Instagram is introducing a handful of features designed to give users more control over the app, starting with a new Quiet Mode. The tool functions a lot like your phone’s Do Not Disturb setting. When active, Instagram won’t push notifications to your device. Your profile will also display a note that you’re “in quiet mode,” and anyone who attempts to message you will receive an automatic reply that you’re not available.
You can set Quiet Mode to activate automatically at certain times of day. Once you’re outside those hours, Instagram will send you a summary of your notifications. Anyone can use Quiet Mode, but the company says it will prompt teens to use the feature if it notices they’re spending a lot of time scrolling through their feed late at night. Quiet Mode is available starting today in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Alongside the new mode, Instagram is introducing a handful of features designed to give people more control over the photos and videos they see on the platform. Specifically, you can now tell the app the types of content you don’t want to be recommended to you. Starting with the Explore tab, you can select multiple tiles and tap “Not Interested” to shape Instagram’s content algorithm. Doing so will also affect what you see when you search for posts. Additionally, in an expansion of a feature that was already available for comments and direct messages, you can list specific words, hashtags and emoji you want Instagram to filter for when recommending content. You can access that tool through the “Hidden Words” section of the app's privacy settings. One limitation is that filters will only work when the app detects the words you listed in hashtags and captions. Lastly, Instagram notes it recently added a feature that allows parents to see their teen’s app settings.
The subject of inappropriate recommendations came up during Adam Mosseri’s congressional hearing in 2021. Members of the Senate subcommittee on Consumer Protection, Product Safety and Data Security grilled the head of Instagram about the content they saw the app steer them toward after creating fresh Instagram accounts designed to impersonate teens. Specifically, Utah Senator Mike Lee said he saw the Explore page of his finsta account change dramatically after following a single account recommended by Instagram. According to Lee, the app began recommending posts promoting body dysmorphia, sexualization of women and other content inappropriate for teen girls. “It went dark fast,” he said.
Whether the changes Instagram is introducing today will sufficiently address the concerns raised by lawmakers is hard to say, as Instagram is putting the onus on teen users to filter their feeds instead of doing that work itself.