Pros & Cons of Setting Instagram Photos to Private
By Aaron Charles
Instagram remains a big party -- as of August 2013, over 130 million users worldwide post roughly 45 million photos to the service each day. Taking a little time to figure out if you want to be more in the "center" or more in the "corner" of the Instagram party by making your photos private is a shrewd move, especially when considering that your Instagram profile is now also visible on the Web.
What You're Not Missing
First know that you can't set just individual photos to private. When you go private on Instagram, it's a profile-wide affair. However, making your profile private doesn't limit your ability to do any of the basics -- it simply means that only your approved followers can see your photos. You can still share your photos publicly, such as on other sites like Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, right from your Instagram profile. Also, people don't lose the ability to find your private Instagram profile. They can still find you, see your profile photo and how many photos and followers you have.
What You Are Missing
A private profile could, however, be a deterrent from following you, seeing as how the person has to go through a screening process rather than become an instant follower. If you're attempting to build a large following, your effort will be hampered if you're using a private account. Also, even if you attach a hashtag to your photo, your photo will remain hidden from the general public when you have a private profile. Additionally, people who aren't already following you can't make comments on your profile, click on any Web links or like any of your photos -- because they can't see them.
The biggest stone on the pro-side of the scale for making your profile private is, naturally, privacy. This is especially important if you make use of the geo-tagging feature -- which is marking a photo you've taken with a specific location -- on your mobile phone. With a public profile, someone could not only discover numerous details about your life, but also a pattern of where you are at various times. If you have children who use Instagram, it's also a protection for them against online predators.
Balancing Your Options
If you're wanting to advertise a business, cause or project, a private profile will only work against you. Many marketers love Instagram for its highly visual platform and its inviting way to engage current and new customers. A private profile strips away the ability to engage new customers. On the other hand, if you just want to share photos with family and friends and are more concerned with who's in your follower list rather than how many followers are in it, then making your photos private makes good sense.
Aaron Charles began writing about "pragmatic art" in 2006 for an online arts journal based in Minneapolis, Minn. After working for telecom giant Comcast and traveling to Oregon, he's written business and technology articles for both online and print publications, including Salon.com and "The Portland Upside."