the app – down to the exact minute. While Instagram pitched it as a way to "connect with friends," many users felt it was a step too far, an unnecessary invasion of privacy in an already hyperconnected world.

If you‘re uncomfortable with your online activity being broadcasted, you‘re not alone. A 2021 survey found that 79% of Americans are concerned about how companies use their data, and 64% say the government should do more to regulate privacy (Pew Research). When it comes to social media specifically, 74% felt it was very important to be in control of who can access their information (NortonLifeLock).

Luckily, with a few taps, you can take back some control on Instagram by turning off your activity status. When this setting is disabled, your followers will no longer be able to see when you were last active. It‘s a small but meaningful way to reclaim some privacy on a platform that encourages sharing so much of our lives.

Why You Might Want to Disable Your Last Active Status

There are a few key reasons to consider flipping this switch:

  1. You don‘t want the pressure of feeling "on call." Leaving your activity status enabled sets an unspoken expectation that you are or should be available the moment someone sees you‘re online. This can make it difficult to use Instagram on your own terms without the looming sense that you owe someone a prompt response. Disabling your status removes that real-time pressure.

  2. You use Instagram for both personal and professional purposes. With the lines between work and home increasingly blurred, you may not want your colleagues or clients knowing that you‘re online late at night or during working hours. Turning off your activity status keeps your Instagram usage private and separate from your work life.

  3. You want to minimize compulsive usage. Seeing that a friend or crush is currently active can trigger the urge to immediately check your DMs and start a conversation. For those trying to build healthier relationships with social media and resist its "slot machine" variable rewards, removing those real-time activity alerts can reduce temptation.

  4. You‘re concerned about digital privacy in general. Even if you‘re not up to anything particularly sensitive on Instagram, you may simply feel on principle that your online activity is your business alone. Disabling your status sends a signal that you value privacy and don‘t believe you owe anyone 24/7 access or availability, digitally or otherwise.

At its core, this is about consent and control. You should be the one to decide if, when, and with whom you disclose your online activity – not Instagram or any other app. Disabling your status puts that power back in your hands.

How to Disable Instagram‘s Last Active Feature

Fortunately, turning off your activity status on Instagram is a quick and easy process. It only takes a few steps:

  1. Open the Instagram app on your iOS or Android device. (Note: you can only adjust this setting on mobile, not desktop).
  2. Navigate to your profile by tapping your profile picture icon in the bottom right corner.
  3. Tap the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner to open the options menu.
  4. Tap "Settings" at the bottom of the menu.
  5. Tap "Privacy" from the Settings list.
  6. Tap "Activity Status."
  7. Tap the toggle button next to "Show Activity Status" to switch it from blue (on) to gray (off).

Here‘s a visual of the final screen:

[Insert screenshot of Activity Status setting toggled off]

That‘s it! You‘ve now successfully disabled your activity status on Instagram. The setting should take effect immediately. To confirm it‘s off, the "Activity Status" menu will now say "Only you can see when you‘re active on Instagram."

What Happens When You Turn Off Last Active

When you disable your activity status, a couple things change:

  1. People can no longer see your activity status. This applies to everyone you follow or have direct messaged on Instagram. Whether you‘re currently active or were active 2 minutes ago or 2 days ago, that information will no longer be visible to anyone but you.

  2. You can no longer see other people‘s activity status. This is the key tradeoff Instagram enforces. Disabling your status also means giving up your ability to see when anyone else was last online. It‘s an all-or-nothing setting – you can‘t go "incognito" while still tracking others‘ status.

This means disabling your status is most effective when your priority is your own privacy, as opposed to keeping tabs on friends‘ and crushes‘ activity. It may take some adjusting to no longer having that information, but it‘s a worthwhile tradeoff for many.

It‘s also important to note that disabling activity status doesn‘t hide the fact that you‘ve read a direct message. Read receipts still function normally in DMs – the "Seen" label and timestamp will show up as usual when you open a conversation. If you want to avoid read receipts, don‘t open the conversation or turn on Airplane mode while reading.

Taking Control of Your Digital Presence

While disabling your activity status is a significant step toward more privacy on Instagram, it‘s just one piece of the puzzle. There are several other ways you can take control of your account and curate a more intentional Instagram experience:

  • Make your account private. This ensures only people you approve can see your posts, stories, and live videos. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy > Account Privacy and toggle on "Private Account."

  • Review and prune your follower list regularly. Having a private account doesn‘t do much good if you‘re still accepting every follower request mindlessly. Periodically go through your follower list and remove anyone you don‘t recognize, don‘t feel comfortable with, or simply don‘t want viewing your content anymore.

  • Use the Close Friends feature for more control over stories. If you want to share more personal content in stories but don‘t necessarily want every follower seeing it, add select people to your Close Friends list. You can then choose to share certain stories only with that list.

  • Set limits on your usage. Instagram now offers tools to manage your time spent on the app. You can set a daily time limit, after which you‘ll receive a reminder, and mute push notifications for a period of time. These can be adjusted under "Your Activity."

  • Be mindful of what you post. Before sharing anything on Instagram, get in the habit of pausing and asking yourself: "Would I be comfortable with this being completely public and permanent?" Even with privacy settings in place, it‘s always best to operate under the assumption that anything posted online could be screenshotted or shared more broadly.

Ultimately, the goal is to use Instagram and other social platforms mindfully and with clear boundaries in place. Disabling your activity status is a significant and commendable step in that direction. You‘re taking back control over a piece of information you may not have even realized you were sharing.

The Bigger Picture of Digital Privacy

The conversation around activity status on Instagram is just one example of a larger societal reckoning with data privacy and the tradeoffs of our plugged-in lives. We‘re starting to question the default assumption that more connection, more information sharing, more disclosure is always better.

The truth is, constant availability is exhausting. The expectation to always be "on," to respond at any hour, to broadcast our lives in real time, can take a serious toll on our mental health and our ability to be present in the offline world. A 2021 study linked compulsive internet use with higher levels of depression, anxiety, and isolation (Frontiers in Psychology). Another paper found emotional exhaustion associated with the ‘always on‘ culture of connectivity (Sage Journals).

Choosing to disable features like activity status is a way of pushing back against those unhealthy expectations. It‘s an assertion of your right to privacy, to unplug, to be unavailable sometimes without owing anyone an explanation. In a time when the line between our online and offline lives is increasingly blurred, these small acts of resistance help us maintain a sense of agency and control.

So if disabling your activity status on Instagram makes you feel even a little more at peace, a little less beholden to the machine, then it‘s a worthwhile choice. You‘re sending a powerful message – to yourself and others – about the importance of boundaries in our digital lives.

Appendix: How Other Apps Handle Last Active Features

Platform Last Active Status How to Disable
WhatsApp "Last seen" timestamp shows in chats Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen > Nobody
Facebook Messenger Shows a green dot when contacts are active Settings > Active Status > Show when you‘re active > Off
Snapchat "Snap Map" shows location when app is open Settings > See My Location > Ghost Mode
Signal No last active feature N/A – privacy is default
Telegram "Last seen" timestamp in chats Settings > Privacy and Security > Last Seen > Nobody